Month: February 2011

Goat or no goat? Part 2: Where do we go from here?


Harriet is a member of the Malambo Women's Group, which was our first initiative. It's an income generating group for women.


How do we get beyond addressing only the immediate needs of Zambians? What is the next step, after providing food, for example? How do we get beyond the need to provide this bandaid-style charity, because, to tell the truth, we have been working in Zambia for many years, and still there are now even more in need.

I think giving to address primary needs is still important. 

But it needs to be linked to education. Education is the next step.  It gets people to the point where they have the ability to improve their futures themselves.

These villagers need more access to education. They need support so they can continue beyond, they need better schools and a strong curriculum, they need access to scholarships, college, and university. If they don’t manage to finish high school, they need skills training so they have the chance at a career. 

Giving education is a gift that lasts all one’s life. Not only that, it spreads beyond the individual. It opens the doors to good jobs in countries like Zambia that are in short supply of an educated workforce. These educated workers send money home to their village relatives and they sponsor younger relatives to further their education. 

Malambo Grassroots has worked for years on a shoestring—small funds and few people resources. However, we have constantly tried to maximized our impact. When we are in Zambia, we are volunteers, living rent-free and with a support system offered by the farm where we stay— security, power, a network of people who help us here and there. With this we have the ability to maximize our outreach.

With our first few dollars we decided to start an income generating project for women. The women asked us. We have found that the women’s first priority with their income is their family–food, clothing, medical needs, and schooling expenses for their children. So we started some more income generating projects. We were able to minimize our need for money by starting simple craft-based projects, and maximize on our ability to donate our time for training. We kept expenses low. We had to.

So time has been one of our resources. We kept going back to Zambia. Our projects were running. What more could we do?  

Next post is the third and final section of this essay: What more could we do?

Goat or no goat? Part 1 of 3


A goat is like a walking bank for a rural Zambian.


by Jocelyn, one of our volunteers

I recently watched a great documentary on CBC.    Newfoundland filmmaker Christopher Richardson asks the question, if you donate a goat to a charity, does someone actually get a goat? He traveled to Zambia to find out. His film is called Where’s My Goat, and is well worth watching.

His show made me think. Is our work with Malambo Grassroots really having an impact?  Is our belief in a multi-pronged approach right (ie. income generation, education, and community development)? By giving a goat, (which can become a small income generator), what is the real impact on Zambians?

Well, right from the start, the gift of a goat, chicken, pig, or cow provides food and income. So for an impoverished villager, life is improved immediately.  This is good. Feeding a hungry family is the very first step towards making a difference.

While the gift of a goat is welcomed, the animals themselves can be a problem. Goats denude the environment. Overgrazing by any animal, whether it’s by cows, pigs, or goats, has a big impact on the environment. However, goats are welcomed because they are good survivors, they are relatively easy to look after, and the people in this area were traditionally herders. Villagers gather flocks around them as a form of a walking bank account. People stock up with grazers the same way they might put money in savings. Goats are something to sell in times of need.

If you need a walking bank, you try to cultivate your herd so it grows. With the growth in population, with more people banking this way, the land can become bald, overgrazed. Then when the rains come, the soil washes away and deep erosion begins. You can see this clearly during the dry season in areas where there is a high concentration of grazers.

Perhaps the “first-step gifts” that we need to give are those animals that give back to the land – for now perhaps chickens, perhaps seed and fertilizers to those who live close to a water source. Perhaps we need to broaden the variety of first help interventions.

Villagers do need to accumulate wealth. At this point, a bank account in Zambia charges more in fees than most people make in a month. My hope is that cell phone banking will be cheap and will allow villagers to accumulate wealth.

Our next post will continue with part 2: Where do we go from here?

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