Livingstone to Lusaka, with iDE Farm Visits

Wednesday, 8/1/1012.

Today, we began seeing the iDE program in Zambia first hand. Two iDE vehicles transported us all from Livingstone to Lusaka, with stops at three farms, to see the farms and meet farmers and Farm Business Advisors (FBAs). This was a 12-hour affair, though the only unpleasant part was the long rush-hour drive in Lusaka itself. Alice, Carlos, and I were in one vehicle, driven by Willard Chitembo, a Field Team Manager in the FBA program, while Steve and Ana were in the other vehicle, driven by Yoram, and accompanied by Sam Harvey. Here’s a photo of Willard, Sam, and Yoram:

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Our first stop was to meet Veronica, whose farm is near Livingstone.

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Veronica is ebullient, a successful farmer, and a successful FBA. She runs her FBA business out of a small building built for the purpose under a grant from CARE.

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There she sells treadle pumps, petrol pumps, and a variety of chemicals and seeds. She uses a simple treadle pump on her own farm, as her water source is a small pond.

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We had an opportunity to talk with her at some length, and to see the variety of merchandise she sells, as well as her garden. During the monsoon season, she cultivates a larger area, but she has not enough water for the garden during the rest of the year.

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As she has built her FBA business, Veronica has been competing in farm shows as a marketing method, and has won several shows this year.

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Her biggest problem at present seems to be fatigue from traveling long distances on foot to her meetings with the farmers she supports. A bicycle (Zambike) would seem to be in her future, but that’s a business-investment decision for her (they cost $200), so it will likely have to wait until she has sufficient profit from her FBA business to afford it. She also hopes to have a good well drilled on her farm. That, too, will be a business-investment decision. Veronica is a very energetic, charismatic person, and it’s easy to imagine her accomplishing much more.

Our next stop was a visit to Morrison, a very successful farmer near Pemba.

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Morrison has been a beneficiary of iDE technologies and information since 1997, and they have greatly improved his effectiveness as a farmer. He has a treadle pump that has been in continuous use for 11 years, as well as two petrol pumps and lots of drip irrigation equipment. He credits the labor-saving properties of these technologies for his family’s ability to cultivate a much larger area, and it’s clear from looking at the farm that it’s well managed. This plot supports Morrison, his two wives, and their ten children at a level that has allowed the children to stay in school through high school (Zambians must pay for school after the seventh grade).

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Morrison is making a bit of a slow start as an FBA, and this is likely because he’s so good at, and involved in, his own farming. However, his wives and older children are gradually taking on more responsibility, and it’s possible that he will gradually move rather naturally into the expert-farmer-and-educator role that could make him a very successful FBA.

McCoy, the Regional Field Manager in this area for the FBA program, spoke quite frankly about this issue, and is working with Morrison to help him find the right mix of these roles.

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Our final stop was near Kafue, where we met with Clement Phiri, who shares with three other farmers a much larger farm made possible by its proximity to the Kafue River.

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He showed us large fields of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables irrigated with a petrol pump.

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This farm is definitely at the upper end of what’s possible for smallholder farmers. One of Clement’s partners in this farm is the FBA for the area, and he has worked his way up to such investments as a hand tractor, which can plow and till at many times the rate possible with a hoe. This gives him not only greater effectiveness on his own farm, but also an asset he can rent out, perhaps in exchange for other farmers’ labor or for fuel.

All in all, the day gave us a much more concrete understanding of farming in Zambia, iDE’s role as a facilitator, and the FBA program as it exists today here. We also slept very well after this very full, 12-hour outing. :)

Posted 5 years, 4 months ago at 8:27 pm.

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More River and Falls, and Zimbabwe

Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Wow! I thought that the Zambian side of Victoria Falls was spectacular, but the Zimbabwe side is absolutely stunning. We went across the border for a few hours and walked the full length of the Zimbabwe side of the falls with a guide. Besides the falls, we saw lots of animals, and Rudy found his obligatory geocache. :)

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We had time for lunch at the beautiful Victoria Falls Hotel, also on the Zimbabwe side. Carlos, ever the adventurous eater, had crocodile.

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We returned to the Zambian side in time for a sunset cruise of the upper Zambezi River (above the falls). Aside from a pleasant cruise, this provided lots of opportunity for watching wildlife. We saw hippopotamus, warthogs, a large crocodile, water buffalo, and more.

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Sam Harvey, of iDE, met us for dinner back at the Zambezi Sun, and we made plans for a long day of traveling and visiting iDE farmers and Farm Business Advisers tomorrow. The business part of the trip begins.

Posted 5 years, 4 months ago at 9:37 pm.

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We’re Going to Zambia!

It’s pretty much a matter of chance that two of our special projects are located in Zambia. We support Habitat for Humanity in the Denver area, and we approached them three years ago about doing something at an international level. The Denver office of Habitat has a relationship with five of their international efforts, and so they offered us a list of five countries. We chose Zambia, a country in the middle of Southern Africa.

Later, when we decided to fund a special project with iDE, the most attractive choice they offered (described in an earlier post) also happened to be in Zambia.

With all this work in Zambia, we responded positively when iDE invited us to go to Zambia and visit the project in person. We’re leaving our house in good hands, and charging off on what for us will definitely count as an adventure, and we’re taking our 14-year-old grandson, Carlos, with us.

I (Rudy) will be blogging our trip here, with some photos, assuming we have the expected internet connectivity and I have my photo workflow, er…, flowing.

We’ll go first to Livingstone (a bit to the left of the bottom center of the map), where the quotation, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” entered the history books. Victoria Falls, the largest falls in the world, is there, and we’ll spend two days viewing it and doing a few other activities that are available there. We might also do a bit of resting after the 28 hours of flying and layovers necessary to get there.

We’ll then be driven by iDE folks up to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia (a third of the way up in the center of the map). We’ll stop on the way up to view a couple of iDE projects, and then spend an additional two days meeting with iDE folks and viewing iDE projects in the Lusaka area.

For this much of our trip, we’ll be accompanied by Steve Baroch and Ana Ximanes, a couple who also live southeast of Denver and are also involved in funding the iDE FBA project.

We’ll then spend a day visiting Habitat for Humanity Zambia. We’ll meet Habitat personnel in their offices, to learn more about how they operate, and we’re going to have an opportunity to visit two of the families who are living in houses we’ve funded. I’m especially looking forward to this part of our trip. :)

After a free day in Lusaka, we’ll fly up to South Luangwa National Park, which is cited by many as the best place to see animals in the wild in Zambia, and one of the best in Africa. We’ll split four days between Mfuwe Lodge and a more remote bushcamp before we drag our exhausted bodies onto the the first of four airplanes for the return home.

Folks from iDE asked us to blog our trip, and that sounded like fun, so I’ll try to do so. We’re also inviting some of our family and friends to join us in this vicarious way on this (for us, anyway) exotic outing. :)

Posted 5 years, 4 months ago at 10:53 pm.

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iDE Farm Business Advisor Zambia Performance Enhancement Project (2012)

One of our favorite charities is iDE. Their mission is to increase the income of the 2 billion small plot farmers in the world, who earn less than $2/day. iDE doesn’t operate by giving handouts, but uses a far more effective and sustainable approach. They regard the smallholder farmer as an entrepreneur who will take advantage of effective technology and information, as well as supply and marketing systems, if they’re designed to be affordable and relevant to use on very small farms (1/4 acre to perhaps 2 acres).

iDE is well known for simple and inexpensive treadle pumps capable of bringing irrigation to such farms, but I’ll cite a different example, to illustrate the idea clearly. iDE has developed a 200,000-litir water storage system that can be purchased by the farmer for $400, and is capable of storing enough water to irrigate 1/4 acre of farmland for a season. The system is filled during the monsoon season, and used during the dry season (when crop prices are highest and most farmers are idle due to lack of water) to add a full growing season. This technology alone can add $500 income in it’s first year of use, paying for itself in less than a year while adding a large long-term income boost to the farm family. This is a very typical example of an iDE technology.


Donald Tembo from Chibombo District in Central Province of Zambia accessed a $380 loan in October 2011, facilitated through an iDE Farm Business Advisor. With this money he invested in a treadle pump which enabled him to irrigate four times as much land, expanding his garden from 1/8 hectare to ½ hectare and sell his tomato, melon, cucumber and green beans at the market. (Reprinted with permission from IDE Wellspring, May 2012.)

These folks do a great deal more, though, providing multiple relevant technologies, and connecting them to microfinance so that farmers can afford to purchase the systems. They set up multiple, competing in-country manufacturers for the devices, so that the systems are an on-going business for local firms, maintenance is locally available, and the sustainability of the approach does not depend on iDE’s continuing presence.

They also help develop supply chains and marketing venues suitable for smallholder farmers, and provide technical knowledge about agricultural techniques, crop selection for more profitability by small-plot farmers, and lots more. Indeed, they’ve developed (in Cambodia) a system for training selected local farmers to serve as Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) to the other smallholder farmers in a local area. The FBAs derive a sustainable income from the sale of techological devices in their area, while providing an ongoing source of information and advice on farming matters. This program has been very successful in Cambodia.

iDE is now expanding this program to other countries in Asia, and also in Zambia as a pilot project for Africa. They’re optimistic that the approach can be adapted to Africa, but recognize that in Africa they will encounter differences in culture, climate, economics, available physical resources, and lots more. So it’s important to be rigorous in designing the program in Zambia, and to include an objective assessment of the effort as it’s carried out.

To this end, iDE is conducting the Farm Business Advisor Zambia Performance Enhancement Project. The goal of this project will be to develop an initial cadre of trained FBAs in Zambia. This will involve assessing the training needs of the FBAs here, developing training materials, training an initial cadre of 200 FBAs, objectively assessing the success of these FBAs over a period of time, and disseminating experience and best-practice information to other candidate countries in Africa. The bulk of the project is being funded by RLG International, but we’re funding the assessment and information-dissemination phase of the project. Here’s iDE’s proposal, describing the project, and here’s the first progress report.

We, too, are quite hopeful that this award-winning model will prove effective in Africa, as there’s a tremendous need there, and a tremendous potential gain. We’re pleased at the opportunity to take part in this work.

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 10:12 pm.

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