From Barely Surviving to Thriving: Growing Farmers in Zambia

Mbabala Island, Zambia This is the story of two fisherman. One chose to make a change. The other did not.
Lawrence, a former fisherman, lives on Mbabala Island in Zambia. He and his family could barely survive on the fish he could catch. Fish stocks had fallen in the overfished local Zambian lake. Lawrence’s neighbor, Jim,* also struggled to feed his family as a subsistence fisherman.

Both Lawrence and Jim heard about a new farmer training program conducted by the Christian Farmers Association (CFA) in Zambia and supported by Bright Hope. Before he resorted to fishing to provide for his family, Lawrence had tried farming for 11 years, but never found success. Yet after the after the training, Lawrence became so successful with the farm that he gave up fishing.

Vegetable Farming in Zambia

Lawrence applied for the CFA GROW program, which provides large loans to help farmers specialize in a particular area of agriculture production such as poultry farming. In 2018, Lawrence spent eight months participating in irrigation and vegetable production training. With hard work and a willingness to learn a new trade, Lawrence excelled in both his practical and theoretical training. Filled with excitement and hope, Lawrence installed his own irrigation system. Within days of its installation, Lawrence had seedlings in the ground. Three months later, the first of his harvest started coming in.

Through his CFA training, Lawrence learned the importance of diversifying his crops. He grows a combination of onion, tomato, Chinese cabbage, and kale. His Chinese cabbage is in such demand that prospective buyers beg to purchase it early. Lawrence expects to make more than K3,000 (approximately $227.00) from his Chinese cabbage alone! Considering whole families in this area live off a couple dollars a day—and individuals live off closer to 15 – 20 cents a day, this is a lot of money!

When asked about his farming practice, Lawrence owed his success to the composting training he received through the CFA. His best compost comes from the lake where he finds dead weeds and debris washed up by the waves. It’s hard work hauling buckets of compost from the lakeside half a kilometer away to cover his crops. But the payoff is worth it!

Jim, on the other hand, did not join the GROW program. Afraid he could not succeed as a farmer, he continued fishing. As we talked with Lawrence, Jim said, “At the beginning of March, when the fishing season opened, I purchased [many new] fishing nets. In three months of fishing, I have only made K750, [roughly $57.00]. There are no fish left in the lake. I only wish I had been a part of the vegetable [farming] program!”

Other Projects in Zambia:

Bright Hope Staff
Bright Hope Staff