The Multiplier Effect: Creating a Cycle of Change in Zambia

Louis Mwewa, Firelight Resource Person in Zambia, wrote the following story after his recent site visit to Firelight partner Pazesa Horticulture Community. This story captures the resilience of families, the importance of sustainable programming, and how communities play an important role in creating a cycle of change. The Multiplier Effect: Creating a Cycle of Change in Zambia

From a distance, one would mistake her to be a lady in her late thirties or her early forties. She is humble and very simple in her look though very confident in the way she presents herself. I was meeting her for the very first time, but it was like we had met before. When we got to her place the first thing she did was introduce us to the members of the family. The children that were not at home were at school and the youngest were busy playing.

Who exactly is Ms. Mbewe?  Ms Mbewe was born 68 years ago and in her life she had 11 children with her husband. Unfortunately, over the years she has lost four of her children who left behind nine orphaned grandchildren. She also supports five more grandchildren that her surviving children cannot adequately care for.

A woman standing in front of a garden in Zambia

In Zambia, being a grandmother traditionally means that she is a pillar of the family. However, she struggled to care and provide for all 14 of her grandchildren. Due to high need of her family (tuition fees, school uniforms, food, medical expenses, etc.) she sought out assistance from Pazesa Horticulture Community--a local organization based near her community.

Pazesa used to provide school support in the form of books, uniforms, and other school materials, but they soon realized that providing this type of support was not sustainable; it provided no way for the family to create its own income or to become economically stable in the long term. The organization began looking for other (more sustainable) ways to help support families within their communities.

A woman  standing at her garden

The Mbewe family were among the first to benefit from the PAZESA’s family empowerment support that provided families with Trido pumps and agricultural training. As result of this project, Ms. Mbewe started a garden and is now able to financially support all 14 of her grandchildren through the income she generates.

In the garden, the family grows various varieties of crops ranging from maize to vegetables as well as rice. They also expanded their agriculture work to involve fish farming. With the help of Pazesa, two fishponds were installed directly inside their garden and now supply fish for both consumption and family income.

The best description for this garden is a life giving garden because it has almost all that the family needs for selling as well as for consumption. The produce from the garden is sold to the nearby Chipata town and at times the “marketer’s” follow the Mbewe’s home to buy the produce right from the garden.

Ms. Mbewe’s bigger dream is to own cows to use in the ploughing of her gardens. Currently, she heavily depends on hiring people to help hoe the garden, which at times, turns out to be very expensive. She believes with her own cows she could actually do a lot to work in the garden and spend less on labour.

A woman and man stand with a group of children outside

Ms. Mbewe is very happy and excited with the support from Pazesa. “It used to be so difficult in the past to do what I am now doing with the pump.” Her burden has become much lighter. She is now able to care for all of her children and pay for them to attend school on her own—she also regularly contributes bags of maize and rice back to Pazesa. Pazesa then uses these food items to help support other families as they work to install similar gardens for their own homes.

This story was written by Louis Mwewa, Firelight Resources Person in Zambia.

This story shows the power of supporting communities and families.  As one family grows in strength they begin to support other families that still need help gaining their own stability.

Pazesa’s work, turning from a model of charity and hand outs to one based on sustainable family support, shows the power of community based development that is focused on long term solutions to difficult economic challenges. One schoolbook or a uniform for one child cannot change the trajectory of an entire family, but one garden can change the lives of 14 grandchildren and a community beyond the walls of one family’s home.