DOREEN NAWA, Shibuyunji
FOR the Ila-Sala people of Shibuyunji district in Central Province, cattle is everything: food, material, culture and wealth.
To them, cattle is life.
Their love for livestock gets so personal and when the livestock is diseased, they, too, get affected.
And because of the regularity of the foot and mouth disease, the people of Shibuyunji district have suffered a set-back.
Flavia Minyoi of Mululuma village in Shibuyunji peeps into her neighbour’s kraal and says, “I hope your cattle are well,” she says in a greeting.
“Livestock play a central role in my work, both as a strategy for alleviating poverty and achieving food security and proper nutrition. I value cattle and livestock in general like we do with humans. And when the livestock is diseased, I get affected, too, so does my family,” Mrs Minyoi says.
Livestock provides food and nutrition for people, while also giving them tangible assets which they can use to improve their livelihoods.
More than any other, the people of Shibuyunji district are cattle-herders par excellence.
Cattle provide almost everything they need for survival, and much more.
They are a symbol of wealth and a source of pride, and a person’s entire life revolves around the herds: the need to pasture and care for them, the need to protect them, and the need to move with them in search of fresh pasture and water.
And when Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) and Village Water Zambia introduced a Pass-on a cow project, the lives of the people of Shibuyunji were revived.
KCM and Village Water Zambia are working with the Veterinary Department, Community Development and other stakeholders in the project areas focusing on disease management thereby contributing to the implementation of the national policy on livestock rearing.
“Foot and mouth disease killed all our cattle and when KCM and Village Water gave us 200 cattle in 2014, we were so happy and we felt honoured because cattle add value to our lives and our identity. Twenty families from various villages benefitted,” Mrs Minyoi says.
The paramount importance of cattle, for which it is believed that the more the better, has also marked the aggressive nature of not only the Ila-Sala people but other people, too.
Mrs Minyoi explained that each village programme has a tailored approach to animal health and husbandry, based on local resources and livestock.
By combining the provision of livestock with training in animal husbandry, natural resource management, leadership skills and gender equity, the project has created a development model that strengthens the social, economic and ecological fabric of a community.
Under this project, the attention to sustainable livestock development includes improved access to animal health services and disease control, improved management, improved nutrition and improved marketing of livestock and livestock products.
KCM general manager Howard Chilundika says the project is the hallmark of their approach.
“This livestock project has been implemented in three areas, namely Chililabombwe, Chingola and Nampundwe, where more than 400 families have received cows and another 200 families organised in co-operatives and women clubs have been provided with more than 4,000 goats since 2010. We have these projects in areas where we are operating from,” Mr Chilundika says.
Initially, the concept mandated that each farming family who received an animal gift passed on the first female offspring to another in need. While that hand-off of livestock remains a fixture in most projects, the idea has blossomed and encompasses far more than the founders expected.
Mr Chilundika says the efforts by farmers in Shibuyunji on how they have reinvented the “pass-on” idea show immense imagination, eagerness and generosity.
“KCM is still committed to supporting programmes aimed at improving the welfare of people in the country,” Mr Chilundika says.
The KCM sustainable livelihood project is not simply about giving cattle, goats and gardening equipment, the project focuses on improving and promoting the quality of life in the mining communities.
According to Village Water Zambia – the project implementers, there is an improved women empowerment in rural areas through providing food and income-generating animals (draft cattle, dairy cattle and goats), integrated agriculture, human nutrition, market linkages, value-based training for sustainable community transformation and also stronger partnership building.
“If there is something that is given more importance than the giving of livestock to the families of Shibuyunji, it is the gift of hope, opportunity and the very essence of a secure future for the beneficiaries,” says Village Water Zambia country director Elisha Ng’onomo
Mr Ng’onomo says the livestock project has changed lives of people in the three areas where the project is taking place.
It is, however, the hope of every-one that the sustainable livelihood project be extended to other areas because such investments have a long-term impact on sustainable development and in the alleviation of poverty for hundreds of households in the country.
Whether farmers are passing on animals or time and knowledge, the act transforms recipients into donors and produces a profound sense of accomplishment.
Tangible gifts come with intangible benefits of opportunity, dignity and acceptance.
This practice doubles the impact of the original gift, transforming a once impoverished family into full participants who improve and strengthen the bonds within their communities.