Zambian Beginnings

Welcome to Zambia!! We’re at five weeks and counting here. These days the sun is shining a bit more and the afternoons are slightly less chilly, and progress on beginning the gardens seems to be moving at about the same pace as the changes in the weather – slowly slowly.  

While this seems to be par for the course in Africa, somehow I managed to forget that – I  arrived quite eager and energized to get started, get my hands in the dirt, and watch those plants grow! Consequently the delays have been frustrating, but they have also given me a chance to discover my surroundings, reflect, and prepare.  

DIG has the privilege of partnering with CIDRZ, the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, a large NGO based out of Lusaka and working in many aspects of public health at government health centers around the country. Specifically, we will be helping to set up five demonstration gardens at clinics in and around Lusaka, as well as a number of personal gardens in the homes of individuals that we meet through the clinics. We hope that, in addition to providing nutritious vegetables for people living with HIV and AIDS, the gardens will be a way to draw people into the clinics and help them adhere to their HIV treatment regimens, improving their health on multiple levels.  

Zambia has been heavily affected by HIV and AIDS, which, among other things, is threatening food security across the country. With many of their breadwinners – in most cases, subsistence farmers doing the majority of their farming by hand – sick and dying, families are struggling simply to get enough to eat. People living with HIV need 10-15% more calories than the average person; undernourishment leaves their bodies susceptible to disease and makes it difficult for them to tolerate antiretroviral therapy.  

In response to this, we are looking for ways to develop integrated gardens that will not only contain typical micronutrient-containing vegetables but also more starch-based higher-calorie foods. By helping people find simple ways to produce a significant portion of their caloric and nutritional needs in small, year-round plots close to home, we can assist them in living healthy and productive lives. One of these days the digging will finally start, and then eventually we’ll have pictures to send to demonstrate how this can be done. Watch for updates of dirty and dusty people wielding shovels and picks!