Defeating hunger and poverty together
The community centre “Tikondane” (“let’s be there for each other”) is located in the Katete district in the far south-east of Zambia. The region is one of the poorest in the country. The catchment area of Tikondane is home to 16,000 people. Most of them grow maize and live on the yield of their small fields. The soils are depleted after decades of maize cultivation, the harvests are poor. The proceeds from the sale of the maize must also pay for salt, soap, clothing and school fees. When the yields are used up, usually months before the next harvest, the season of hunger begins. Everybody is affected, but most of all the extended families with 10 or more children in various degrees of kinship, and often without a father. The area has been suffering greatly from the HIV/AIDS epidemic; orphans are usually taken in by the extended family.
One of the reasons for this extreme poverty is the conservation of deeply rooted traditional beliefs. If you believe that your own fate is determined by external influences – you die if a witch “wishes you dead“ – then there is no motivation to change your own situation. Moreover, a change for the better – that is, more prosperity – may even cause you to be accused of witchcraft.
Old convictions are persistent, like the idea that you should have many children. Women are more likely to consider family planning, but they are powerless. They cannot get access to family planning measures or any other decisions in everyday life without the husband’s signature.
Men mostly believe that the only use of education is to get a diploma which will get you a white-collar job, not only figuratively. Corruption, purchase of votes, of jobs or commissions are widespread.
The large majority of the population still live on agriculture. The profession of farmer, however, is not well regarded among men. If you have to cope as a farmer, you try to plant “cash crops” in order to get some cash. And more often than not, this cash is not spent on the family.
The concept of eating a healthy, varied diet with a high proportion of different fruits and vegetables is totally unknown. Maize is considered to be the only possible food, and that’s why Katete is one of the places with the worst malnutrition problem on earth.
Even if those outdated beliefs have been overcome and farmers do accept other farming methods and crops, it is difficult to get anywhere and make a profit. There is no market because everyone in the area is poor and no one has money to pay for goods. Moreover, high transport costs undermine any profit.
Project goals and contents
The Tikondane community was founded in 1999 by Elke Kroeger-Radcliffe on about two hectares of land on tribal territory, which the upper-ranked tribal chief of the Chewa tribe put to her dispositon for the creation of a community center.
The organization is open to all faiths, politically neutral and not profit-oriented.
Our goals are
- to achieve long-term financial autonomy for the Community members
- to improve their health status
- to create educational opportunities
- to promote small-scale entrepreneurship
- to create jobs
Thus, for the member families, Tikondane functions as community college, workplace, health center and money lender. The members come from the surrounding villages. The Community is organized according to democratic principles; all decisions are taken by majority vote at weekly meetings.
The basic idea is to increase the level of education, create employment opportunities as well as to test alternative farming, economic and nutritional concepts in the member families and to spread them in the region if they are successful.
The site includes several fields, stables for animal husbandry (especially rabbits) and a vegetable garden. The community runs a kindergarten and its own preschool. A secondary school is also on site; the building has been rented by another institution. Further job opportunities include a tailor shop, a souvenir shop, a restaurant and 14 accommodations for tourists, furnished according to simple Western standards.
The original idea was to create a solid base for the livelihood of about 500 people. However, the social situation in Zambia makes it almost impossible for Tikondane to function as a normal business enterprise while remaining true to its own values.
Today, Tikondane is a small lifeboat in a sea of misery. The members receive a small salary paid out in cash, but a lot of help in an emergency, which translated into a European context would be social benefits. This includes support in periods of hunger, financial assistance in agriculture, in the construction and maintenance of accommodations, in illness, education, transport, lunch and death. Funerals are a very expensive item. As families are huge by European standards and living conditions are precarious, deaths are frequent. The importance of funerals in local culture mustn’t be undervalued.
Most of the rare jobs in Tikondane have been given to women, who are usually solely responsible for the children. And outside the community they often have only one option for work: prostitution. Because of this dead-end situation of women it has been impossible till today to close unprofitable Tiko departments. At least three times, the Assembly decided to distribute the small amount of money among all employees, rather than laying off some of them.
Tikondane’s concepts for the path to economic independence are taught to families in a long-term programme entitled “19 Steps Out of Poverty”. Since most families make a living by growing maize on small fields, an attempt is being made to diversify products and farming methods.
- Steps 1-6 of the concept deal with the cultivation of crops other than maize and with teaching new methods of field work. At the same time, families who are only used to maize as food in various forms of preparation are offered the opportunity to eat more varied food.
- In steps 7-13, the concept turns to the vegetable garden. Here, too, we are talking about alternative farming methods and new vegetables. This also serves the food security of families.
- In steps 14 and 15, animal husbandry is on the agenda. Families learn to keep pigeons. The birds have sales opportunities in the local markets and also ensure the protein supply to the families.
- Steps 16 to 19 deal with the long-term sustainability of the economic successes achieved so far and therefore focus on general measures for the protection of water and forests.
Food security for babies and young children
Malnutrition and nutritional deficiency are widespread in the eastern province of Zambia. Almost half of all children are underweight, too small for their age and have a very weak immune system. There are two main reasons for this:
- frequent diarrhoea due to contaminated water
- lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition and cost-effective cultivation of food crops
The long-term approach begins with the distribution of Moringa seedlings to mothers. Moringa Olifera, the horseradish tree, is native to the Himalayas. It is very well adapted to hot climate and can grow to four meters in just one year. The leaves of the Moringa tree are rich in vitamins and minerals. Served along with peanuts or other legumes, Moringa offers a complete, protein-rich meal that can also replace meat, because the plant contains an essential amino acid that is missing in legumes. Crushed to powder, the seeds of the Moringa tree can also clean polluted drinking water by binding the suspended particles and bacteria contained in the water and making them sink to the bottom. Even children who regularly get Onenepa to feed them up risk falling ill with diarrhoea and losing weight again and again. Cleaning drinking water is the only way to prevent this, therefore it is central to our long-term approach.
Nowadays, drinking water wells in the villages are often located near latrines. On the other hand, many people have no alternative to releaving themselves in the open field. This is where Tikondane steps in with the effort to convince the women in the villages, and even more so the regional administrative civil servants, of compost toilets.
This is how compost toilets work: the faeces are collected and let dry for half a year, then they are processed into fertilizer within 18 days using the Berkeley method of “hot composting”. During hot composting, the temperature within the compost heap gets so high that pathogens are killed. In order to stimulate the decomposition processes accordingly, the compost heap must not be moved for four days and must then be shoveled every other day for 14 days. This requires fundamental rethinking as the use of faeces is considered unclean, and the necessary financial means do currently exceed the Community’s resources.
Education and health care
- distribution of condoms in Tikondane and the surrounding villages.
- information events on family planning, teenage pregnancies and child marriage.
- vocational training and continuing professional development of specialized nurses for those already suffering from the disease.
Adult education courses at Tiko Academy
Courses in reading and writing, the local language Chichewa, English, Arithmetic, TIKO 19 Steps Out of Poverty, Sewing, Word Processing
Purchase of silos for cereals
So far, small farmers used to lose about 40 percent of the annual harvest, mostly to rats and other pests. Tikondane now has got 17 silos where maize and other crops can be safely stored after harvest. If we had further silos these could be used by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages.
The pocket money project
Young people who go to school do not normally accept working in agriculture.
But at the beginning of 2019, school fees suddenly increased by one hundred percent. Tikondane took this increase as an opportunity to introduce an obligatory course on Saturdays for the young people to learn how to produce food independently.
They earn a little pocket money for attending the course. They learn how to produce organic fertilizer and to grow vegetables in so-called “bag gardens“which they can make themselves. These vegetables are then sold. As a reward, Tikondane offers not only pocket money, but also further financing of the increased school fees.
This is how Tikondane responds again and again to new cost risks by developing innovative ideas. As the financial reserves are not large, this has so far been a constant balancing act on the abyss, which Tiko has been keeping up for at least 20 years. In the meantime, the benefits of the Community have been recognized in the traditional tribal society of the District of Katete. The concept is well thought out and tried and tested. Tikondane now has the chance to demonstrate how little money it takes to get a large number of people out of absolute poverty. We are convinced that the lives of 1000 people can be completely changed if you spend 204 € per person per year. That’s 17 € per month, or 56 cents per day.
Project financing (sample calcution)
|PROJECTMEASURE||SINGLE COST (€) PER FAMILY||YEAR (€) FOR 150 FAMILIES||ONETIME (€) FOR 150 FAMILIES|
|per family 5 sacks of corn||100||15.000||–|
|Lunch for 70 volunteers*||45||3.150||–|
|3.2 Stabilisation of the food situation|
|per family 20 kg corn seeds||50||7.500||–|
|per family 5 Moringa seedlings||5||750||–|
|per family 20 kg peanut seeds||60||9.000||–|
|per family 10 kg bean seeds||20||3.000||–|
|per family 10 kg soy seeds||20||3.000||–|
|per family 10 kg sweet potato seeds||20||3.000||–|
|per family 10 kg sunflower seeds||20||3.000||–|
|per family 500 g vegetable seeds||30||4.500||–|
|per family 1 storage box||10||–||1.500|
|per family 1 dovecot with 2 pigeons||30||–||4.500|
|per family silo for supplies||60||–||9.000|
|Fence for vegetable garden**||50||–||7.500|
|Fence for the field||70||–||10.500|
|One deep well for every ten families***||1.330||–||19.950|
|3.3 Promoting small business|
|3.4 Health care|
|per family 1 AIDS counseling||18||2.700||–|
|per family basic need of Medication||30||4.500||–|
|Transport to the clinic|
|per family construction of an open-air kitchen with||80||–||12.000|
|energy-saving clay oven****|
|Subtotal 3.4||149||10.350||12 000|
|School fees (primary, secondary)||120||18.000|
|6-day seminar for 26 people*****||400||1.200|
|on 19 Steps Out of Poverty||(3 seminars per year)|
|PROJECTMEASURE||SINGLE COST (€)||YEAR (€) FOR||ONETIME (€)|
|PER FAMILY||150 FAMILIES||FOR 150 FAMILIES|
|3.6 Improving housing|
|(subsidy 50% of the investment|
|per family window Installation (60 €)||30||4.500|
|Cement floor, plasterwork (120 €)||60||9.000|
|per family Installation burglar-proof door (30 €)||15||2.250|
|one compost toilet per family (425 €)||212,50||31.875|
|per family 2 solar lamps (50 €)||25||3 .750|
|Total at full project||3072,50||85.770||118.725|
* Lunch for staff is necessary because it would take them three hours to go home for lunch. Our canteen can also operate more cost-effectively and it doesn’t take anyone to cook lunch at home instead of working.
** Fences are necessary because of marauding cows, which are not kept in the stable and are not fed, which is why they like to help themselves to the vegetables and crops of strangers.
*** a deep well should belong to a family, which thenshares water with nine other households. This means that 15 deep wells are required for 150 families.
**** an open-air kitchen prevents respiratory problems and eye diseases. As yet, farmers have to use firewood, but as the clay oven only only allows the use of small pieces of firewood it is very energy-saving.
***** standardised concept of hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. Groups that regularly come from the villages to a meeting need to learn the basics of this concept in order to really understand Tiko’s help.