As I sit and look through the pictures taken on my trip to Zambia to witness first hand the work of Concern’s RAIN project, I’m reminded once again of the beautiful welcomes; the smiles of the children; husbands happy to be working in their homestead gardens with their wives; and mothers proud of their off-spring.
I feel humbled to have been able to go on this trip, particularly as like many people, I’ve often wondered how exactly money given to charity is spent and what way it’s being used to help others.
I’m lucky to have seen how money raised by Concern is helping families in Zambia, a country where one in two children are classed as being stunted due to chronic malnutrition.
Over the three days on the ground in Mumbwa, we were welcomed into the homes of a number of beneficiaries of the RAIN project.
For me, it really hit home in these villages we visited; seeing the families tend to their homestead gardens with a wide variety of healthy crops and livestock.
At home, I’ve a small vegetable garden, more of a novelty than a necessity - after all, we can pop to the local shop when supplies run out.
But for these families, their homestead gardens, with a diverse range of crops, are vital to their nutrition.
Up until the RAIN project began in 2011, many of these families grew only one crop - maize - which has contributed in part to the chronic malnutrition.
Rural farmers are more likely to grow maize and cotton because they pay more but through the RAIN project’s education programme it is hoped that husbands will see the benefit to their family by allowing some of their land to be used to grow nutritious crops.
Our first morning was spent with Mainess Munamalambo and her husband Shadreck Hanga’ndo.
Going from growing maize and cotton, the family homestead garden is flourishing with a variety of crops including spinach, tomato, onions, sweet potato, and okra.
Shadreck told me he really enjoys working in the garden with Mainess, which shows traditional attitudes are changing, something that can only be positive in the long run.
Some of the beneficiaries have been given seeds, some have also been given a goat or some chickens from Concern - all of which can be bought as gifts from the charity’s website.
I think this is the most tangible way of showing how those gifts and donations can change lives; indeed, one of my favourite pictures from the trip is a group of children in Shababwa village with a kid goat - evidence if evidence were needed of how these gifts are being used to bring change to people’s lives. From that one initial goat, the family homestead now has a large herd.
But it’s clear that it’s not just about giving people the tools - in this case seeds, a water supply and livestock - but also educating them.
As part of the RAIN project, a number of women’s groups were set up in the villages, backed by a sterling group of community health volunteers who are helping to teach local women how to cook the new foods they are growing.
One of the community health volunteers we met in Lungo village is Agnita Munyama, a 50-year-old mother-of-10 who is clearly relishing her role.
She told me that for her, success is seeing healthy children: “Seeing the results from this project, and seeing healthy, happy children is what makes me happy.”
I couldn’t have put it better in describing the RAIN project’s success to date and indeed the trip.
Video: Times reporter in Zambia with Concern
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Zambia: How Concern is helping to educate families about nutrition