How does African Impact forge bonds with communities and create sustainable plans for development? Volunteer Coordinator Jack Raffan, from our projects at Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Zambia explains how the magic happens!
I read a fantastic definition of work the other day. Work is any action that is statistically unlikely to happen by chance. It stuck with me and the more I thought about it the more I liked it. It makes sense. The default state of anything is often the easiest possible setting. Water, for example, rarely goes uphill by itself and crops seldom grow themselves. If we want anything meaningful out of this lazy universe of ours we typically have to work for it. Without work very little of use would happen. I think this definition of work can be applied to most institutions and especially African Impact. I believe that we (African Impact) are most useful when we are trying to achieve things that would not otherwise happen. I believe that Chimfunshi’s Beyond the Roots project is an example of good work and I shall tell you why.
How does providing a community garden in rural Zambia count as work? Well in many ways it doesn’t. I have often said that the Zambians do not need our help nearly as much as we think they do. Inside every Zambian there is a tractor waiting to come out. Recently the Chimfunshi communities have proven themselves to be as strong and tough as I give them credit for. I have experienced first hand at significant cost to my ego. Not only are the Zambians tough but also they are substantially better at growing things than we are. They have been doing it for far longer than us and they depend upon it much more than we do.
So where’s the work here? What does African Impact add to this situation that would not happen by chance? I suppose the best answer to this question is with another question. Why is there not already an existing community garden? There is a substantial difference between saying one could create a garden and actually building one. Furthermore, if you ask any farmer they will tell you that it is reasonably easy to convince things to grow but getting them to grow well is an entirely different story. Motivation and expertise is where African Impact enters the picture. In Chimfunshi’s case it was a question of introducing motivation to expertise. The African Impact team went out of their way to organise a plot of land for the community to use. We liaised with the farm manager to find out what would be best to grow and what needed to be done to assure a good yield. We figured out how to use natural (and freely available) fertilizers so that we could increase the output of the garden. The use of natural fertilizer also prevents soil erosion so that future generations can continue to enjoy the fruits of our work. We have also designed a free and easy to implement irrigation system so that the communities do not have to rely on any external support to water their garden. We worked out a projected output estimate so that the community can measure its success against our estimates. In short we presented this community with the opportunity to achieve something exceptional. None of this would have happened by chance and is entirely the product of work done by African Impact and it’s volunteers. So why bother? Work is one thing but worthwhile work is much better. The Beyond the Roots community garden has the potential to impact the lives of the community in so many ways. There is the obvious financial element. The community can choose to sell some of it’s produce and the proceeds from this can be used to ensure a better quality of life for themselves and their children. In their words, the community garden solves a ‘serious problem’ as there is no easily accessible market for them to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at Chimfunshi and the ability to produce some of their own could make their lives a little bit easier. Want to learn more about our community initiatives at Chimfunshi, and how you can volunteer with this incredible programme? Visit our website!