Taking Food To The Villages

British reaction to news of the famine in Zambia was quick, and generous. The country's government gave us responsibility for feeding a certain number of people, and HHI(Z) was given responsibility for organising it all. We recently sent representatives to Monze to see the work.

A special HHI visit was recently paid to Monze, in Zambia, to observe and report on how our supporters' donations were being put to work there.

This was the first visit since the Food Aid famine appeal, and gave our visitors a chance to see how the Director has been able to handle the distribution of maize.

He has been given responsibility for feeding 500 families, around 4,000 people, over the course of five months.

The chairman, Ron Prosser, was there to watch and reported: "On the day I was involved, it was the turn of 152 elderly people to be given 20kg of unmilled maize."

"During the morning, his helpers had put the maize into bags, while a list was pinned up, giving the names of those who were due to receive it. At the due time, we arrived to find several hundred people waiting, in a very orderly fashion.

"The Director called out names, the recipient signed a piece of paper, and was given the maize. This took all afternoon, and eventually we were left with seventeen bags, for people who had not turned up to claim their maize. But we were also left with another 70 people who received nothing. What were we to do?"

"We decided to distribute to the oldest, and those who received nothing were told their turn would come with the next distribution. It cannot be easy to accept that when you are starving, but they did accept it."

Ron reports being touched by the co-operative attitude of those being helped. "I was impressed to see the children helping old people carry their bags of maize, and to see some help an old man who had trundled an ancient bicycle on which to carry his bag. "And not a grain was overlooked. Of course, some was spilled, but the children soon picked up every grain. "I was told that they would roast these over a fire, like popcorn."

"What touched me so much was one little child I saw, who was just too weak to join the others scrabbling for the spilled grains."

"British supporters will be impressed by the way the Director is handling things on our behalf," says the chairman. "Every morning, when I went to meet him at his office, there would be a queue of people waiting for him, and I was very impressed with the way he dealt with them. He doesn't turn anyone away without trying to help them in some way. Every Saturday afternoon he goes around the hospital, and pays particular attention to the children's ward, where he sits with them all. The worst thing about the children's ward, it always occurs to me, is the burns - so many of the children fall into the cooking fires."

Although we are giving some immediate help, what will happen when the time comes for the next harvest in Zambia? Our man there has put an imaginative plan into action. We have already been able to use a little money to provide seedcorn for some families who have the opportunity to grow their own.

This inspired the office to come up with an idea for a central resource on which we might grow our own maize. A farmer has agreed to rent us ten hectares of land (about 25 acres), and to plough it for us. The Zambia government's department of agriculture have been very co-operative, and have sent an official to work with us on the project. This has cost over £1,500, which has generously been donated by the Three Oaks Trust. The Zambian government has advised farmers to prepare to take advantage of the rains which are thought to be on the way. If good harvests come, this idea could be a benefit for years ahead.

Meanwhile, there has been a row in Zambia over the government's decision to reject thousands of tons of free maize from America, because it is genetically-modified. Four other African countries have already accepted the maize, on condition that it is milled, so that it can only be eaten, not planted.