by Kate Neely (International Program Director, RoundTrip Foundation)
In this series of blogs focusing on life at our projects, we are following the progress of Kate Neely, Program Director at RoundTrip Foundation. Kate has been in Africa and Sri Lanka visiting our projects and also investigating a potential new project in Tanzania. In this second instalment, Kate spent a couple of weeks at Tikondane in Zambia where RoundTrip supports 13 local interns. Click here for more about this project. Click here to read the first instalment of Kate’s adventures.
The next day (my third day at Tikondane) dawn is bright and clear and cool. A perfect day for a walk into the small, nearby township of Katete. It may be small but Katete is a bustling three-way intersection where major roads meet and goods are transported and exchanged. I meet Victoria Banda who is selling oranges and cucumbers and who, when I ask where the bank is, simply walks away from her stall and takes me there. I wander through market stalls selling car parts, shoes, bags, produce, school uniforms and more. I am sort of looking for toys but see none on display at the market or in the shops. No wonder the swing at Tiko is so well used, there is little else that caters directly to childhood here. After about an hour and having found that all four ATMs in Katete are simultaneously broken, I buy some oranges from Victoria and catch a bike taxi home. I love the bike taxis, for the equivalent of 50c I get a comfy seat, which I can use either side saddle or astride, and we are back at Tiko in no time.
Next, Tigress offers to take me to her house and show me how she has implemented the ‘19 Steps out of Poverty’ program. Tigress moved from Lusaka to Tiko because she could see that there were more opportunities here to own land and build a house. With four children to care for by herself, and little family support, Tigress has her plot of land brimming with produce: pumpkins, peanuts and maize to name a few.
She also keeps pigeons and rabbits, has a reliable well and has recently put up a fence that will keep the cows out. Wood and bamboo for fencing are expensive as they must be imported from across the country, hence few people had fencing until Tiko found support for the cost of the wood (thanks to RoundTrip’s recent donation to Tikondane’s fence-building project). Tigress started her fence before Tiko had support and she is proactive in ensuring that she plants different crops to everyone else, they all planted soya this year so Tigress planted maize.
Back at Tiko again, I discover that lunch for the staff is cooked at the food production workshop, in a fuel efficient, 60-litre stove. A huge pot of boiled cowpeas is brought out and served into whatever vessel is available: plates, buckets and plastic bags all get huge ladles of cowpeas. While a few people stay around to eat near the shop, everyone else disappears and I think that many of these staff members will skip lunch in order to take some extra food home for their families. Despite the terrible name, it turns out that cowpeas are very tasty!
After lunch is the regular Monday meeting of the management committee. Despite having been at Tiko for three days now, this meeting surprises me. Each ‘department’ is represented and reports on what they have done and what they have in stock. So, everyone, including the gardeners, the craft workers, the cleaning team, the kitchen, the HIV/AIDs counsellor, the educators, the director, the animal team and the local village leaders all report on what has happened over the last week. The potential for this to be a tedious ‘tick the boxes’ process is high. It is clear though, when the director suggests planting a border of lemon trees, that everyone in the room is empowered to have a say on the running of Tiko. The director’s suggestion is vetoed but the lemon trees will be bought for distribution to farms around the villages, who can then provide Tiko with the produce required for its enterprises.