What does rural Zambia need most
20 Sep 2008,
During our stay in Macha, Zambia Anne-Marie Voorhoeve, Jasper Bets and I also visited other regions in Zambia. Fred Mweeta, our host in Macha introduced us with Chief Chikanta.
Chikanta is one of the 50 kingdoms in Zambia. Chikanta is an area as big as the Netherlands, divided into 21 area’s, each with their own Headman. It is one of the largest kingdoms in rural Zambia. Chikanta has no hospital, and we haven’t seen electricity or streaming water in the rural area we visited there.
We’ve learned to know Chief Chikanta as a wise and educated man with heart for his people. A good Chief takes care of his people and has as much as the people plus just a little bit extra for serving the community. That is one thing I took with me from our meeting. This as a reflection on my own images before and after our meeting. Actually it is a funny story and nice to share here.
Upfront I had this images of the palace of chief Chikanta. We heard stories of the chief and could feel the love and respect in them. And we were going to meet a ‘real’ chief in a ‘real’ palace. Well, I filled this image of the palace with my Western view of what a palace is. And if I am really hounest, my first reaction was one of somekind of disappointment when I got first sight of the palace. Luckily we were still far enough for me to be able to look at this and lagh at myself during the ride to the palace. A first lesson in humbleness for my own western prejudice.
With the Chief we spoke for hours. He told us about his personal background, about his people and his role as a chief and about the importance of the Macha project for rural Africa and for Chikanta. Chief Chikanta has become Chief for his people on request by the elderly Headman of Chikanta. For over 12 years he has lived an urban life in Lusaka, working at the bank. Becoming a Chief and going back to rural Zambia really was a choise. As it is for many of the leaders in rural Africa.
Actually that is one of the things that impresses me the most. Many of the people we have met have so much potential and when it starts to grow there are many temptations that invite them to leave the rural area and go to the town or abroad. The will to contribute to the life conditions in rural Zambia and the willingness to do some personal sacrifice for that is a firm base for success of these people and their mission. At least that is what I believe and hope to be able to contribute in.
I have asked Jasper to edit a small piece of the taped conversation with Chief Chikanta. We’ve asked the Chief for permission to use the footage which he granted heartedly. The question we asked in this was “What does rural Africa need most?”
I feel grateful to be able to share the response of an expert in this in stead of sharing my vision on it. There are clearly two issues that are needed most in Chikanta. One is very acute and basic, the other based on a long term vision.
Chikanta is a poor area and there has not been enough rain. So the Chief and the Headmen know that there will be famine in short notice. And when there is famine in this area people still share with the community and can rely on the community for their share. Famine is not something that skips families, everyone has to deal with it. The Chief and Headmen were just discussing how to set up an infrastructure to deal with the situation and how to prepare and who to involve.
The footage I’ve posted here is about the second thing that rural Africa needs most, or at least Chikanta does. That is education. As I have written before the problem in rural Africa is not lack of talent or lack of motivation. Poor life conditions ask for skills that are very specific. Aacademic education or office work will not apply for rural Chikanta. The area needs craftsmanship that fits the environment. People who can build houses and schools, who can grow and harvest in a sustainable wa; and the area -this is my opinion – could grow and set up an own infrastructure of social, educational, sanitational and medicational support.
There is plenty of talent and leadership in rural Africa. In another writing I’ll share the story of Esther, an African woman. who studied MBA Business Administration and now is in charge of the childrens playground and parental education in the Macha hospital. With CHE School of Synnervation we hope to contribute to leadership development in Macha Zambia and other initiatives in rural Africa.
The footage might tell you more than I can with my writing. There is only one more thing I’d like to share here. An ideal that came into my mind was the fantasy of a Chikanta Craft(wo)manship College, a practice oriented school/workplace for local people to apply their talents for their communal and individual growth.
During one of our conversations we learned a lot about the African vison on the differences between Westerners and Africans. One sentence still sings clearly in my memory: “westerners deal with problems and small issues in life as catastrophes, Africans deal with catastrophes in life as issues that are just part of life”. I don’t really know why I write this here, just wanted to share.
Maybe the sentence also is key for what remains in my thoughts. We can’t tell Africans how to run their lives or their growth. We can try to create a space where mutual learning leads to co-creation. Bringing African and Western perspectives together in a collective learning environment like Macha could lead to practical applications in a third, possibly new, perspective. Also in another writing in will go more into depth of the value of the Macha project in Spiral Dynamics integral terms.
We also spoke about the importance of internet and ICT facilities for Chikanta and the role of that in the educational and knowledge development in the area. We have also seen the buildings for the Internet cafe. There is only one slight problem, there is hardly no electricity. Support is needed in working on this.