Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reflections and preparation

6th February 2014

Looking through my last blog I notice that I promised reflections on my last trip. Apologies for not fulfilling this promise.

A lot of time has passed since I arrived back in England. I have kept in regular touch with my friends in Zambia talking to several each week and keeping up to date with the current situation.

Last year's trip was too short, so I hope to make a longer visit this year. No dates have been set but I am thinking about making a return trip before very long.

The effect of last year's poor harvest is now being felt. Maize is in short supply so the prices have risen. An e-mail from Jennipher recently simply said that people were dying and asked for any help I could provide. Christmas gave me with the incentive to support a few of my friends and those who depend on them with a few Christmas presents – I am sure my family and friends will forgive me for diverting some of the resources they might otherwise have enjoyed. Our Christmas was dampened by the sudden death of Dilys sister on Christmas Eve.

I met with Martin Horwood, my Member of Parliament, to discuss the issues around the refusal of Jennipher's visa. He sympathised but seemed to hold out very little hope that a future application would succeed. Looking at the original refusal a couple of days ago I realised that is wasn't only Jennipher (or her “agent”) that were confused by the change in the kwacha. The refusal document correctly stated that Jennipher claimed to earn 20,000 ZMK a month (about £2.50) – why then did they expect her to have this income paid into a bank account!! They claimed that the exchange rate was 8.5 ZMK to the pound. In fact by this time the ZMK had been replaced by the ZMW and the rate they were quoting against the now obsolete ZMK should have been shown against the ZMW. The point I am making is that they can hardly refuse to accept that Jennipher could be confused by the currencies, when they too had become confused and mixed them up!

In the UK we have had a very wet winter with widespread flooding. `Few people are still denying that climate change is happening, yet our government still believes it is a good idea to extract yet more fossil fuels through fracking. This is bound to accelerate life on our planet to its final destruction.

At the moment climate change is causing major suffering for some of our citizens. In other parts of the world – such as Zambia - people are already dying from its effects. I hope that before it is too late those in power will take action. I believe that unless we stop determining our actions on the basis of money and think in terms of people there is little chance of solving the world's problems and in particular our biggest challenge which is climate change.

My time in Africa makes me realise that we are wasting so much of the world's resources – particularly its most wonderful and beautiful resource – its people. We should be ashamed that so many of the citizens of the world don't achieve even a small proportion of their potential. In Zambia many children will die before their 5th birthday; a large percentage will receive no education; very few will obtain a university degree or a technical/professional training – what a waste!

I have made another attempt at writing another blog concentrating on the chance of heart I believe necessary. I am finding it difficult to make progress, but in essence I believe that we need to heed the message of the ghosts of Christmas and be converted in the same way as Scrooge. If we don't I doubt whether there is much of a future – the extreme weather events of the last year are a very small sample of what is to come in the very near future, unless significant changes happen.

In December the children of PIZZ school took their exams. 19 children passed their grade 9 exams but unless they are supported they will not be able to complete their secondary education. Given the chance these children could escape the cycle of poverty, but surely something is wrong with a world where children such as these depend on charitable donations in order to obtain a basic education. We need all the talent in the world to resolve the worlds problems, they certainly won't be solved by the few billionaires who have the same wealth as the 3,500,000,000 poorest people in the world.

Best is coming to the end of his university course. He has recently been on a placement in another part of the Country and is waiting for another. We need many more people like Best to be given the chance to reach their potential.

There is a lot of activity at Kaliyangile. The 450 new layers have started to produce eggs and the incubator helped produce some guinea fowl chicks. Some cows are pregnant which should soon lead to extra milk production. The piggery is awaiting a pregnant sow – swine fever permitting! A number of local people have joined 20 students on a bee-keeping course and soon the hives should have their new residents.

The rain was late this year but the pattern has generally been good leading to some optimism about this year's harvest.

I will try to bring some more details of life in Zambia over the next few weeks and will keep you updated about preparations for my next visit.