Originally published on August 29, 2014.
Although new approaches to combating food insecurity are needed to help Zambian farmers move beyond subsistence, Land O’Lakes International Development is promoting the production of fodder among vulnerable households in Zambia’s Southern and Western Provinces through the Zambia Fodder Pilot Project (ZFP). The Project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), is helping families develop resilience to erratic rainfall patterns and other economic stressors by ensuring optimal nutrition for herds. Since fodder farming is a new initiative, appropriate production and harvesting tools are not yet readily available. Accessible tools are often inappropriate as they are too heavy, too big or ineffective in terms labor input - especially for women farmers, who form 60 percent of the project’s client base. A standard sickle for example requires bending for many hours to harvest less than an acre of grass. This has limited the effectiveness of fodder production in these regions.
The graduating artisans proudly show off their wares, which they fabricated for harvesting fodder.
To address this challenge, the Zambia Fodder Pilot Project held a skills-training workshop from March 17 - 31, 2013, to empower community-based artisans to make appropriate fodder harvesting tools. The training was held at the Zambia College of Agriculture in Monze, in order to provide the participants with a fully-functional farm mechanization workshop. In what can best be described as a bold and unconventional step, ZFP took the initiative of including seven women among a total 30 artisans who took part in the training. In this cultural context, blacksmithing is typically the preserve of men. This is no surprise considering the blazing heat from the furnace where metal is heated until it is malleable, the grime from the black layer that coats the metal after it is put into the furnace and the racket as metal is beaten into shape.
Despite being novices, the women trainees worked unwaveringly alongside the men and produced tools such as cold and hot chisels, scythes, pitch forks, metal rakes and wooden rakes. Each of these tools plays a particular role in harvesting and gathering fodder efficiently. The group’s crowning achievement came when, working in groups of five, the artisans-in-training forged sleds for transporting fodder.
Some of the female artisans, such as Dorothy Hambulo, have even gone on to showcase the tools at flagship national events such as the Agricultural Show. Dorothy demonstrated the use of her tools at the District Agricultural show in June 2013. Through networking at the show, Dorothy was able to build a clientele for her nascent business.
Beyond the training, the budding artisans have received start-up toolkits to help them turn their newly-acquired fodder production and harvesting tool fabrication skills into a money-making venture. It is expected that the artisans will supply the tools to fodder farmers in their communities.