They Sharpened My Skills!

Originally published on February 18, 2016.

Catherine Chitiku Hazinji is a woman with big dreams. A “Jill of all trades” living in Muyuni Village in Mapanza, Choma District, her petite frame and understated speech make it is easy to underestimate her drive and ambition. She is a farmer, trained Community Livestock Worker, bicycle-repairer, shop owner, tailor, and mother of eight.

While she had always been a self-starter, Catherine’s participation as a lead farmer in the Sustainable Health and Agriculture for Resilient Populations (SHARP) project since 2013 gave her a vision for farming as a viable business, and showed her how to make the most of it to ensure her family has a nutritious diet, improve their livelihood and boost her household resilience.

SHARP is a 23-month project that aims to increase food security, health and disaster-risk reduction in Zambia’s Choma and Kazungula Districts. Implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the project is addressing household food security, improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in communities, and strengthening household resilience to disasters.

Some people say that I behave like a man, but all I know is that my new knowledge will push me forward. This project sharpened my skills!

Catherine Chitiku Hazinji (SHARP Client)

In early 2014, Catherine only harvested 10 bags of maize from her 10 hectare farm, far below the potential amount. “Like many others here, my family depends on maize for our livelihood. However, I did not know much about proper maize farming and I used to farm haphazardly and without any particular strategy. Every year, I was frustrated because my yields were low,” Catherine confesses.

The implementation of SHARP brought with it many welcome changes by way of improved farming techniques for enhanced crop productivity for Catherine and the farmer group from her district. Together they learned about early land preparation, how to make and apply manure for improved soil fertility, use fertilizer correctly, and practice proper soil conservation. Catherine also learned the benefits of using a metal silo for safe storage, crop rotation for optimal land use, and how to make fodder for improved livestock nutrition. This farmer’s group - for which Catherine serves as Secretary - is one of 40 similar groups formed with the support of Land O’Lakes during the SHARP project.

Catherine’s bumper harvest of 200 bags of maize early this year is testimony to the benefits of these improved practices. Worth about 21,000 Zambian Kwacha (approx. $3,000), this harvest is all the more remarkable considering the erratic rainfall patterns suffered in most of this region during the most recent wet season. Catherine’s participation in SHARP has also helped to diversify her farm produce to include legumes such as velvet peas, pigeon peas, cow peas, and sun hemp for improved animal nutrition. And application of fodder farming will go a long way in ensuring resilience for her family during times of drought.

Improved productivity means that she now has more than enough maize, sorghum, beans and groundnuts for her family’s consumption, with plenty left to sell. She finds the income from these sales increasingly useful in expanding her other businesses and providing a better life for her family. “We want to ensure that our children have a bright future. Two of them are already studying in good private schools,” Catherine says.

Catherine doesn’t mind that her strong entrepreneurial spirit often gets her teased in the community. “Some people say that I behave like a man, but all I know is that my new knowledge will push me forward,” she says confidently. “This project sharpened my skills!”

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