by Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Bridgewater College
ABSTRACT: A study was conducted at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village in rural Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, in southern Africa in the Chongwe area along the Great East Road. The model village was located on 50 hectares, or 123 acres, of Savannah Wilderness. The study used the ethnographic method with a limited survey. The two questions investigated were, first, whether the fifteen village residents could develop sustainable social bonds and networks in the context of the social ecology of the village; and second, whether the model village residents could successfully employ sustainable subsistence farming methods in the production of food. The findings answered both questions and the viability of creating a sustainable model village. The findings also exposed the challenges of developing social bonds within the social ecology of a newly created model village and the problems of using subsistence farming methods in implementing sustainable food production strategies in agricultural development in rural Zambia/Africa.
KEYWORDS: Sustainable; Sustainability; Model Village; Subsistence Farming; Rural Zambia; Rural Africa; Sustainable Food Production; Rural Agricultural Development; Ethnography; Social bonds, Social Ecology, Ethnography, Qualitative methods.
Challenges of Sustainable Subsistence Farming…………………………….. 3
Physical and Social Aspects of the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village………………………………………………………………………………………… 4
Methodology of Ethnography………………………………………………………. 5
Sustainable Zambian/African Model Village Question 1: Social Bonds
and Networks…………………………………………………………………………. 7
Sustainable Zambian/African Model Village Question 2: Food Production…………………………………………………………………………………… 9
Findings of the Sustainable Zambian/African Model Village
Question 1: Social Bonds and Networks………………………………… 10
Findings of Sustainable Zambian/African Model Village
Question 2: Food Production………………………………………………… 14
Table 1: Farm Field Inputs…………………………………………………………. 22
Appendix A: Model Village Photographs……………………………………. 27
Sustainable development has been advocated in international development policies since the late 1980s, when the global population reached five billion, creating unprecedent pressures on food production. In the two decades after 1970, world leaders realized through the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1987 that the world could not continue to enable lifestyles that consumed large amounts of the world’s resources. There was a concern among development experts and environmental activists that the prevailing consumer habits would deplete the world’s resources, and, as such, they began to widely advocate for sustainable development policies. According to the Brundtland Commission U.N. Report of 1987, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987a: 43).
The major objective of this research report is to present findings from a research project conducted at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village located in rural Lusaka in Zambia in southern Africa from January to June 2021. First, the research project investigated whether subsistence sustainable agricultural development methods can be successfully used to grow food in a rural environment. Second, the project investigated whether a model village could be created to instigate enduring sustainable social bonds within the social ecology among rural model village residents. It was hoped that the findings of the model village study could be used as the basis for implementing successful sustainable development model village programs in many parts of rural Zambia and the global world.
The research report has seven major parts:
- A discussion of the two major problems of subsistence sustainable farming and the social bonds of a model village social ecology that were investigated in this study and why the author set up the model village to solve these problems.
- A description of the physical location of the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village and its residents.
- A discussion of the ethnography primary major research method that was employed in the study.
- A discussion of the two major questions that were investigated.
- The findings of the sustainable social bonds among the village residents question.
- The findings of the sustainable food production question.
- Discussion of the findings and conclusions.
Challenges of Subsistence Sustainable Farming
There is a prevailing social crisis which is a paradox of globalization and massive industrial production of manufactured commodities, products, agroindustry, agribusiness, massive bureaucracies, conspicuous consumption, social class, urbanization, the Internet, and social media. Some of the paradoxes include: “Are low-carbon cultures that live with rather than seek to master nature backward?”; “Is frugality poverty?”; Are non-Western cultures rich in what Western cultures are now poor (no monetized items such as open space, leisure, solidarity, ecological knowledge)?”
Because of these paradoxes of globalization, the challenges of maintaining and implementing sustainable lifestyles, including introducing sustainable, primarily organic subsistence food production in rural Zambia and Africa, have become increasingly urgent. This is because climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, rapid population growth, globalization accompanied by massive conspicuous consumption, and the effort to transform food production and farming into massive-scale commercial farming all threaten the future of humans and the planet earth.
The current looming crisis in the food production necessary to feed 7.7 billion people, including an estimated 17 million Zambians, lies in the threat of unsustainable food production practices. Current food production practices emphasize the use of cheap labor and excessive use of increasingly expensive fossil fuels, fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and other commercial farm inputs that raise the cost of growing food for small rural farmers in Zambia and the rest of the Third World. The wide and heavy use of herbicides and pesticides compromise the soil and the growing of genetically modified foods in order to produce food on massive commercial scales all threaten close-knit human social bonds and networks. The possible ecological destructive impacts on the land, the environment, and human beings of these food production practices are being investigated only in a very marginal way.
One of the three pillars of sustainable development is social sustainability, which advocates the strengthening of human bonds and developing cooperative social relationship networks while performing productive work, such as growing food or farming. Current commercial food production practices are not only ecologically unsafe, but they have also severely compromised meaningful and enduring human relationships.
Exploring some of the negative ecological challenges and impacts that commercial farming causes, McMichael (2017) criticizes “the conversion of farming into an industrial activity,” arguing that it
“underscores a significant ecological blind spot in development theory…. These are the significant social and environmental impacts, such as disruption of agrarian cultures and ecosystems, the deepening of dependency on fossil fuel, and modern agriculture’s responsibility for up to a third of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Such consequences challenge the wisdom of replacing a long-standing knowledge-intensive culture/ecology (farming) with an increasingly unsustainable industrialized economic sector (agriculture)” (McMichael, 2017: p.9).
If sustainable organic rural subsistence farming is to be implemented to mitigate the impact of unsustainable development, two conditions and factors must be investigated: 1) How effective are organic rural village subsistence farming methods in the production, preservation, and storage of food?; and 2) What are the social bonds needed to successfully implement the sustainable organic rural subsistence farming, and could the social bonds in the social ecology of the traditional Zambian/African village be re-created to create sustainable social cohesion and therefore sustainable subsistence farming?
Social ecology is a broad subject whose founder is Murray Bookchin. He argues that most
if not all of our contemporary problems may be attributed to serious social problems.
“What literally defines social ecology as “social” is its recognition of the often-overlooked fact that nearly all our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems. Conversely, present ecological problems cannot be clearly understood, much less resolved, without resolutely dealing with problems within society. To make this point more concrete: economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today—apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes”. (Bookchin, 1993).
In this study, a group of people who were random strangers volunteered to leave their villages and families of origin of familiar social systems and relationships. The people traveled distances to live with a group of strangers at a new model village to both create and participate in new social systems and relationships. “Social life revolves around people, social systems, and the relationships among them. But those are not the only relations that matter, for people and social systems exist in relation to physical environments. Human ecology is the study of those relationships, and it figures in social life at every level.” (Johnson, 2014, p. 93)
The model village was a system that had both many systems within and outside it. All the model village residents participated in so many of these systems which constituted its social ecology. The study attempts to capture some aspects and goals of these systems within the context of the social ecology.
There is no doubt that these broader Murray Bookchin’s social ecology problems may be related to the problem of achieving sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles in the global world today. However, this study is focused on the much narrower sociological definition of social ecology as used by Allan Johnson (2014) and other sociologists. This study will be exploring how the nature of the physical organization of the model village dwellings may have impacted how residents lived with and interacted with one another. This may be related to the nature of the social bonds that the residents developed. These identical social ecological principles exist in present day villages in rural Zambia.
The ethnographic study investigated these questions at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village. Next is the description of the physical and social ecological environment in which these two questions were investigated.
Physical and Social Aspects of the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village
The research was conducted and based on 50 hectares, or 123 acres, of natural Savannah Wilderness land in Zambia that the author purchased in July 2018. The land is located 41 miles (67 kilometers), or a one-hour drive, from Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka along the Great East Road from Lusaka to Chipata in the Chongwe area. The preparation to create a typical model village and to be a venue for fieldwork for the ethnography research commenced immediately after it was purchased.
When the author first saw the Savannah Wilderness land, it was largely undisturbed with pristine bushes and trees. When you stood facing the property, there was a hill towards the back. The author created and drew a physical plan. There would be a three-room brick dwelling unit at the entrance to the land. This is where the caretaker would stay, though some of the rooms would be used as storage space. A borehole well with a hand-driven pump for drinking water was drilled and installed 45 meters, or 150 feet, from the brick dwelling unit. Ten hectares in front of the dwelling brick unit were set aside for all farming needs. The farming needs would be met by growing food using sustainable village traditional organic subsistence methods. These traditional foods include maize or corn, peanuts, beans, and other indigenous crops commonly grown in rural Zambia.
Beyond these 10 hectares, another 10 hectares of land was set aside as a nature reserve, conservation forest, or wilderness sanctuary on which tree chopping or any other land disturbance activities are prohibited.
The model village is located one mile, or 1.6 kilometers, to the left towards and near the top of the hill. Ten acres have been used for construction of dwellings for residents. The dwelling units include five Zambian/African village huts using a traditional village construction including toilets; replicas of traditional food storage structures; and chicken coops and other traditional livestock structures. The huts can accommodate about four people per hut, allowing for up to a total of eighteen to live in the village at any one time.
On July 8, 2019, the first group of men, women, and children began living at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village. Prior to this, between July 2018 and July 2019, up to about thirty mostly young men commuted to the site from their temporary accommodations near the shops on the Great East Road. This first group of people lived at the site after one year of preparation and construction at the premises. This was the first night fifteen people spent the night as residents at the model village. The fifteen people constituted three women, nine men (including the author), and three children, all girls, ages eight months, five years, and eleven years. The residents primarily shared the three-room, red-brick designated caretaker dwelling. The caretaker and his wife and two children shared one room. The two women and the eleven-year-old girl shared one room. The author and model village manager, the research informant later to be named Chatonda, shared one room. The seven men shared one dwelling unit at a nearby neighbor’s farm, which was a five-minute walk from the model village.
The source of the village’s water came from a 50-meter-deep (or 164 feet) borehole and a hand-driven pump, which were both installed in June 2019. The borehole was 15 meters, or 50 feet, from the caretaker’s brick dwelling unit, which is located on the western edge of the 10 hectares, or 123 acres. The five huts of the village are located about a mile away, uphill, in the middle of the property. Hauling a 44-gallon drum of water up the hill to the village a couple of times a week was a challenging task.
One of the most significant social features or characteristics of the sustainable model village is that it has a very high frequency of mobility of residents moving to and from the surrounding area and from the villages of the Lundazi District, which is 439 miles (or 707 kilometers) away in the Eastern Province of Zambia. Brick molders, bricklayers, carpenters, and farm laborers were needed. Large numbers of residents temporarily lived in the model village, providing labor to perform ganyu, defined as piece work or contract work, during the period June 2020 to June 2021. This was when the five huts for the model village were built and crops were grown during the 2020/21 rainy or farming season.
Methodology of Ethnography
The researcher could have planned this project perhaps as an experiment in which he could have had some strict controlled variables of the participants for age, marital status, levels of education, place of origin, gender, and religion. The before and after the model village experience measurements in the study would have required a longer time and tremendous resources. The researcher did not have both time and the financial resources. The researcher did not use a formal survey as the principal method of study during the January to June 2021 because the model village sample would have been too small. Ethnography employing participant observation was the best methodology for the study.
Advocates of the positivist paradigm methodology, however, often challenge ethnography as a methodological paradigm as it generates subjective qualitative as contrasted to objective quantitative data. This study used ethnography in order to more effectively capture the process of establishing a model village. This approach is more consistent with the view that: “Quantitative approaches can sometimes, therefore, be rendered untenable, and so qualitative research approaches have to be drawn upon as a replacement for – or as supplementary to – quantitative approaches (Busetto et al., 2020). Consequently, qualitative research can be used as a way to empirically investigate experiences over the life course which would otherwise be hard to capture or document (Allmark et al., 2009; Elmir et al., 2011; Silverio et al., 2020),”
These are some of the major reasons why the primary method of collecting data for the study was through ethnography employing participant observation. The author had already conducted a small survey of fifteen residents who lived in the model village in July 2019. The results of that small survey showed the broader demographics and characteristics of the village residents: age, gender, education, religious affiliation, and views of village and town life. What were the respondents’ evaluations of the model village? The findings suggested that the survey could not adequately reveal the crucial social bonds and face-to-face interactions that may be key to the operating social structures of the village men, women, and children. What were the social circumstances of the relationships and entertainment sources, as well as the nature of social conflict, conversation, and language? The ethnography methodology would provide a deeper and closer observation of the social factors that might build, strain, or collapse social bonds among the village residents through the author’s participant observation.
The researcher was aware from the beginning of the research that the circumstances and plan of the ethnographic study may be subjected to the unusual criticism of bias. This is the perennial central criticism and characteristic of all ethnography pedagogy as a methodological tool that produces and relies on qualitative data.
Some of the critical questions may be since the researcher was a participant and the village residents were aware of his higher social status, did this influence the village residents to alter their behavior? Did the researcher knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously have predetermined expectations and therefore may have steered the study toward a certain desired outcome? How objective was he?
In order to minimize bias and enhance objectivity as much as possible, the researcher maintained a number of rules. These rules were applied to when he interacted with the village residents and the researcher also adhered to specific rules of behavior. These rules may have minimized bias in the study and as much as possible enhanced objectivity.
First, the model village administrator, Chatonda and NyaDindi were the authority figures that dealt directly with most if not all major logistic arrangements, administration, and most supervision of duties. These arrangements included planning, work schedules and goals for the day’s work, food processing, purchasing of food and cooking arrangements, assigning and division of labor in form of daily chores, mediating and resolving daily minor conflicts, arrangements for medical treatments in case of illness, and many other daily duties and spontaneous incidents. For example, when it came to being paid for their work, Chatonda is the one who negotiated verbally the work agreements with the village residents. The researcher gave the money to Chatonda as the supervisor and he is the one who physically gave the residents the money or paid them.
Second, all the residents came to the village voluntarily in order to work and earn some money. There were no contractual obligations that compelled the village residents to stay or live at the village. They could leave at any time. Indeed, some of them left at any time if they had emergencies to attend to away from the model village or if they felt they were unhappy with the pay for their work.
The rules for the researcher were that first, he never managed any of the activities in which the village residents were involved. Chatonda was both the chief supervisor and informer of the research. Second, the researcher made sure he was never the central or compelling driving force of any social activity in which the village residents were involved. The researcher participated in many social activities, and in many of them he was an observer who sometimes listened while nearby or on the edge of the social activity. For example, during the evening around the fires, the researcher would sometimes join the residents and just sit and listen as much as possible.
The researcher did talk to and interact with all of the village residents in the course of regular numerous social interaction opportunities during the participant observation. These rules may have helped to minimize bias on the part of the researcher and may also have minimized the extent that the model village residents were always conscious that the researcher was the overall boss.
In employing ethnography, the author observed and participated in most of the model village activities while keeping a diary of his observations. The participant observation was from January 5, 2021, when the author arrived at the model village to live in one of the five huts, to July 12, 2021, when the author flew out of Zambia to return to the United States. During the entire period when the author was conducting the ethnography research, the village residents knew that he was the owner of the model village and therefore regarded him as the overall elder and boss. This reality may have created some limitations on what he could and could not participate in during the observations.
Residents of the model village community grew food on 10 hectares, or 24 acres, employing mostly the traditional sustainable rural Zambian organic village methods with which the researcher is very familiar. These include no use or spotty use of fertilizer; no pesticides; and crops grown appropriately intermixed. The seeds were from traditional crops that were formally identified in the author’s study at the Mkanile and Gwazapasi Villages in 1982. These include maize or corn, peanuts, peas, beans, pumpkin or squash, and tomatoes. These green leaf vegetable seeds were carefully planted. As I wrote in that study,
“There are more than 12 green leaf relishes (vegetables) in the Eastern Province of Zambia[i] and the Tumbuka that are cooked and eaten with nshima. Pumpkin leaves (nyungu), pea leaves (nkhunde or mtambe), sweet potato leaves (chimphorya), bean leaves, cassava leaves (chigwada), kakundekunde, luni, tomatoes, kabata (also called nyazongwe or bilizongwe), bondokotwe, mpapa dende, and kamganje. Although many of these are cooked with maybe a tablespoon of cooking oil, traditionally many of the best tasting are cooked with fresh raw peanut or groundnut powder (Tembo, 2012, p.128). There are vegetables that naturally grow in intermixed plantings in the same field, much like weeds do.
“There are more than 16 delele green leaf relishes in the Eastern Province of Zambia and the Tumbuka that are cooked and eaten with nshima: chekwechekwe, zumba, katate, chilungunthanda (okra), lumanda, zobala, nyoronyoro, katambalala, chizwayo, kapuku, jandarara, thurura, chererwa, lundale, kazinda, and phuruphuru. Other vegetable relishes include chipokoro (fruit), chinaka (also chikanda among the Bemba), and wowa or bowa (mushrooms)” (Tembo, 2012, p. 129).
The first livestock were free-range chickens, both for food as well as ecological reasons, as village chickens eat all crawling and flying bugs and ants and help keep huts, homes, and people safe from insects (Tembo, 1991).
Ten hectares, or 24 acres, of the land were de-stumped and the grass dug upside (kusinda) in March 2019, just after the rainy season had ended when the ground was still soft. The author was in Zambia from May to July 2019. Indigenous or traditional seeds for dozens of crops were collected. These seeds were planted on the farm field in December 2020. At the end of June 2021 after the harvest, all the types of food grown were to be carefully harvested and quantified.
Question 1: Would the residents of men, women, and children, including the researcher, create deep networks of social bonds as they cooperated and worked together every day within the social ecology of the village from January to June 2021 and onwards? Employing the concept and philosophy of kufwasa, would the residents work together in the field to grow food? Will they draw water, cook food, eat together, build village huts and other structures, pray, tend to the sick, create entertainment, and support one another, creating a sustainable holistic lifestyle that has interdependence with the natural environment?
The researcher kept a journal in order to document in meticulous detail his experiences with all of the thirty-one residents who were invited to voluntarily live and participate in field work, village chores, and social and other activities in the model village from December 2020 to June 2021. What were the successes and challenges of creating deeper, enduring, stable, and dependable human social networks?
The expectations at the end of June 2021 after two cycles of growing and harvesting food were that the journal compilation would provide a comprehensive, systematic, clear, and compelling description of the process of establishing a model village. This might be a village that creates a sustainable rural lifestyle of deep social networks in Zambia or Africa that incorporate the traditional sustainable village customs and practices. The two most significant ethnographic descriptions will pertain to the nature of the social bonds and networks that will be created or fostered among the model village residents after being together every day for six months. This will, perhaps, bear parallels to Durkheim’s concept of anomie that he used to characterize the drastic disruptive social changes that happened in Europe during the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the nineteenth century. Likewise, globalization and urbanization may have created conditions of anomie in the lives of village people in rural Zambia. The model sustainability village will perhaps create conditions of eliminating anomie, leading to the reestablishment of norms, which will once more be embedded in Durkheim’s mechanical solidarity as opposed to the organic solidarity of contemporary urban life in Zambia.
The second description will be how much food the traditional sustainable subsistence mixed-crop farming produced during the one growing cycle of seven months from November 2020 to May 2021.
Question 2: Would the two staple foods of maize (or corn) and peanuts be grown and harvested in sufficient quantities? Would other supplementary crops, such as peas, beans, zghama, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and numerous vegetables, be harvested in sufficient quantities to both support sustainable food consumption and to exceed mere subsistence consumption? Will they produce enough food to feed the eighteen residents for at least one year? Would finding adequate stable labor among the Soli ethnic group be a constant challenge such that the model village may continue to draw members and labor from the Tumbuka of Lundazi District?
Findings of the Sustainable Zambian/African Model Village Question 1: Social Bonds and Networks
When the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village was first established in July 2019, the gender roles and the daily routines of the fifteen residents then living in the model village were as follows:
They woke up early before sunrise. The men and women took turns using the one toilet, though the women and men’s bathing shelters were in two separate locations. The women swept and cleared the ashes from the open cooking fireplace. They made the fire. Another woman and the eleven-year-old girl swept the yard. The men removed ashes from the men’s mphala, a traditional assembly place among Tumbuka men in the village. The men heated their own water, with which they washed their faces. The women heated water for washing their faces. The women prepared and cooked breakfast. The men collected their axes and left to work on the ongoing construction at the model village structures site deep in the 123 acres of the wilderness. There was a small path that led to the site.
When breakfast or lunch was ready, one of the children was sent to call the men to come and eat. Often, one woman and one man carried the food to the worksite where the men took a break to eat together.
The women did laundry, prepared lunch, and involved the two children, a five-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl, in some of the chores. Everyone helped with watching the children. The author observed the children play during the day, as well as when they performed some small chores, such as pouring more water into the boiling beans and playing with the baby. Since the borehole pump was about 50 feet, or 15 meters, from the dwelling house, the children spent much of their time both playing with the water while helping adults pump the water to fill containers.
In the afternoon at about 4 p.m., the men returned from their work. They drew their own bath water at the borehole pump and heated it on their own fire to take baths. After dinner in the evening, the women sat together at their fireplace, chatted, and laughed aloud in unison. The men sat at the mphala around the fire and chatted. After 9 p.m. everyone dispersed to go to bed.
The gender roles, chores, and the daily routines from July 2019 and those from January to June 2021, when the author was formally conducting participant observation, were identical. In January 2021 there were seven residents at the model village. They were Chatonda, who was the overall manager and the main research informant; NyaDindi, who was the only female and wife to Chatonda, as well as the caretaker; Fwaka; Jombo; Tungwa; Goli; and the author.
Chatonda managed the planning and coordination of all the tasks of the model village. NyaDindi directly supervised all the daily work of the workers and looked after their personal well-being, including caring for them during illness and attending to funerals and other personal family affairs. The four male workers started work at 7 a.m. (700 hours) and continued until 4 p.m. (1600 hours), with lunch between 1 p.m. (1300 hours) and 2 p.m. (1400 hours), with NyaDindi’s supervision. During this period from January to June 2021, the responsibilities of the four workers were planting seeds on the 10-hectare farm; weeding; applying fertilizer; performing the gamphani tasks; and drawing water in the 44-gallon drum for the residents of the village, which was located up the hill from the borehole pump near the caretaker dwelling. Other tasks included building new structures, such as chicken coops at the model village, and fixing and repairing old broken structures, such as nkhokwe, which are traditional food storage structures.
The diary entries describe some of the more significant observations, thoughts, and social events through the author’s participant observation. Some of the social events included prayer services, entertainment, work habits, and how the number of village residents fluctuated from week to week, changing social relationships while increasing the labor for various tasks and chores.
Diary: February 5, 2021
Late one Saturday when the model village residents were finishing their work for the day, I casually asked them if they wanted to pray on Sunday, the next morning. They all gave an emphatic “yes” with surprising enthusiasm. When would they want the service? I was surprised when they said 8 a.m. I thought after a long week of hard physical work, they would want to sleep in a little. I told them we would assemble in the little mphungu hut structure for the prayer service. This all happened very spontaneously. It was dark. The last thing I ever expected is to conduct a prayer. It was already dark. The village has no lights. To cut a long story short, I woke up at 6 a.m. on Sunday and prepared for the program and the sermon for that morning’s prayer service.
I reached back to the time I spent at the Tamanda Boys Upper Primary School of the Dutch Reformed Church Mission Boarding School from 1964 to 1966. I have a hymnal which is in Nyanja. I only had an English Bible. The village residents have very little education. So, my service was in a mix of English, Nyanja, and Tumbuka languages. We sang hymns No. 2 and 40. The choices of what to read or use from the Bible was a no-brainer for me. I read Genesis 1, verses 1 to 31. Halfway up to verse 16, I stopped and translated into Nyanja and English languages. I gave a brief sermon which I was inspired about. This is how the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village, of all things, got a very unlikely prayer service in our own very modest prayer sanctuary. I cannot wait until this coming Sunday for our next prayer service. The model village currently has two women and seven men.
The model village has had workers with serious problems just performing routine work. Often, they cannot get up on time early to start work. According to Chatonda, Jombo and Tungwa went to drink during weeknights and could not work the next day. They just appear to have serious lack of good judgment and serious difficulties following formal instruction and routines about work. I saw NyaDindi come to the model village huts at 6:30 a.m. to wake up Fwaka and Goli so that they would be ready for work at 7 a.m. Both Goli and Fwaka were my neighbors in the village. Some of the residents’ own personal problems intruded into their work performance. This raises questions about the village and the nature of how humans lived in groups thousands of years before the seismic change of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. This issue has come to the forefront at the model village.
One of the most recent resident workers is Jombo. He seems to have particularly difficult problems. He complains all the time about work and pay and talks back to NyaDindi, who is the caretaker and his immediate supervisor. Some of this might be because NyaDindi is a woman. Jombo has problems with his physical health such that yesterday he had to go to the clinic because he had such serious back pains that he could not work in the field weeding grass using a hoe. He took a day off to go to the clinic. Before he left, he had gone to the neighbor where he apparently gets marijuana to smoke practically every day.
My initial reaction was that this is unacceptable as smoking marijuana to get high is bad according to some of the societal beliefs and negative reputation of the drug. I also found out that Fwaka also smokes marijuana because he has some physical and other undiagnosed problems. Marijuana apparently helps Fwaka and Jombo cope with their physical ailments and life. How bad is individual use of marijuana for people who live in these remote areas? Should the criminalization of marijuana apply to these people?
Diary: April 22, 2021
The day before Chatonda was to travel from Lundazi back to the model village in Chongwe after being away for about two months, NyaDindi suddenly asked if she could have her eighteen-year-old daughter, who had a two-year-old daughter, come over with NyaDindi’s three-year-old granddaughter (from NyaDindi’s married son). So it was that on Sunday, April 11, two young children and an eighteen-year-old young mother joined as new residents of the village. This changed everyone. I was suddenly agogo, or grandfather. Residents were suddenly looking after and taking care of two small children, who also followed NyaDindi around. NyaDindi welcomed taking care of grandchildren as she had been bored many times just doing work. Now she had the welcome responsibility of nurturing her daughter and two grandchildren. Relationships also suddenly changed as the young single male residents were making calculations about the young mother, who is unmarried. The father of her small daughter was shot and killed by the police about the time before the two-year-old daughter was born. The circumstances of his death are unclear. Speculation is that it was crime-related.
During the month of April, the labor demands and tasks increased at the model village. The harvesting of crops started. The three men, Goli, Tungwa, and Fwaka, were working on harvesting maize and digging peanuts every day. The model village needed the construction of three huts to be completed, building of mphungus for the huts, building of bathing shelters, and digging and constructing four toilets. Bricklayers, grass roofers, and carpenters were needed. Chatonda had traveled to the villages in Lundazi and urgently fetched two women and four men to perform all the construction jobs on a contract, or ganyu, basis.
This is why on April 12; the model village population grew to fourteen residents. Relationships developed as there were up to fourteen residents in the village, including three children under five years old.
These were the residents of the village (as of May 9):
- NyaDindi – A woman, caretaker of the model village, 40 years old;
- Ashiya – NyaDindi’s granddaughter, 2 years old;
- Regina – 18-year-old daughter of NyaDindi;
- Timeke – NyaDindi’s granddaughter from her married son, 3 years old;
- Fwaka – a man, general worker and assistant caretaker, 27 years old;
- Goli – a man, general worker, 28 years old;
- NyaZiba – a woman, 35 years old, who provided kumata, or decoration and beautification of the huts;
- NyaWachi – a woman, 42 years old, who provided kumata, or decoration and beautification of the huts;
- Mzumi – a man, 36 years old, who performed grass roofing of the huts and other structures;
- Ngo’ma – a man, 40 years old, who performed grass roofing of the huts and other structures;
- Tungwa – a man, 29 years old and a general worker;
- Mwizenge – owner and director of the model village, 66 years old;
- Chatonda – a man, manager and supervisor of the model village, 58 years old; and
- Ncherwa – a man, bricklayer, 35 years old.
Diary: May 5, 2021
On Sunday, May 2, at about 7 p.m. (1900 hours), NyaWachi showed up at the mphungu where Chatonda and I were chatting around the fire. Everyone else was gone for the day as we had been working all day on Sunday to try to complete the last part of the model village construction. There had been talk two days prior that I had drums and we could get together for a Vimbuza, or traditional dance session. I was surprised that they had showed up. We sat around the fire in the mphungu for a few minutes, then I went into my hut and got two of the three drums. I warmed one to the fire and began to play. Goli and Fwaka showed up. The sound of the drums also attracted Tungwa, and another NyaMwaza, who was a guest at the caretaker house, came as well. Soon the women were dancing to Vimbuza, slowly gyrating to the ground; another chioda traditional dancing method was also performed. Last were chinamwali traditional dances. Tungwa played mphininkhu, whose sound was familiar but I had never tried to play it before. Tungwa also played mapilimapili; the two are very closely related. More wood was added to the fire. The women sung so many different current vimbuza and other traditional songs that it was synonymous with listening to beautiful poetry.
NyaWachi played the drums very well and had so much soul behind it. The passion and so much energy came out of NyaWachi’s drumming. I had so much to learn and enjoy. The two women, Gire and NyaMwanza, had children on their backs. They drummed and danced. At one point Gire’s two-year-old toddler swayed her body to the dance and the drums.
I played the drums and sweated. We stopped at 2200 hours. That’s when I ate my nshima and well-cooked mbeba or mouse, which I had not eaten since the 1960s. It was delicious. Goli had cooked it in an unusual way as he burned off the hair from the mbeba before cooking them. He loved to serve them, as I teased him about how he did not cook them the right way. I was told later that NyaWachi does not eat nshima at certain times because she has, or suffers from, the Vimbuza spiritual possession.
Diary: May 9, 2021
There is something I have observed every day for the last two months. Two months ago, Goli and Fwaka would not wake up early for work. NyaDindi had to wake everyone up before 6:30 a.m. so they could be at work at 7 a.m. They showed a very poor work ethic where they expected to be told to do everything. At the same time, on Saturday and Sunday, they could not wait to leave to go to the shops, especially to drink. However, now, I have noticed a change. Their pay has not increased, and it will not be increased for a long time, but their enthusiasm level for work has increased remarkably. I see Goli awake already at 6 a.m., brushing his teeth and waiting to go to work. They seem to want to work instead of going to the shops to drink. All the residents cook for themselves and share meals. They chat and joke a lot.
It appears the village residents informally created and employed various methods to socialize, including evening activities of storytelling, drumming, vimbuza and chioda traditional dances, communal singing of sing-along songs, reciting poems, and enjoying other social activities away from the cell phone. All of these activities were conducted around a fire.
The relationships and the conversations are creating strong social bonds, which diminish the desire of the residents to get away from the village and seek entertainment and a more exciting social life elsewhere. There is talk today that on Sunday some will go together to watch local football or soccer matches, which are very prominent social entertainment events in the area.
Gamphani Method of Growing Maize
At the beginning of each new growing season during the dry month of October in rural Zambia, people use their hoes to remove bone-dry weeds and other dead growths in the farm fields. This was done this growing year in October 2021 at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village. After this, they dug small rectangular holes in the ground three feet apart in many straight lines across the field. Each rectangular hole is about 2 feet long, 6 inches wide, and 6 inches deep. Each household in the village has a hole behind the house on the edge of the bush where they dig a hole in the ground which may be 3 feet long by 3 feet wide but 5 feet deep. This is what they call nkhando, into which they throw all the biodegradable trash, including ashes, fruit covers, soil swept from the yard, food waste, chicken or animal droppings, and wet trash from the bottom of cooking pots. This turns into compost after one year.
The family carries the compost and they pour some of it into each rectangular gamphani hole. They then plant three seeds of maize or corn and other crops and cover the hole with soil. The purpose of the gamphani hole is that it collects water when it rains. When there are poor rains or mild drought, enough water and moisture gather and is stored in the hole so that the maize or crop will continue to grow even when there is less than normal rain. This has been the case because of climate change due to global warming in Zambia and southern Africa.
A small portion of the farm field used the organic gamphani method and used the natural traditional maize seed. We intended to observe how the crops would grow on this field compared to the rest of the larger model village farm field in which the commercial fertilizer methods were applied and hybrid seed was used.
I asked NyaDindi how the planting of maize was done this year. On the eastern side of the 10-hectare farm field, holes were dug in the ground in straight lines. In each hole were dropped three commercial maize seeds and a palmful of D-compound fertilizer.
Diary: The Smell of Maize and Wevulira, February 14, 2021
The maize or corn had been fertilized a couple of times and was growing very well. We expected a good or bumper harvest this year. As a farmer you watch the crops every day, carefully inspecting each stage of the growth. In the case of our maize field, the maize was short and small in December 2020. At the beginning of January 2021, it was waist high. By the end of January, it was so tall, it had begun to flower and young maize, or corn, was emerging with wevulira or kacheche. One morning in the first week of February, I walked to the cornfield and smelled something that evoked deep emotional memories. The flowering corn kukhung’uska and wevulira produce a special smell. I realized there and then that I had not experienced that special smell since I was a child way back in 1962, when I was eight years old. That was the last time that I was present with my family to experience the entire growing season. Most of the years, I would come back home for Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Then I would go back to boarding school. I would come back home in April for four weeks of school holidays. By then, the farm fields had fresh sweet corn, fresh raw peanuts, and many different goodies in the farm fields. The flowering in the process fertilization of the corn was always in February when I was away at school.
The 2020/21 Harvest
The inputs for the 10 hectares of the farm field for the growing season at the model village from November 2020 to March 2021 were as follows:
- Commercial seeds of 20 Kg maize or corn;
- 10 Kg peanut seed;
- 3 bags (50 Kg) of top-dressing D-Compound fertilizer;
- 3 bags (50 Kg) of basal dressing fertilizer (basal dressing is solid fertilizer evenly spread over the entire field before or at sowing or planting);
- 3 liters of pesticide;
- Ox-driven plowing;
- 10 Kg amount of compost and 0.5 Kg indigenous maize seeds for planting in the few gamphani maize rows; and
- Labor for planting, weeding, and harvesting the maize and peanuts.
Once the mature maize dried and looked brown, it was ready for harvesting. Once the peanut plant looked dry and the leaves looked brown and were falling off, the crop was ready for harvesting. There were several concerns about harvesting early and quickly between April and June. If the dry maize was not harvested immediately, the dry maize stalks could collapse because of wind and the weak-bottom roots of the stalk. Once the maize stalks collapse to the ground, white ants can quickly devastate the maize, ruining the crop and losing the harvest. I saw the white ants’ damage that had already occurred to the few dry stalks of maize the wind had knocked down. The white ants devour both the stalks and the maize.
The harvesting also has to be done between April and the end of July because of the livestock rule or custom among the Soli headmen, villages, and chiefs in the area. During the rainy and growing season from November to July 31, all livestock have to be penned in. This is to protect growing crops within all farm fields in the area’s villages. On August 1 of every year, all livestock are let loose so that they are free to feed and wander around night and day. Cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs roam around freely from August 1 to November 1. If the farmer has not harvested their crop and livestock eat the unharvested crop, the livestock owner cannot be held responsible for the damage.
Since between April and July the rains have stopped and the ground gets hard and drier by the day, the peanuts have to be dug out early in April and May when the ground is still relatively soft from the just-ended rainy season. Large amounts of the crop can be lost in the hard ground if the farmer does not dig out the ripe peanut crop early using hoes.
The process of harvesting is very arduous for both maize and peanuts. There are some minor variations in how individual farmers harvest these two staple crops. For maize, the most common method is for individuals to go to the farm field with machetes. They line up and chop the maize stalks at the very bottom and then carefully place the chopped stalks in large vertical piles called mikukwe. After that, the corn or maize cobs are removed from the stalks and from the covers, carefully placed in large piles, and then collected in containers and moved to the village. In the case of the model village, a large, square, wooden, and grass-elevated structure had been built next to the caretaker yard. This is where all the maize cobs brought from the farm field were stored.
The next step is to remove all the maize from each cob and place it in large 50-kilogram grain bags. Removing the maize from the cobs is another demanding process requiring physical work. Once in the bags, the maize is ready for storage and sale.
When harvesting the peanut crop, individuals line up along one side of the field with hoes in their hands and dig very deep under each peanut plant to uproot all the peanuts. The peanut plants with peanuts on them are placed together tightly, facing up in groups of about thirty. They are placed this way so that the plants can face the sun and dry. Once all the peanuts have been dug up and dried, individuals will spend all day (for many days) removing the peanuts from their dry stalk and placing the unshelled peanuts in containers. This is known as kutondola skaba in Tumbuka. Once all the peanuts have been collected and taken to the village, they can be traditionally stored in a chilulu structure or, today, in large bags. When being prepared for sale, eating, or cooking, the peanuts are shelled by hand.
The labor of the four model village residents who had permanent employment was not going to be enough to provide all the crop harvesting. For this reason, during the months of April and June, over thirty additional men and women were hired on a ganyu, or contract, basis. They were assigned to one of the large mukukwe vertical piles of maize stalks, where they removed the corn or maize cob and schucked it. The other job they were assigned to perform was digging the peanuts. Once the peanuts were dry, they were also tasked with removing the peanuts from the plant and putting them in containers.
During the 2020 and 2021 growing season, the model village harvested a total of 41 bags of maize or corn, each weighing 50 kilograms. The model village harvested a total of 11 bags of unshelled peanuts, each weighing 25 kilograms. The maize or corn yield from the four rows of maize in which the gamphani organic method was employed was compared to the yield from four comparable rows where fertilizer was used. Each one of the four rows was 36 by 126 feet (or 10.91 by 38.40 meters). There were no significant differences in the yield, with an estimated 16.7 kilograms of maize brought in using the organic method and 17.8 kilograms of maize using the fertilizer method.
During the middle of the growing season in February and March, two vegetables were sun dried in traditional fashion. These were pumpkin leaves and kabata. The dried vegetables yielded a total of one bag weighing 9.8 kilograms.
The discussion will focus on what proportions and aspects of the original two questions were confirmed. The discussion will then focus on some of the major challenges in social bonds, social ecology, and sustainable food production which the findings have exposed if the model village is to be recommended for adoption as the main tool for implementing sustainable development.
The research question asked whether the village residents of men, women, and children, as well as the researcher, would create deep networks of social bonds as they cooperated and worked together every day in the village from January to July 2021 and onwards. Employing the concept and philosophy of kufwasa, would the residents work together cooperatively in the field to grow food. Would they draw water, cook food, eat together, build village huts and other structures, pray, tend to the sick, manage conflict, create entertainment, and support one another, creating a sustainable holistic lifestyle that has interdependence with their social and natural environment? What were the successes and challenges, or obstacles, of creating deeper, enduring, stable, and dependable human social networks?
Before joining the village, thirteen of the fifteen permanent residents, or 86 percent, in the Mwizenge Sustainable Village did not know each other prior to moving in. The residents had to adjust and learn how to live together with total strangers. Virtually all of them had no formal education or an education that was below seventh grade. They had never been exposed to the daily routine that is required of formal activities such as employment, for example. Due to all these reasons, the residents faced difficulties during the first few weeks of living together. The author’s diary entry confirms this challenge.
The model village has had workers with serious problems just performing routine work. Often, they cannot get up on time early to start work. Some drink weeknights and cannot work the next day. They just appear to have serious lack of good judgement and serious difficulties following formal instruction about work. Some of their own personal problems intrude into their work performance. This raises questions about the village and the nature of how humans lived in groups for thousands of years. After observing these village resident workers now for a few weeks and especially their difficulties, I have come to the conclusion that the model village will continue to receive and cater to workers who cannot adjust easily to just modest demands that they follow routine activities, make good judgements, and be independent workers. They will always require close supervision.
After the fifteen residents had lived and worked together for another few weeks, there was a remarkable improvement in their work ethic, following work routines, creating, and strengthening of social bonds. These social bonds, however, were not without skirmishes and minor social conflicts and disagreements. The author’s diary entry confirms these observations.
Diary: April 22, 2021
The model village as of this moment is a center of tremendous social activity; so much so that there is no boring moment. There are numerous tasks that have to be done every single day such that there is constant movement and consultation, charging cell phones, calling people, arranging for and planning meals, harvesting maize or corn and peanuts, calling the carpenters and bricklayers. The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Television (ZNBC TV) and Radio planning to do recordings at the model village. Some of the residents attend community soccer or football games on Sunday. I have to plan for a Sunday sermon this week. There are some positive changes that are happening in some of the residents who arrived here with terrible drinking habits and poor work ethic. I am surprised now that all of them wake up early and seem keen to work all day. I am beginning to notice those small changes in human lives that suggest that individuals have made some small changes and may be learning in life that suddenly seem to turn their lives in a positive direction. This is very gratifying. This is something one cannot capture in a standard survey.
For the first time as a researcher, I feel alive as many of the relationships among residents are beginning to bear fruit of human fulfillment: trust, companionship, laughter, joking among residents about some previous earlier terrible behavior of conflict and disagreement, drinking as an example. NyaDindi is beginning to think loudly about if there is life in the future of the model village. She may be contemplating living here longer maybe to see her grandchildren grow.
One key factor that may have helped otherwise strangers to create remarkable social bonds after a few weeks of the new residents living together is what sociologist Allan G. Johnson describes as social ecology. In his book The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, Johnson suggests that the structure of a social interaction such as a classroom may determine the nature and expectations of the social interaction.
Johnson said the structure of the typical college classroom has a small or large room which may have a few to many desks and chairs arranged in rows with fronts and backs. In the front of the many seats and desks is a single podium with a seat. This arrangement predetermines or defines the roles the social actors will occupy; in the case of the typical classroom, they are the roles of teacher or professor and students. The teaching and learning of social roles have happened under this social ecology or arrangement for centuries.
Although the model village is not necessarily a school classroom, a structure or social ecology exists at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village. The structure and location of the various physical dwellings make it possible for residents to live and interact by the philosophy of kufwasa. Kufwasa is the philosophy that makes it possible for model village residents to have very close social interactions while they perform together selected tasks or even one task every day. The structure of the village dwellings makes the close and very intense social interactions possible.
The basic physical structures and their locations in the village are that all the huts are in straight lines and built 50 meters (164 feet) apart. The huts each have a mphungu structure in which the cooking is done. Each mphungu for each hut is also located in a straight line 50 meters (or 164 feet) apart and 16 meters (or 51 feet) from the huts. Any structures such as chicken coops, nkhokwe food storage structures, bathing shelters, and toilets are located behind the mphunugu structures.
The residents sleep in the huts, which, by design, are relatively small. There is enough room for approximately six people to sleep in it. A couple and two to four small children may sleep in it. It is generally dark inside in the huts even during the day. It will be very unusual for a resident to just sit inside the hut during the day as it is dark and not much can be done inside it besides sleep, rest, and convalesce during short periods of illness.
During most of the daylight hours residents spent their time outside the huts. There is a corridor known as chiwundo, which is built around the hut and used for residents to sit, chat, visit, and perform some small tasks. The mphungu (kitchen) is where all the cooking is done and the design is such that visitors and others can sit on the edges.
The most significant social aspects, or what can be characterized as the social ecology of these dwellings are that residents can easily see and hold conversations with each other without yelling or shouting. The entire village was an open space with no wall between them. This happens 24 hours every day. Early in the morning residents can see each other, greet, wishing each other good morning as they wake up and come out of their huts. As they sit and cook in the mphungu kitchens, they can talk both within the mphungu and to residents in the next mphungus. It is the openness and proximity of these physical structures that makes social interaction so easy and almost inevitable.
This creates a very strong social cohesion, both in health and illness and in happy and sad moments. Residents literally see each other and share each other’s lives every moment of the day. If ever there was a social arrangement that made significant improvement in the kufwasa lifestyle it is the social ecology of the typical Zambian/African village and the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village. The author personally experienced this during the six months he lived with the model village residents. This was from waking up in the morning through rainfall, early mornings, and in the dark nights. The nature and significance of this life was highlighted on the very first page of my book: Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture (Tembo, 2012).
Lack of formal education, poverty, conflicts, lack of entertainment, and lack of prior kinship relationships among village residents all create serious challenges to the development and creation of social bonds. In fact, they can threaten the social bonds that later emerged among total strangers at the model village after initially facing difficulties creating the social bonds. Weak or fraying social bonds may affect social cohesion, food production, productive work, and other activities.
The common impact of acquiring basic formal education is that the individuals acquire reading, writing, and other skills that can later help them gain employment and enable them to sustain their life. One of the skills learned from acquiring basic formal education includes learning how to plan and perform routine activities, including the ability to deal with formal authority required when an individual is employed. Besides the author, Chatonda, and Goli, twelve of the fifteen, or 80 percent, of the model village residents had no education or less than a fifth grade education. Lack of formal education was a major contributor to poverty as prior to coming to the model village, the residents were unable to find gainful employment. Poverty was a serious condition for all of the residents as while they lived in their villages of origin, their main source of income was growing maize in subsistence farming. Their annual income ranged from $39 to $431.
Lack of entertainment at the model village created conflict among the model village residents. Once they had completed work for the day late in the afternoon or on weekends, the residents frequently expressed a desire to bathe, get dressed, and leave the village by walking five kilometers to the shopping center on the Great East Road. Many wanted to go and drink and dance at the three bars. Walking back to the model village late at night in the dark after drinking was a dangerous risk, especially for the women.
Establishing the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village has been a challenge in many ways, but the most difficult challenge is that of establishing strong and long-enduring bonds among strangers recruited from different environments and having different social histories. Typically, the Zambian or African village is comprised of clans of men, women, and children who share a bond of kinship that binds the many individuals and families through marriage and birth or blood. None of this has been the primary basis for creating the model village. The residents come with their own separate, unknown, individual social histories.
If the residents came as members of closely related clans and kinship groups, some of their social histories, particularly their histories of conflict and animosity between individuals emanating from their villages of origin, would have been known. Here’s an observation of one of the conflicts that resulted when non-relatives lived together.
Diary: Relationships Between Men and Women, June 23, 2021
The relationship between men and women residents brought with them whatever prior social networks and obligations they had with their families away from the model village. This was the case with residents and their families from villages in Lundazi, as well as the case of residents Goli and Fwaka from the model village area.
One relationship that stood out that had both joy and contentiousness and conflict was that of NyaZiba and NyaWachi. NyaZiba had been a resident and had worked at the model village in 2019. She asked her close friend in the village, NyamNyaWachi, to come along so that they could work together and make some money. Their principal job was the beautification of the village huts using traditional Tumbuka methods. NyaWachi had been married and divorced and apparently had four grown children, some of whom were even married and had their own children. NyaZiba had been married but was divorced. She had brought her eight-year-old daughter in 2019 who had debilitating sickle cell anemia. Her daughter had tragically passed away because of the disease. Both women appeared to get along really well and had a strong friendship.
As the days went by, Ncherwa the carpenter and NyaWachi developed a relationship and had such an attraction that they began to spend some nights together. Soon NyaWachi and Ncherwa were a couple. Ncherwa was married and had a wife in his village. NyaZiba did not make it a secret that she was looking for a man. She often openly remarked that she would go to the shops at the road and look for a man at the bar. She hated to sleep alone at night. This caused everyone to laugh including myself. Sometimes I would joke that I was in the same boat since my wife was away and not with me. Everyone laughed.
The reality that her close friend, NyaWachi, had a man may have troubled NyaZiba. NyaZiba’s hut was next to mine and NyaWachi’s hut was next to NyaZiba’s hut. One evening I was standing outside my hut in the dark when I heard a heated conversation. NyaZiba was addressing NyaWachi, who was with Ncherwa.
NyaZiba began to rant (kuteketela in Tumbuka): “Iwe NyaWachi tikiza kuno tabili kuzagwira nchito kuti tisange ndalama. Sono iwe ivi ukucita ni vya uhula. Kuhula nkhuheni. Ungagonanga uli na Ncherwa mwanalume wotola kukaya? Ici nchiheni. Kugona na Ncherwa lino yayi. Ufumemo munyumba. Ivi ukucita ni viheni.”
Translation: “You NyaWachi we came together two of us as friends to come and work to earn some money. Now what you are doing is prostituting. Prostituting yourself is wrong. How come you can sleep with Ncherwa, who is married and has a woman back in his village? This is wrong. Do not sleep with Ncherwa tonight. Leave the house. What you are doing is bad.”
When Ncherwa tried to defend his girlfriend, who was not saying anything to rebut the accusations, he was met with threats from NyaZiba,
“Iwe Ncherwa ine nkhuyowoya na NyaWachi. Kunjililapo yayi. Ningakuchaya ine!! Iwe ungagona uli na uyu mwanakazi? Ndiwe wotola kukaya.”
Translation: “You, Ncherwa, I am talking to NyaWachi. Do not join. I can beat you up!! How can you sleep with this woman? You are married at your home in the village.”
All the parties in this conflict did not know that I was standing only 50 meters (164 feet) away listening, as it was dark and besides there was no moonlight. When I heard NyaZiba invoke or threaten that she could beat up Ncherwa, I was tempted to intervene in the still-verbal altercation. But I also knew that my showing up might truly escalate the fight as Ncherwa would be forced to defend his manhood and bruised ego. I stayed quiet. NyaZiba continued to rant, which sounded more and more like she was bullying NyaWachi. All of them had been sitting together around the fire. Eventually Ncherwa and NyaWachi left and went to their hut. NyaZiba also went to her hut.
When the verbal altercation had died out, I recalled that NyaZiba always had a volatile personality, as she easily gets angry and begins to rant and issue threats of physical altercation. Only two weeks earlier, she had learned that NyaDindi had slaughtered and cooked a chicken. Chatonda and I and, of course, NyaDindi had eaten the chicken with nshima. NyaZiba said loudly in the morning before the group of residents that NyaDindi had denied them chicken with nshima. NyaZiba said that was unfair as all the residents deserved to eat the chicken. She ranted that we shouldn’t have to eat vegetables all the time.
The social bonds and cohesion the model village residents created may have contributed to the effective subsistence production, processing, and storage of food. This contribution was in the form of cooperation in the labor required for planting, tilling, harvesting, and storage of food.
The two staple foods of maize or corn and peanuts were grown and harvested in sufficient quantities. Other supplementary crops such as peas, beans, zghama, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and numerous vegetables were harvested in sufficient quantities to both support the sustainable food consumption of residents and would exceed mere subsistence consumption. They produced enough food to feed the eighteen residents for at least one year. Finding adequate stable labor among the Soli ethnic group was a constant challenge such that the model village continued to draw most members and labor from the Tumbuka of Lundazi District, located 707 kilometers, or 439 miles, away in the Eastern Province.
During the 2020 and 2021 growing season, the model village harvested a total of 41 bags of maize or corn, each weighing 50 kilograms per bag. The model village harvested a total of 11 bags of unshelled peanuts, with each bag weighing 25 kilograms. The maize or corn yield from the four rows of maize in which the new gamphani organic subsistence farming method was employed was compared to the yield from four comparable rows where conventional fertilizer was used. The size of the two farm fields whose yields were compared were each 10.91 by 38.40 meters, or 36 by 126 feet. There was no significant difference in the yield, which was estimated at 16.7 kilograms for the gamphani organic and 17.8 kilograms for the fertilizer yield.
These were the inputs for the 10 hectares of the farm field during the growing season at the model village from November 2020 to March 2021.
Commercial seed 30 Kg maize or corn @K304.9
or $16.94 per Kg = K9,147.00 or $525.67
Commercial seed 20 Kg peanuts @K417.60 or
@ $24.00 per Kg = K8,352.00 or 479.37
Two 50 Kg bags of D-Compound fertilizer (K550.00×2), K1,100.00 63.15
Two 50 Kg basal dressing fertilizer (K620.00×2), K1,240.00 = 71.22
3 liters of pesticide, K3,000.00 = 172.35
Ox-driven plowing, K4,000.00 = 229.80
10 Kg amount of village compost, K0.00 = 0.00
0.5 Kg indigenous maize seeds for planting in the few gamphani
maize rows, K0.00 = 0.00
Labor for planting, weeding, and harvesting the maize and
peanuts, K12,200.00 = 700.14
TOTAL K39,069.00 $2,241.77
The harvest of 41 bags of maize, each weighing 50 kilograms, may have been adequate for consumption among model village residents for the 2021-22 growing year. The 41 bags at the sale price of K150.00 per 50 Kg bag had a total market value of K6.150.00, or $361.72. This harvest may have been unsustainable. The factors for being unsustainable may include the cost of inputs contrasted with the recommendations of the agricultural extension department regarding sustainable yield for subsistence farming of the maize staple crop. Another factor is the paradox of mechanization of farming and some of the unrecognized significance of subsistence farming among the rural people.
Subsistence farming food production and harvest has its own challenges and calculations. During the long history of subsistence farming in Zambia among the Tumbuka and perhaps the entirety of rural Zambia and Savannah Africa, the objectives of farming production were very simple. The family tilled the land and planted crops during the first rains in November. In April the following year, the family would harvest all their crops of maize or corn and peanuts and store them away in the nkhokwe traditional food storage structure for the family’s consumption. The challenge was to eat that food and stretch it out until March the next year during the first harvest of the new crop. Many families easily achieved these objectives and avoided starvation. This was the process before the introduction of European colonialism. In the 1950s and 1960s, the sale of some of the crop harvest began to be encouraged. This was called chalelela in Lundazi. By the 1960s, my grandmother would get cobs of dry maize from the nkhokwe storage. She would sell it to the local commercial market. The income was used to buy clothes, pay for children’s school uniform and fees, and occasionally buy buns, sugar, and tea.
In the 2020s, the situation is different. The agricultural extension officers have been teaching subsistence farmers the new gamphani program since 2000. This is to increase output but is also meant to help subsistence farmers make calculations about their farming input and output expectations, taking into consideration the family’s need for food, especially the maize staple food, for the whole year.
The calculations are that if you apply 6 bags (50 Kg) of fertilizer (3 basal and 3 D-compound) you receive a total of K3,510, or $200.80. Each of the 6 bags of fertilizer should yield 10 bags (50 Kg) of maize, which would be worth K9,000, or $514.88, in the 2021 market price of maize. In this case, that would be for 60 bags of maize. Assuming that the harvest is higher, a total of 95 bags (50 Kg) may be harvested. If you have a family of six members, each is calculated to eat a total of 3 bags (50 Kg) of maize per year, which is worth K450, or $30.89. This family would need 18 bags worth K2,700, or $154.46, to be put aside for consumption. You would also need to keep 60 bags (50 Kg) of maize for K9,000, or $514.88, in order to sell to reserve enough fertilizer for the next growing season. The 95 hypothetical 50 Kg bags of maize would earn K14,250, or $815.23.
All this has to take into account that a percentage of the maize is lost before the harvest. White ants eat some of the maize; domestic livestock like chickens raid some of the maize; and the family begins to use some of the maize from the field for food before the harvest. Climate change also affects the yield. All these factors reduce the surplus, or the maximization of the harvest, making it hard to reach the goal of achieving the highest yield from subsistence farming.
Some of the income from the limited surplus from selling maize has to be used to pay for school fees and uniforms for the children and clothing for adults; paying back fertilizer loans; paying for medical expenses; and purchasing basic consumer goods, such as bathing soap and cooking oil. These expectations are very high and the margin of error between the farm inputs and outputs is very narrow. Would an average subsistence family be able to achieve these goals and objectives? Probably not, especially when considering that the residents of the model village reported that their range of annual income from subsistence farming was $39 to $431.
Another factor is the paradox of farming mechanization and some of the unrecognized but significant aspects of subsistence farming among the rural people. Large commercial famers can have very high yields because they optimize the growing of a monocrop such as maize. They can use a tractor and mechanization to plant the one crop of maize seed; apply fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides; and harvest the crop. This not only minimizes the cost of labor but maximizes the yield of the maize per hectare and maximizes the profit margins. The subsistence and other small farmers in rural areas cannot afford mechanization. But the other, more compelling factor is that they cannot afford the more productive and efficient monocrop farm field. Out of necessity of survival, subsistence farmers have to plant numerous crops in one field: maize, groundnuts, peas, pumpkins, majungu, beans, and many others. They also get natural vegetables that grow within the farm weeds such as kabata, chererwa, and bondokotwe. The subsistence farmers have to feed from the same farm field from very early on during the growing season. If they didn’t, they would starve because they cannot afford to buy some of their food, such as vegetables, from a supermarket. They are heavily dependent on the farm field as a source of sustenance throughout the year. The author’s diary offers some testimony.
Diary: The Significance of Subsistence Farming, February 27, 2021
Most descriptions of growing of food in developing or Third World countries including rural Zambia or Africa is that people engage in subsistence farming. The explanation is that they grow just enough food primarily to feed their families. If there is a little surplus, it may be sold for cash to meet some of the modern needs, such as, for example, buying soap, paying for school fees, or purchasing clothes. Subsistence farming is said to be less efficient with low-production levels of food. Commercial farming is praised, promoted, and advocated as it produces larger amounts of food to feed a growing, especially urban population.
The model village farming model may be used to advocate both commercial farming methods but also subsistence farming styles that may support sustainable agricultural methods. The model village farm this year embraced both methods. It used fertilizer to grow the corn and used some pesticide. But within the corn were planted pumpkins and majungu. But within and between the growing corn or maize were the naturally growing vegetables such as chererwa, bondokotwe, and pumpkin leaves, which are vegetables that are routinely collected, cooked, and eaten with the nshima meal.
Between the corn or maize are also growing weeds. If herbicides are used such as in commercial agriculture, all these natural vegetables are destroyed with the weeds. These natural vegetables are a significant source of food for large populations that practice subsistence farming. The author ate some of the vegetables during his stay while conducting this research. Because of the use of fertilizer and some traditional gamphani methods, the maize looks as healthy as the ones that used primarily commercial methods. But the subsistence farming method has the obvious advantage that it provides more food that is planted with the maize.
Although these were not all planted in the model village farm, some of the crops that can be planted with the maize include peas, beans, pumpkins, watermelons, chilungu nthanda (okra), cimphwete, chipokoro, njivo sugar cane, mapira (sorghum), sweet potatoes, najungu or maungu, and peanuts. Use of herbicides and pesticide in the subsistence farming would be very hazardous to all these foods, which rural subsistence farmers rely on for their livelihoods.
This morning I spent more than an hour walking through the large, thick, green, tall maize and looked at what is growing between the maize. The village residents had weeded a few weeks ago, but the growth of all these other sources of food is thick. The experience this morning has struck me that this should act as evidence for the advocating of sustainable agriculture, which may only be possible using subsistence agricultural methods. It will certainly involve less mechanization and will require more manual labor. This will not be possible with commercial agriculture. Subsistence farming may require more labor, which would reduce both surplus and profits.
The paradox is that mechanization in the commercial agricultural method employing monocrop, such as the maize staple crop in Zambia, gets the highest harvest yields. But this same commercial agricultural method may hurt subsistence farmers if the subsistence farmers widely adopted it. Contrary to popular belief, the prohibitive cost of inputs in commercial farming should not be the only factor preventing rural subsistence farmers from adopting the method. Subsistence farmers in villages should use some of the commercial agriculture methods, such as the use of fertilizer and commercial seed, but the use of mechanization and monocrop farm fields would be detrimental to subsistence farmers as these farmers would not be able to plant other crops that are crucial for their survival. Getting rid of all the weeds using herbicides, for example, would also get rid of all the wild naturally growing vegetables that grow with the weeds. The rural residents heavily depend on these foods for their survival during the entire growing season from December to May.
This research report presented findings in a research project which was conducted at the 123-acre, or 50-hectare, Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village located in rural Lusaka in Zambia in southern Africa from January to June 2021. The project used the ethnographic method and a limited survey. First, the project investigated whether a model village could be created to instigate enduring sustainable social bonds within the context of the social ecology within which the rural model village residents live. Initially, the residents experienced difficulties in settling in the village. But after a few weeks, they were able to create somewhat strong social bonds after overcoming some of the initial challenges.
Secondly, the research project investigated whether subsistence sustainable agricultural development methods can be successfully used to grow food in a rural environment. The model village residents achieved some remarkable farm outputs while employing primarily sustainable agricultural methods. The nature and amount of farm inputs and outputs created serious questions as to the viability of the model village for achieving sustainable rural subsistence farming. It was hoped that the findings of the model village study could be used as the basis for implementing successful sustainable development model village programs in many parts of rural Zambia and the global world.
Every research has limitations. One advantage that both the experiment and the survey as research methods have is that the studies have a definite end; the experiment ends and the survey ends when the survey sample number is reached. This ethnographic study did not have a definitive end. The six months may not have been enough for the study. As a researcher, I have since realized that this is the reason why good ethnographic studies may take many years of participant observation.
I wish to thank Bridgewater College for awarding me research sabbatical leave from January to June 2021 at the end of which I would retire after teaching at Bridgewater College for 31 years. It was the best retirement gift and something I did not expect. I wish to thank the Mednick Foundation for the grant they awarded me, which partially funded my research project.
I would like to thank all of my colleagues within the Sociology Department at Bridgewater College for all the support they gave me during my teaching but also especially during all the phases of my sabbatical research: Dr. Benjamin Albers, the Chair of the Department, and colleagues Dr. Tim Brazil, Professor Skip Burzumato, and Dr. David Reznic, as well as Dr. Betsy Hayes, the former Chair of the Sociology Department and the Division Head of Humanities and Social Sciences. I would also like to thank the Information Technology Center at Bridgewater College for their help when I was conducting data analysis of the limited survey from my research. I would like to thank Jada Blinn, theDirector ofStrategic Analysis and Reporting Bridgewater College, for her help when I was writing the research project proposal.
I would like to thank the following colleagues for their help when I was writing the sabbatical research proposal: Dr. Kimberly Bolyard of the Department of Biology, Dr. Timothy Kreps of the Department of Biology, and Teshome Molalenge, Director of Sustainability at the Center for Engaged Learning.
I would like to thank Mr. Vincent Tembo for his unwavering support of the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village, as well as his dedication to and sacrifice for the project prior to the research field work and especially during my participant observation or ethnography field work. The entire construction of the model village would not have been possible without Mr. Vincent Tembo. I would also like to thank all the residents of the model village from different backgrounds for their enthusiasm and cooperation as we participated in this experiment together. I would like to thank Heather Hayes of Charlottesville in Virginia for editing the report.
Finally, I would like to thank my family for their support: Beth, my wife of 41 years; my adult children, Temwanani, Kamwendo, and Sekani; my daughter-in-law Hannah Tembo; and all the members of my two large extended families on the Tembo and Zerweck sides. Your support always means so much to me.
The six months of research field work during which I lived in my own hut at the model village was the most exciting research in my life. It was not without risk as towards the end in June, I came down with malaria fever and COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized. I was admitted at South Point Hospital in Chelstone in Lusaka. I would like to thank the staff of the hospital for their professionalism and kind treatment.
Conflict of interest
The Mednick Foundation awarded me a small grant which partially funded my research project. The grant was awarded through my employers; Bridgewater College. Both institutions had no expectations about what the results or findings of the research project should be. The author owned the 123 acres or 50 hectares of the model village. There were no pressures or investment on the part of the author to achieve certain results or to confirm certain hypotheses. There were no expectations on the part of the author to recoup expenses for farm inputs from the village farm yields or harvests. All the 41 bags of maize harvest were left to the model village residents to sell and reserve some of the maize for personal consumption. Although the author is aware that the ethnographic method is inherently biased, the author declares no conflict of interest.
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Tembo, Mwizenge S., “Where Chickens Sleep in Trees: The Importance of Chickens in Rural Zambia,” The World & I, September 1991.
Tembo, Mwizenge S., Conceptualization of Appropriate Technology in Lundazi District of Rural Zambia, Ph.D. Dissertation, East Lansing: Department of Sociology, Michigan State University, 1987.
Tembo, Mwizenge S., “An Assessment of Appropriate Technology Needs of Gwazapasi and Mkanile Villages of Lundazi District of Rural Zambia,” Eastern Africa Journal of Rural Development, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1981.
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 McMichael, Philip, Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective, 6th Edition, Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2017, p.11
-  Silverio, Sergio A., Sheen, Kayleigh S., and Sandall, Jane, “Sensitive, Challenging, and Difficult Topics: Experiences and Practical Considerations for Qualitative Researchers,” Sensitive, Challenging, and Difficult Topics: Experiences and Practical Considerations for Qualitative Researchers – Sergio A. Silverio, Kayleigh S. Sheen, Alessandra Bramante, Katherine Knighting, Thula U. Koops, Elsa Montgomery, Lucy November, Laura K. Soulsby, Jasmin H. Stevenson, Megan Watkins, Abigail Easter, Jane Sandall, 2022 (sagepub.com) in International Journal of Qualitative Methods: SAGE Journals (sagepub.com)
 Since I am Zambian who grew up and whose life is deeply embedded in both Tumbuka and Zambian traditional culture, there are certain activities I knew were taboo for me to participate in as a man. For example, men and women ate separately according to indigenous customs. While I could observe the women eating together, I never joined them to eat for purposes of the study. Doing so would have broken one of the fundamental aspects of the traditional culture and customs. The women and men would have thought of me as being rude, disrespectful, and even contemptuous of them.
 The information was collected during research the author conducted at two villages: Mkanile and Gwazapazi Villages in the Lundazi District while he was a Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies during field trips in 1981 and 1982. Tembo, Mwizenge S., Hayward, Peter, and Mwila, Chungu, As Assessment of Technological Needs in Three Rural Districts of Zambia, Report No. 1, Lusaka: Technology and Industry Research Unit, Institute for African Studies, February 1982.
Also: Tembo, Mwizenge S., “An Assessment of Appropriate Technology Needs of Gwazapasi and Mkanile Villages of Lundazi District of Rural Zambia,” Eastern Africa Journal of Rural Development, Vol. 14, No. 1 and 2, 1981.
 The information was collected during research the author conducted at two villages: Mkanile and Gwazapazi Villages in the Lundazi District while he was a Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies during field trips in 1981 and 1982. Tembo, Mwizenge S., Hayward, Peter, and Mwila, Chungu, As Assessment of Technological Needs in Three Rural Districts of Zambia, Report No. 1, Lusaka: Technology and Industry Research Unit, Institute for African Studies, February 1982; and Tembo, Mwizenge S., Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture: Social Change in the Global World, Xlibris Corporation, 2012, p.129.
 Tembo, Mwizenge S., “Where Chickens Sleep in Trees: The Importance of Chickens in Rural Zambia,” The World & I, September 1991.
 Life in the village can be best summarized as influenced by the experience of the Tumbuka term “kufwasa.” Fwasa is a verb that can be translated as to be calm, patient, quiet; to focus or concentrate one hundred percent; to be serene; to take your time. Kufwasa is the state of being or experiencing this condition. Some words and their deeper philosophical meanings in one culture are rarely easily or accurately translatable into, say, English or another language. Kufwasa is such a term in Tumbuka. Tembo, Mwizenge S., “Kufwasa and Serenity,” November 13, 2016, https://wp.bridgewater.edu/mtembo/articles/kufwasa.
 During the period of the study from January to June 2021, none of the residents lived in the model village for all of the six months. Residents moved in and out of the village. Some came to the village as visitors or guests for a few days, maybe up to a week. Most came to earn an income through ganyu, or piece or contract work. Six were permanent workers who earned a monthly wage.
 Macionis, John, Sociology, 17th Edition, New York: Pearson, 2019.
 Macionis, John, Sociology, 17th Edition, New York: Pearson, 2019.
 The author first lived at the model village for three weeks in July 2019. He later lived in the model village from January to June 2021.
 Chioda is a women’s traditional dance among the Tumbuka people in Eastern Zambia and the dance is also popular in Malawi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxBXl0c2Aj0&ab_channel=MwizengeTembo
 Chinamwali is the traditional puberty ceremony for girls in the Eastern Province of Zambia.
 The drumming for the Vimbuka spiritual traditional possession dance has three drumming sounds: mboza, mapilimapili, and dancer or master drummer. Mphininkhu is the variation or reverse of the mapilimapili sound. All the drum sounds are represented with oral notations. There are no written notes like in the Western written music notations. There is the Vimbuza dance when an individual is experiencing spiritual possession and the Vimbuza dance for entertainment. The village residents were doing the latter.
 Nshima is a food cooked from plain maize or corn meal or maize flour known as mealie-meal among Zambians. Nshima is the staple food for 17 million Zambians. It is eaten at least twice per day: for lunch and dinner. Another second dish, known as ndiwo, umunani, dende, or relish, must always accompany nshima. The relish is always a deliciously cooked vegetable, meat, fish, or poultry dish. By comparison to other cultures, Zambian recipes tend to be bland and hardly use any hot spices at all. However, they use other traditional ingredients and spices that give Zambian foods that distinctive unique taste and flavor. https://wp.bridgewater.edu/mtembo/zambian-foods/nshima-and-ndiwo/ https://www.thefreelibrary.com/COMING+FROM+THE+EARTH.-a058371694
 Mbeba, or mice, is a popular food among the Tumbuka people. It is also a popular food in rural Lusaka, Eastern Province of Zambia, and in Malawi. https://wp.bridgewater.edu/mtembo/zambian-foods/mbeba-mice-delicacy/#:~:text=The%20mice%20legend%20plays%20many,husbands%20physically%20abusing%20their%20wives.
 Wevulira and kacece are the traditional Tumbuka terms for the stages of fertilization of corn or maize. Both wevulira or kacece refer to the silk-like flowering of the young baby corn or maize. This is the female part of the process of flowering in the fertilization of the corn. https://www.evergreenseeds.com/baby-corn/
 Khung’uska is the flowering that takes place at the top of the growing maize. This is the male part of the flowering of the maize or corn in the process of fertilization. The author is both wondering and unsure whether the farmers are conscious of the smell that is apparently present during the process of farming maize or corn. https://www.evergreenseeds.com/baby-corn/
 Johnson, Allan G., The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014.
 Describing kufwasa and serenity in my home village, I state: “During the early evening night, I sit on the front of my small round hut along the narrow edge known as chiwundo by the thin closed wooden door. The yellow glow of the candlelight is visible along the edge of the rectangular doorframe…..Thisis the place where my mom and dad’s house is literally less than eighty yards or seventy-five meters away from my house. My two brothers and their wives’ houses and their children are less than sixty yards or fifty-four meters away…..When I wake up and open my front door, I can see all these people I love at once at a glance”. Tembo, Mwizenge S., Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture: Social Change in the Global World, Xlibris Corporation, 2012, p.21-22.
 The common assumptions of the benefits of schooling and attaining formal education are that the individual will learn how to read and write. The individual will gain employment, and also learn the positive benefits of punctuality, planning, interpersonal behavior, hygiene, following routine, dealing with authority and social change. In the “Significance of Schooling: Life Journeys in an African Society”, Robert Serpell discusses the results of a twenty year longitudinal study that investigated the impact of school on children in a rural area in Eastern Zambia in Southern Africa. His findings suggest that schooling may have some paradoxical impacts among the rural people in the Third World. Some of these weaknesses, problems, contradictions, and paradoxes of schooling among the rural people in Africa were apparent among the model village residents.
Robert Serpell, The Significance of Schooling: Life-Journeys in an African Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Select Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village Photographs