A few miles outside of Kafue, Zambia, is a small community called Kasaka, with a population of about 10,000. Most residents are peasant farmers who grow maize, vegetables and peanuts. Promoting household food security is a central concern among the farmers in the area.
For a long time, farmers could not easily access a hammer mill to grind their maize into meali-meal, the coarse-ground flour that is a staple in Zambian households. It fell to women and girls to carry the maize to the nearest hammer mill and back, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) each way. On their return, they would carry the meali-meal in heavy bags on their heads.
For some girls, their turns at the hammer mill made them miss school. The rising number of rape and abuse cases along the route posed a more sinister risk.
This was how things stood when ChildFund’s Kafue Child Development Agency, through the Kasaka Community Association, funded the purchase of a hammer mill for the Kasaka community.
Beauty Silwimba, a widow who is now employed to operate the hammer mill, will never forget the day the hammer mill was installed. “It was a day of joy for most of us women and the girls in this community when this hammer mill was bought,” she says. “It meant we no longer have to walk the long distances to get to the nearest hammer mill — our girls do not have to miss classes when it is their turn.”
Mercy, a 17-year-old girl who often made the trek to the distant machine, says, “I often worried about my safety, especially recently with so many cases of violence. Now the hammer mill is only a few meters from where I live.”
The association generates about US$150 per month from the mill. Some of that income is used to give small loans to women in the community, to help them start small-scale businesses.
The hammer mill also supports development efforts on behalf of youth in the community. In addition to funding in-school trainings in life skills and issues affecting young people — 200 youths have been reached so far — proceeds from the hammer mill also are used to provide out-of-school youth with livelihood start-up packages. Some of them now run businesses in carpentry and tailoring, among other things, and their household food security is assured.
The hammer mill benefits the area around Kasaka, as well. When a nearby village’s water services were disconnected due to nonpayment of user fees, about 500 households that depended on that water source had to resort to getting water from a stream, which put them at risk for waterborne disease. The association used money from the hammer mill to restore the service, positively impacting the lives of more than 2,000 children.
For Beauty, who has four children of her own, the hammer mill has come as a huge relief. “I know that I’m assured of a salary at the end of every month,” she says, “and I am able to send my four children to school and provide the basic necessities that I was unable to provide before.”