After a week of training and getting to know each other we were finally shipped off to our host families. My host family were Daisy and Bruce, their 2 small children and their niece Thelma. I arrived at their house on Saturday and they had a lovely house and my room that I was going to be sharing with Penjani (the Zambian team leader) was big and had 2 beds in it but still plenty of room to walk about and do stuff. It also had a TV on the wall, a fan (hallelujah) and a built in wardrobe so we could unpack our clothes and feel more at home.
My first night at my host family they made us a wonderful feast of Nshima (staple food of Zambia made from maize meal), buffalo meat, beef stew and vegetables. I had been avoiding nshima since I arrived in Zambia but when my host family presented it for us it was really tasty and delicious. It’s pretty much similar to the staple food of Zimbabwe called sadza.
After the third day of being with my host family, Penjani decided to take me to town and show me around the city centre. This was going to be my first time on the ‘’bus’’ and I use the term bus loosely because it’s more like a small van with loads of seats and it’s the most common mode of transport here in Lusaka. The bus has conductors who shout out the destination and go around trying to find customers whilst the driver incessantly beeps his horn to get people’s attention. Sometimes the conductor can spot you from so far away and instead of waiting for you to get to them, they actually drive all the way to pick you up and you’d still pay the same fare. There is no shortage of buses here and they are available literally every minute unless its peak time then they can be pretty full and you might have to wait a couple minutes for the next one. The bus prices are also up for negotiation so town is usually 5 kwacha but you can haggle with the conductor before you get on to say that you only have 4 kwacha and more times than not they let you on, like I said, no fixed pricing. After getting on the bus I was now on my way to town with Penjani to have a look around.
The bus stop in town was very busy and crowded when we arrived so I made sure to stick close to Penjani in case I got lost. We decided to walk around so that we can have a look and maybe get something to eat. Surprising there were a lot of fruit vendors, mobile phone vendors and clothes vendors in town and when I mean they were everywhere, they were literally everywhere. It was very vibrant and loud and it felt very much like Lusaka. I would have taken a picture so that you would get an idea but it’s not somewhere where you just whip out your phone without consequences.
I finally got to meet the CEOs of my assigned Company called Mumpu. My counterpart John Paul and, along with the country manager Cris, met them at the offices at Agri Business Forum. The meeting went very well and we learnt more about our business and what was expected of us. The business was a still a start up so from us what they really needed was a business plan and ways to raise finance. The owners were very knowledgeable which made us very pleased because we knew that we were going to be working with serious people. They had a lot of great ideas so we knew that we had to show them we were also focused and ready to put their ideas to good use. Their business idea involved using mangoes in their production and with the mango season fast approaching in Zambia we knew that we would our work cut out for us. We were very excited to start working with them and it was an added bonus that we would also get to eat a lot of mangoes along the way.
When we arrived in Lusaka we were invited to have have lunch with the British High Commissioner and some people from DFID (the organisation that funds our work). Our lunch with the High Commissioner was at 1pm so we had to meet up for 11am because we knew that we would be moving late.Lunch with the High Commissioner was great. When we arrived we had to go through all the security stuff and leave all electronic devices etc. It was a bit militant but I heard the U.S Commissioner was way worse. When we got inside they were happy to see us and hear about the great work we were going to be doing in Zambia and we got to find out a little bit more about them. The lunch was tasty and they even had jacket potato which I didn’t order though, I had the butterfly chicken and greek salad (yummy because eating salad at some homes is a rarity here).
My first day at work was on the Tuesday and it was a trek like I had thought it would be. I had to get on 3 buses and up to about 30mins of walking in between. The worse thing was that you leave home with black shoes on and you arrive to work with brown shoes (luckily they provide with shoe polish and a brush). The whole journey took about an hour and 15mins and I was shattered when I arrived. We met some of the colleagues we were going to be working with and most of the work there is NGOs. One of the NGOs called Nutri-Aid actually asked us if we could help them with some of their projects when we had any time to spare. We didn’t accept right away but if we had any free time we told them we would look into it. We had our own work to be carrying out so we didn’t want to make any false promises.
We got stuck into work straight away and started researching about the many ways mangoes can be used in production. We actually found out that Zambia produces about 19,000 tonnes of mangoes or more a year but majority goes to waste and one of the reasons for the wastage is because they rot really quickly. A lot of mangoes that are found in Zambia are actually imported from neighbouring countries but the pricing ends up being expensive. What our company wanted to do was provide Zambian mangoes to the public at an affordable price and instead of wastages they would utilize this and have cheaper raw materials.