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business

Canadian Colin Eves felt called to help a country with one million poor farmers J u ly / a u g u s t 2 0 1 5

The World Bank’s report, Recent Economic Developments and the State of Basic Human Opportunities for Children, has urged more investment targeted at the region’s lagging rural areas, particularly in infrastructure services such as drinking water, sanitation and electricity. Basic opportunities for children still remain a challenge. The same report says the largest barrier is for those born in rural areas, and for those who are female. At the bottom of yet another bumpy hill, two small children flag Eves down for a ride. He recognizes them as children of a friend from the village and he offers to drop them off at the well. Beaming, they hop in the back. Their English so far consists of, “I am fine, and how are you?” but by the time they finish school (public education only goes to Grade 7), they’ll be as fluent in English as the majority of the population. Beaming, the girl places her hand against mine, filling only my palm. “I guess I came here to help them hold on to their children a little longer,” says Eves. “People are like comets, they come into our lives and we remember their light.” Running through this heart-wrenching story is money and greed — government spending, foreign investment, NGO (nongovernment organization) and mission projects. The problem with many wellmeaning NGOs and government agencies is that individuals take advantage of systems. “Some are gamed by the bureaucrats running the NGOs,” says Eves. “Sometimes corrupted funds are channelled to the wrong places so they don’t make it to the villages.” As we drive by a cluster of huts, Eves points out an empty corncrib made of sticks about two feet off the ground. The maize crop this year was poor because of ill-timed rains, and Eves says folks will be relying on the government to give them their allotted two 50-pound bags of maize cobs to last them through until the next crop. Maize is the staple here and is made into a sticky mash so it can be hand rolled in balls and dipped in stews and vegetables. After years of subsidies to grow maize, Zambia is starting to shift to more diversified crops and diet. “The composition of the food basket is maize, maize and more maize,” says Given Lubinda, minister of agriculture and livestock. “We are trying to improve, not only food security but also overall nutrition.”

Build it big Big thinking and big opportunities can create big operations in Zambia. But don’t forget to budget for rifles From the main highway it takes at least half an hour to traverse the washboard roads and cut across the fields that are fenced with electrified barbed wire, with armed guards stationed at the gates. Dust flies up, and our vehicles are going only slightly faster than the many bicycles along the way. At one point, baboons and monkeys noisily scatter, climbing up the overhead trees. At the end of our journey is the impressive 74,000-acre Zambezi Ranching and Cropping Ltd. The farm’s numbers are staggering: 380,000 broilers 6.4 times a year; 8,000 beef cows and calves; a $1.5-million piggery producing gilts; and 320 acres of tobacco with a processing unit. Along with the huge expanse of dryland pastures, there’s also 2,500 acres of open-pollinated seed maize, 2,500 acres of soybeans, 500 acres of Irish potatoes (they are a new crop in Zambia) and 1,400 acres of wheat under pivot irrigation that lets them rotate two to three crops a year. Zambezi Ranching and Cropping Ltd. is a joint venture formed by Graham Rae with Ed Fleming from the U.K. and Francis Grogen, originally from Ireland but who now also owns Zambia’s largest beef feedlot and slaughterhouse, Zambeef. Rae arrived from Zimbabwe in 2001, bringing his equipment, formidable energy and expertise to Zambia after pro-government militants, led by veterans of the 1970s liberation war, began invading white-owned farms in the former Rhodesia. Recently, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe signed a law giving the remaining 2,900 white farmers 45 days to wind up their operations and another 45 days, expiring at midnight on August 8, to move off their land and make way for black settlers. Compared to Zimbabwe, Zambia feels like a land of opportunity for Rae. “I’m a farmer, my grandfather was a farmer, my father was a farmer,” says Rae. “I can’t sleep in the city.” In 2001, the partnership’s 20,000 Continued on page 40 country-guide.ca 39

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