By Sylvia Banda
With a passion to contribute to the reduction of poverty and malnutrition in Zambia and through my company Sylva Food Solutions Limited, I have been empowering local smallholder farmers through training and facilitation to market access. Since 2010, I have trained local smallholder farmers in environmentally friendly pre- and post harvest farming methods, food preservation, food preparation, entrepreneurship, and basic financial management.
In October 2019, with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) program, I was able to train 50 women farmers in the Chisamba District (Chief Chamuka’s area in Zambia). The workshop lasted three days, covering various areas. A total of four training sessions were held each day. The training sessions were delivered in the local languages that are spoken in the area. The teaching methodology that used was a “Training of Trainers” approach, and the trained women were given training materials and support to connect with and train 250 more women.
The main goal of the training was to educate the women smallholder farmers on food preservation, food quality, nutrient retention, hygiene, storage, entrepreneurship, planning, and basic financial management. By training the women farmers in pre- and post harvest farming methods, they can increase their yields by two to three times. The food preservation training taught the women farmers how to store their produce for longer periods, reduce wastage, and retain the nutrient content. The entrepreneurship, planning, and basic financial management trainings helped the women farmers to properly plan and manage their farming activities. They were also taught how to manage the proceeds from selling their produce as well as planning for future farming seasons, with the goal of becoming self-sustaining.
During the training, my Alumni TIES partner, Namakau Siyanga, and I shared our success stories on how we became entrepreneurs. We talked about the challenges we faced and how we overcame these challenges to get to where we are now. The emphasis was on the fact that one does not necessarily need a lot of capital to start a business in farming. With determination and focus, anyone can be successful.
At the end of the training, participants were very satisfied with the training and looked forward to implementing the knowledge they gained to improve their farming and food preservation practices. They were also delighted to hear that Sylva Food Solutions Limited would sign a memorandum of understanding with their cooperative and procure their produce at competitive market prices. To close the project, Chief Chamuka’s wife expressed her gratitude to the U.S. Department of State for the support and funding of the project. She stated that the training would go a long way in uplifting the lives of the women and their families. Thanking our team for their work, she stressed the importance of the work that we were doing and Sylva Food Solutions Limited’s consistency in supporting agendas that empower women in the community.
Financial Management and Empowerment Training for Women Farmers is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State.