Story and Photos by: Emelda Nanyangwe, Project Training Coordinator, Heifer Zimbabwe
The news that Chingola Rural Community Development Project’s Trust in God group would receive dairy animals from Heifer at first brought misery for member Asa Chikwekwe, because her husband did not approve, as he thought he was too old to look after a dairy animal. “I used to be miserable, but I did not give up,” Asa said. “Sometimes I used to ask myself why we came to the farm. My husband was blocking the blessing of my owning a dairy cow for the first time in my life. Each time I went home from group meetings I used to be envious of my friends as they shared the progress on construction of animal shelters. The grieving went on for two months and I shuddered the thought of missing the opportunity and denying my grandchildren a better future.”
One day I started thinking about how I used to manage to run around farms hiring out labor just to bring some food for the family, and I thought to myself that I was going to do the same to help construct the animal shelter and pay for the livestock insurance fund. So, in the night, I called my grandchildren to the side without the knowledge of my husband. To my surprise, the children were very excited and promised to help me construct the animal shelter. I would work very hard on other people’s farms to raise money to pay the three boys engaged in the construction of the animal shelter. I am grateful to my husband for one thing: he did not stop me from constructing the shelter, because had he wanted, he would have told me to find my own place to put the shelter, not on his farm. He was very calm and just watched what was happening.
“The other challenge came when it came time to put up the floor for the shelter. The children helped me gather concrete slabs, although sometimes I felt bad because it was too much for them, but they used to pick small pieces. Neighbors used to laugh at me saying “ubukote bule bapenya,” which means “old age is driving her crazy.” They thought I was just wasting my time and energy.
“I used to carry concrete slab pieces on my head and back. When the structure started taking shape, my husband came on board and assisted to put up the slab. I was very happy when the structure was complete, and I also managed to finish my insurance contributions before the animals came.
“When the animal came, my husband was in the forefront feeding the animal, and when it calved down, he has been the one milking the cow every day. I was just wondering to myself where the energy has come from, because the issue of being old and without strength does not come up any more. Maybe he is becoming younger because of the milk he is drinking. By the way, he also makes tea for everybody in the mornings and in the evenings.
“Can you see the way I have changed? I am now fat. I stopped moving long distances looking for casual work. I am now able to take all my grandchildren to school from the money we are getting from the milk sales, and I make sure that each one of them drinks a cup of milk beside the tea they take in the morning, and sometimes we eat nsima, or maize pulp, with sour milk. I am also sharing milk with the people who used to jeer at me.
“I feel very satisfied with this animal and I have named it Twatotela, which means thank you, because not only has it brought relief to this family, but it has brought family unity, because we are now working together. By the way, this animal has bought better head scarves than before.”