Racheal Banda lives in Kunda Village in eastern Zambia. At 52, she is a strong mother of six boys who range in age from seven to 26. She is married to 64-year-old Yobe Banda.
When she married Yobe Banda, now 64, Racheal lived with her in-laws. They did not allow her to use their resources, such as cattle or land to cultivate crops, so Racheal and Yobe picked up seasonal labor jobs to sustain their livelihoods.
“We lived in absolute poverty for many years,” Racheal said. “We could hardly afford a meal each day, let alone pay school fees for the children and buy a plot to construct a house. For a while we exchanged our labor for second-hand clothes.”
In 2008, Racheal joined a women’s group that was earmarked to receive goats in a Passing on the Gift® ceremony from Heifer Zambia through the Enhanced Livestock Trade and Enterprise (ELITE) project.
The self-help group (SHG) empowered Racheal to buy 15 acres of land, on which she constructed a two-bedroom thatched house. She and her family moved to their new house, leaving her in-laws, in order to start a new and peaceful life. Soon thereafter, Racheal was recognized for her enthusiasm and commitment to positive change when her SHG elected her as their chairperson.
Because of her passion for the project, Racheal ensured that all the vulnerable group members (widows, single mothers and elderly) were assisted in the construction of their goat sheds.
She promoted harmony and unity among her fellow members and encouraged full participation by families in project activities. After completing their trainings, the group of 20 families received meat goats. Racheal was among the beneficiaries who received seven goats (one male and six females).
Racheal said receiving the goats was one of the happiest moments of her life. She used the goats to build upon her solid foundation of training, using the manure in her vegetable garden and maize field.
From her first harvest, she raised $100 from selling fresh maize and $90 from green vegetables. To date, Racheal has passed on seven goats to other families in need.
From the continuous sale of goats and vegetables from her garden, Racheal has paid for her six children’s school fees. Her first-born son has completed secondary school and is now planning to go to college. The others are at secondary and primary levels.
Racheal’s life has seen a complete turnaround. She now lives in a four-room home, made of bricks and iron sheets, and has filled it with furniture and other comforts. She purchased resources like an ox cart, a ripper and nine draft cattle to increase her production capabilities, and her family has food all year long.
Racheal hopes to buy a treadle pump soon to avoid the use of watering cans, which she says can be tiresome. Racheal supplies the community with vegetables at an affordable price.
After Racheal saw the benefits of belonging to a group and working as a team, she mobilized another group of 25 vulnerable women in her community to come together. They are now engaged in buying and selling groceries and foodstuffs.
Furthermore, Racheal has been training her group members and others throughout her community in improved animal management, which she describes as Heifer’s most important Cornerstone.
“If we don’t take care of our animals, they cannot provide the benefits that we have been enjoying,” she said.
Story and photos courtesy of Heifer Zambia