Food Justice

Nelly's Story

Nelly's Story

The Impact of Sustainable Agriculture for a family in Zambia

December 7, 2012

In a village in Zambia, Nelly and her family once depended exclusively on chemical fertilizers to produce the crops on their farm. As years went by, the quality of their soil degraded to a point that hunger and poverty took over the family’s already precarious situation. Nelly’s family tried shifting cultivation to charcoal burning as a source of income, but their situation worsened due to scarce rain and the resulting bare fields. Nelly’s father migrated to the city to look for provisional jobs, leaving Nelly’s mother with seven children without an income or means of support. At the ages of 13 and 15, Nelly and her sister began a life as sex workers to earn a subsistence income and help their mother and siblings survive. In just a short time Nelly’s sister contracted HIV and passed away from AIDS.

The Ecumenical Development Foundation (EDF), a partner of United Methodist Women, became aware of Nelly’s situation and began a rehabilitation program for sex workers. The program emphasized empowerment through the acquisition of basic skills, such as sustainable farming. The program required that all participants learn to raise chickens and pigs, as well as basic land farming without the use of chemical fertilizers. Nelly completed the program and with the help of EDF staff implemented the skills she had learned on her family farm.

Feeling empowered with 10 local chickens, two pigs, maize, soybean, groundnut and sunflower seeds, Nelly began to practice sustainable agriculture and before long, Nelly started to see amazing results. The droppings from the chickens and the pigs produced organic manure, which gave the soil essential nutrients. The maize seeds now provide staple foods for the family and oil extracted from the sunflower seeds can be used for cooking. The family can also sell the surplus oil and residues from sunflower, maize and soybean stock to provide feed for pigs and chickens.

The outcomes of practicing diversification in sustainable farming systems reduced hunger and increased income for Nelly’s family. Nelly and her family now has work, the ability to build a new house and the opportunity to attend school. The family could also once again put food on the table every day. Nelly, who tended to the farm every day did not have to go back to the streets as a sex worker. Her father reconciled with her mother and Nelly’s family became united again as a result of food justice.

Sarika Mathur works for the Global Justice office at United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 12/6/2012 11:00:00 PM