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Country of the Week: Zambia
October 20, 2017

Fifty-three years ago this week, on October 24, 1964, the East African territory known as Northern Rhodesia gained independence from the United Kingdom. The newly independent country chose a new name, Zambia, after the Zambezi River that zigzags through the gorges that form a natural border with Zimbabwe and flows over the majestic Victoria Falls—named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Throughout the last decade, Zambia has experienced rapid economic growth. The country’s abundant natural resources, such as copper, in addition to its beautiful landscapes and incredible wildlife, have spurred development and tourism while driving local economies. But Zambia’s fast-growing and youthful population—made up of nearly 70 different ethnic groups—remains deeply connected to the unique cultural and spiritual tribal traditions at the heart of the country, which are celebrated through colorful ceremonies, dance, music, and art.

Man teaching a group of people who are standing next to river
Evans Nsooka addresses local fish farmers at fish ponds in #CountryoftheWeek Zambia.

While Zambia is special for many reasons, its most valuable assets are its people who are helping their country continue to thrive. That’s why we’ve named Zambia the YALI Network #CountryoftheWeek! Read on to learn how members of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network are working to reduce poverty through community projects, encouraging community development, and educating others about climate change.

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As the saying goes, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Evans Nsooka, a YALI Network member and alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, has taken this notion to heart. Near Chipata, located in Zambia’s eastern province, Evans is helping to lift villagers out of poverty through a novel project: teaching them to farm-raise fish.

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In July, Kazembe Kaweme hosted a #YALILearns event focused on the topic “Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls” to celebrate Mandela Day.

Agriculture is the most important source of income in Zambia. But because the country has 15 million hectares of water in the form of rivers, lakes and swamp, freshwater fisheries are also an incredibly valuable resource. Not only do they offer significant economic opportunities and livelihoods for people in rural areas, they provide a critical source of protein and food security. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 people rely on Zambia’s freshwater fisheries for food and livelihoods.

Some of that number includes villagers participating in Evans’s Malajajest fish farming project. Funded by the African Development Foundation, the project supports community members learning to manage their own fisheries, including raising and selling fish. Just two years after the project’s start, the community is already reaping the benefits. “For the past two years, the project has grown and stocked 28,000 fish that are ready for the market,” says Evans proudly. “This year, it will generate about $160,000 for 45 community members.”

Evans says the YALI Network helped his endeavors succeed. He received a certificate in Community Organizing for Action, and has shared his important work at a #YALILearns event. He has also passed on knowledge about entrepreneurship and community organizing, helping two of his mentees become Mandela Washington Fellows.

But Evans’s greatest success has been his widespread community impact: helping Chipata’s community members grow their incomes while improving local food security through affordable access to protein. “The project has captivated the whole community, and many more community members are now venturing into fish farming,” says Evans.

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Since becoming a YALI Network member last year, Kazembe Kaweme from Ndola in #CountryoftheWeek Zambia has completed an amazing six YALI Network Online Courses, including Strategies for Personal Growth and Development and Understanding Elections and Civic Responsibility. These courses, she says, have inspired her to make meaningful change in her community.

“Through YALI Network Online Courses on personal growth and development, I learned about networking to get ahead,” Kazembe explains, “so I pitched an idea to a local newspaper editor to write a weekly column about the various issues my community faces.” Through her column, Kazembe encourages fellow youth to actively identify and combat the various problems that hinder development in her community. She’s also putting good use to the new skills she’s gained through “Women’s Wednesday” and trainings in Adobe Photoshop at the U.S. Embassy’s Information Resource Center.

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Mweetwa Hansel teaching students at St. Edmund’s School in #CountryoftheWeek Zambia about climate change during the #YALIGoesGreen campaign.

Besides her weekly newspaper column, Kazembe inspires community engagement and local action at various #YALILearns events. She’s hosted four so far, including one focused on “Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls” to celebrate Mandela Day this past July. These events, she notes, gives her hope for the the future of her community. “After attending my #YALILearns events, many young people have come up with action plans about how to solve these community problems.”
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“YALI is inspiring, motivating, and informative,” says YALI Network member Mweetwa Hansel. “It has changed my life.”

Mweetwa is a secondary education teacher based in Mazabuka, where he has “been using [his] workplace as a platform to introduce students to the YALI Network Online Courses.” Through courses and facilitation guides, Mweetwa says, he’s benefited from “the knowledge, insights, and confidence to share ideas with students.”

In particular, Mweetwa is interested in sharing what he’s learned about gender issues and climate change. He works closely with his school’s Safe Club and Anti-Drugs Club to teach them about these issues, and has encouraged students to participate in #YALIGoesGreen and Mandela Week.

Mweetwa has also participated in events at the Southern Africa Regional Leadership Center, and hopes to graduate later this year. Afterwards, he says, he’ll have gained more valuable skills that will help him “be more proactive YALI member.” And he wants to continue sharing the YALI Network’s positive message for the next generation.

“I would like to encourage youths all over to join [the YALI] Network, because it’s a great platform for sharing knowledge,” says Mweetwa. “For youth and for future leaders, the YALI Network is the place to be.”