Art Enns wants more people to hear about the work being done by the Manyinga Project to give young Zambians a good education while also training them to farm and garden
When Art Enns looks back on his own life in farming, he knows how valuable it was to learn skills he needed working alongside his father.
Now he’s doing what he can to help children in a far-off land who don’t have parents to teach them.
Losing parents early in life in a country like Zambia, where 85 per cent of people farm, is a life’s missed opportunity and potentially a life sentence of poverty.
But some are getting a second chance to learn at two schools teaching young Zambians to become successful gardeners and viable commercial farmers.
When Enns, now a grain farmer near Morris, heard about the crops grown and livestock raised by several hundred youngsters in the southern African country while they attend school, he decided to pitch in and help.
Enns is donating the revenue from a 35-acre oat crop this fall, expected to generate about $12,000, towards the two schools, which are known as the Manyinga Project.
The cost of running the agricultural program is about $15,000 for a year.
“It’s a small project by size and yet it has a really hands-on method of trying to teach young children to farm,” said Enns, who was introduced to the project by a group of Manitoba volunteers supporting it through fundraising efforts.
“It just really caught my attention.”
The two schools which are funded strictly by private donations are attended by about 430 young Zambians age six to 14 in the villages of Chinema and Samfunda. Support began for them after a Canadian doctor from Winnipeg visited the country in the 1990s and, moved by the plight of children being taught as best they could by grandparents in small “bush church” schools, returned to Canada and began to garner support for the two schools.
The agricultural component of the schools started up in earnest in the early 2000s when it became clear the students, without parents, were missing out on a key part of upbringing in Zambia, learning to farm and produce food.
Land was secured at each school, beginning with just one lima each — (a lima is equivalent to .25 hectare) and brought into production in 2008, with maize as the main crop.
Cowpeas have since been added to the cropping rotation and the land base has grown to 22 limas. Today the schools have been able to hire teachers and assistants to serve two thriving schools in excellent school buildings with strong and increasingly empowered parent-teacher associations, thanks to ongoing donations from committed Canadians and Americans.
The children also support their own schools by raising revenues from sales of crops and garden produce that they’re not consuming themselves.
The creation of the ag program was a key goal of her involvement in the project, says Robynne Anderson, president of Emerging Ag Inc. who also contributes to the program to support the salary of the school’s agronomist.
This is a way to break the cycle of poverty not only through conventional education, but also by including learning by doing training on farming, she said.
“The schools are training on cropping, livestock rearing (goats), orchards and vegetable crops,” said Anderson. “Each of these areas of agriculture are important locally and encourage a mixed farming approach to further nutritional outcomes when students later run their own homes and farms.”
Enns said the only reason he agreed to be public about his own donation is so that more people will hear about this small project achieving big results. This is a project that’s helping people to become self-sufficient, he said.
“Donations can stop in a heartbeat but if you teach people to feed themselves they become self-sufficient,” he said.
“I just wanted to encourage more people to help with this. Even if I never meet these people in this far-off land of Zambia, this is something we can put out there.
“Agriculture has been a great place for me. It’s been a comfortable living. I’d like to encourage others.”
More information about the project is available on its website.