Monday, March 03, 2008

Hands of Hope Team Travels

I, Steve, spent the last 9 days traveling with a Hands of Hope team from the U.S. They are based in and around Barrington, IL and are our partners in the Zambia agriculture program. If you want to learn more about HOH and what they do, please look them up on the web at They have a unique way of raising funds, with lots of local volunteers putting on a garden fair program in the community.

Sam and I traveled to Lusaka on Saturday the 16th ahead of the team, going by car to Mongu with a member of the royal family named Aka Lewanika. His father was king of the Losi Tribe at one point and he may also be in line for the kingship in the coming years. He shared some very interesting insights into the Losi kingdom and how the kings are chosen. Most significant, was the concept that one becomes king by the choice of the people, not by conquest or self elevation. Rather, once you are king, you almost become a non-person with responsibility to care for the interests of the people. They in turn care for you by protecting you, feeding your family and providing for your needs.

Wiggan and Aka walking through the unproductive bush that is being converted to jatropha and other crops.

As we talked, Sam and I began to see a very different leadership pattern than is seen in most of Africa. Aka believes that the pattern of control, oppression and stealing found in governments today was learned from the outsiders who ruled Africa in the same way for centuries. This discussion spawned a new term for me, "Steward Leadership." Maybe someone else has thought of it before, but in some ways it seems more realistic than the term servant leadership that is often used. Almost makes me want to write a book. Hmm, maybe Aka and I will.

Oh, the trip. The trip was great. Wiggan, the director, and team have inspired 100 farmers to clear 1 Hectare (2.5 acres) each and plant more than 1,000 Jatropha trees on each Ha. This translates to 100,000 trees in 3 months. This tree produces a seed on marginal soils that is 30-35% oil that can only be used for fuel. With the price of diesel at nearly $2/liter (translated $8 per gallon) these plantations have the potential to reduce the cost and dependence of the province on outside fuel sources. In addition, Jatropha improves the soil, the flowers make great honey and the fuel reduces pollution.

The HOH team was all ladies and they kept us occupied with lots of questions, explanations and discussions. They were pleased with the start of the work in Zambia. We also brought them to Mozambique and showed them the work with HIV, child survival and ag/trade. We finished off the time with an evening and overnight at Bilene, a lagoon just off the Indian Ocean. It was a good place to relax, debrief and plan. We started out the trip as partners and in the end, it felt very much like family.