|Most of the work I do at my new job is done in meetings with community members, whereas during the past two years my work was done largely one-on-one or in small groups and out in the field.|
Now I work with a US-based organization called Project Concern International (PCI). I have an entirely new job (no longer am I a forestry extension agent) and a new job title: Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist (DRR Specialist). As a DRR Specialist I work with local communities in Southern Zambia on a project entitled Sustainable Health and Agriculture for Resilient Populations (SHARP). This project, like my work two years previously, focuses on food security throughout these rural communities. The project has three aspects: agriculture and food security, water and sanitation, and disaster risk reduction.
The agriculture and food security part deals with about 1,000 local farmers from Choma and Kazangula Districts in Zambia's Southern Province. This part teaches farmers better agricultural practices and methods in the hopes of increasing their agricultural productivity.
The water and sanitation part deals with just shy of 10,000 community members from the same districts in Southern Province. Water and sanitation is focused on reducing water-borne illnesses that stem from poor sanitation and hygiene. The program focuses on building toilets, hand washing stations, and other structures that can help a community to stay healthy and happy.
|Issues with water and sanitation, like seen here where the well is open and unprotected (this allows easier access to pollutants - animals), are a main focus of the project I now work on.|
|This husband and wife took the training they gained and quickly built a hand-washing station and a pit latrine (seen in the background with the door open.|
Now comes my program: DRR. This is important throughout Zambia, but especially in Southern Zambia due to the region's drought and flood prone environment. These kinds of natural disasters happen frequently in the region, but due to climate change and its impact they're more likely to occur in the area. Where traditionally there may be a drought in one year and then no other drought for 7 to 10 years, climate change reduces that reprieve to maybe only 2 to 4 years. So, communities don't have time to rebuild before the next disaster strikes. My job, as DRR specialist, is to work with the communities on coming up with plans and management strategies for their communities to follow in case of a natural disaster like a flood or drought, or even disease outbreaks in cattle or humans.
I work with communities and their residents (over 2,000 individuals) to create these plans for their benefits. Everything is derived by the residents themselves, with myself merely acting as a facilitator. The job isn't without it's difficulties though. It can be very hard to get people to create plans for an unknown future, and even harder to get so many people to agree on one plan of action.
|Some of the women from our group in a community called Kabuyu as they wait for a meeting to start.|
The job is interesting though and I think it's implications go much further than two small districts in Southern Zambia. Climate change as a global problem affects not only countries and regions, but also individuals and their families. Projects like the SHARP program have potential to really benefit people at an individual level, as well as at the community level.
|Another large community meeting that we held in an area near Livingstone, Zambia.|
Plus, taking on this job gives me the opportunity to stay on with the Peace Corps in Zambia for one more year, which I'm very thankful for.