Ever imagined an African continent where all people can feed themselves without importing the millions of tonnes of food commodities we import annually?
Africa is host to 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land but currently spends an estimated US $35 billion annually on importing food.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, “Africa imported about 85% of its food (2016-2018) from outside the continent.”
This already high expenditure on food imports is expected to reach $110 bn by 2025.
Towards the Solution
Lawrence Kateta, a teacher by profession and an upcoming farmer from Zambia, is using his skills, passion and available resources to ensure that, in his own way, he makes food available at a lower cost to the neighborhood area.
Kateta was born and bred in Zambia, Southern Africa.
Professionally, he is a teacher dedicated to imparting knowledge to young minds in Zambia.
Out of passion, he started the Fresh Fields Community Project, an agribusiness project dealing with growing agricultural products.
In an interview with The Scholar Media Group Africa (SMEGA), Kateta explained how the project was birthed and its successful progress hitherto.
About Fresh Fields Community Project
“Fresh Fields is Not-for-Profit organization, with the goal to grow vegetables and teach skills in agriculture to young ones whilst making practical application of the lessons in the real world,” he tells The Scholar.
Kateta founded his agricultural project in 2020, during the COVID-19-instigated lockdown.
“I chose to pursue agriculture and teach young ones agricultural skills because Agriculture matters to the future of development,” Kateta explains.
“Increasingly, the world is counting on agriculture to produce more nutritious food for — and improve the livelihoods of — a booming population, especially the poor.
Agriculture can be a gold mine for young entrepreneurs,” he adds.
Fresh Fields Community Project grows tomatoes, cabbages, Rapes (they resemble grapes, plucked from the cluster), Onions and eggplants.
As a teacher, he wistfully resolved to run his project by imparting agricultural know-how, passion and a sense of accountability to the young children from the local community.
He started with only eight children and about the numbers, he says, “Currently we have 28. 30 more young ones have shown interest. Furthermore, 15 couples want to join. The only challenge is that I don’t have the capacity yet.”
The wave of positive impacts the project has been bringing to the Mwandi Community has been critical and couldn’t go unnoticed.
“But why children?” you may ask.
“I started with children because I wanted them to grow the skill and appreciate the knowledge on the place of Agriculture in Africa. I preferred children to the older ones, who will just view the program as a money-making venture,” clarifies Kateta.
Running The Project
By using his teaching skills, the teacher-farmer has been allocating work to the children, getting to the root of the problem making Africa lack enough food— lack of passion and failure to appreciate the huge agricultural contribution to poverty alleviation.
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“Each child is given a responsibility to take care 2 two plants of tomatoes, a bed of rape and 2 heads of cabbage,” Kateta explains.
He then tends to all the other crops on the farm. Technically, he has been running the project alone (as an adult), with the helping hands of the youngsters, for the benefit of the whole neighborhood.
“We try to do what’s best for the community,” he humbly expresses the efforts.
His main idea has been to use his teaching skills to instill a sense of accountability and hard work in the young minds, directing them not only to agriculture and agribusiness but also preparing them to venture into other businesses in the future with open minds.
Selflessly, Kateta has been dedicating his quality time and resources to the project and helping the children to strike a balance between their education and attending to their plants for the project’s success.
“We have two sessions for theory after their school program, happening twice a week. We meet and go to the field over the weekend for them to attend to their crops,” he elucidates.
As the days go by, the project’s contribution has been clear.
“More parents now want to have their children enrolled,” he says, adding that the project’s success in helping the whole (Mwandi) community in Zambia has made it be rightly called a Community Project.
The plan has always been to help the community, not the founder.
The project, which is almost two years old now, has already alleviated poverty levels by helping the children cater for their basic requirements.
“When the crops under the children’s chaperonage mature, we sell them collectively and use the money to purchase school shoes, books and bags for the children-farmers,” he happily explains.
This significantly reduces the costs the children’s parents would have otherwise incurred while stretching to purchase the school items for their children.
This project has evidently touched and positively changed the children’s mindset, approach and attitude towards agriculture, making the whole community want to join hands and see to it that it gets successful.
You may wonder how Kateta has managed to start and run the project successfully.
Johann Thorgeirsson, the founder of Agri-Project Africa, advises “Start with a project you can manage and then grow. Self-educate about everything related to agriculture, not just the crop you’re working with, but about irrigation, pests, fertilizers, chemicals and farm management, among other spheres.
The more you learn, the better you will become at your trade.”
The project runs on land given to Kateta, the Founder, by the area induna, the headman.
Fresh Fields Community Project is still budding, and its paths are getting wider by day and by night.
“We want to expand,” he poses, adding that “we have been given land to expand from.
Speaking about the future of the project and its need for expansion, Kateta speaks for the young minds he works with, appealing to any helping hand which would be willing to make Fresh Fields serve a wider community foodwise.
Kateta’s journey has not been a straight line, however.
“I lack sufficient resources needed to expand the project and accommodate many people to join the training program,” he says, affirming that he has been doing all he could to keep the project on the move, nevertheless.
“I also lack sufficient and improved resources for the project, such as solar-powered boreholes, generators and other agricultural tools. We also want to use modern agricultural innovations such as drip system to up the game on our project,” the dedicated teacher-farmer adds.
Therefore, for such a future-centered agribusiness project to fully succeed and run seamlessly for the benefit of the community, Kateta says that more helping hands would help expand the project and upping its capacity.
“Am looking forward to the community and the global worlds to join hands so that we can work together and benefit the Mwandi Community,” he gives a clarion call.
To you, who feels the inner drive to start such a project and impact young minds around you, Kateta says: “The best gift you can ever give a child is knowledge. Anyone who wills to venture into instilling such skills to the younger generation for a better future finds favor in God’s eyes.”
Clear on the place and future of Agriculture, especially in food-importing Africa, he posits that “Agriculture can help reduce poverty, raise incomes and improve food security for 80% of the world’s poor, who live in rural areas and work mainly in farming.
The future millionaires will come from agriculture.”
Would you be willing to offer any kind of contribution towards propping up the Fresh Fields Community project? Feel free to connect with Lawrence Kateta, the project Founder, via his email at email@example.com and on Facebook @Lawrence Kateta.
This story was prepared in collaboration with Agri-Project Africa, an online space aiming at amplifying African Farmer’s stories. Its goal is to be a forum for information, education, and positive stories about agriculture across Africa.
It has been of essence to Lawrence’s story, making him known to the masses and encouraging many more potential farmers.
Mr. Johann Thoirgeirsson is the Founder of Agri-Project Arica, a project available on Facebook by the same name. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/johann.thorgeirsson.5.