Monday, August 24, 2015

Daily rolling blackouts, decreased water pressure, farmers searching for places to sell their maize, gas shortages, increased food prices, layoffs at the mines…

     This has been happening in Zambia the past few months and it’s continuing to worsen. Zambia is expected to completely black out by the month of November. Imagine a country the size of Texas without power.

     The main reason for the power shortage is there is not enough water in Kariba Dam to supply electricity needs for the country. Zambezi River is low and rain isn’t expected to fall until November.

     So, with the rolling blackouts, refrigeration isn’t keeping food cold anymore. Milk producers are throwing out spoiled milk.
     Increased gas prices are causing a fuel shortage. Sometimes people are stuck where they are because there is no gas at the gas stations.

     Mines are laying off employees or even shutting down completely due to a decrease in the price of copper. The power shortage is making things worse for the mines, as well.

     This all trickles down to the small farmer; the people I have been working with for the past year and a half. Most of them live without electricity, so why would they be affected? Well, they are stuck with maize they can’t sell because the government has no money left in the reserves to buy maize. Most farmers rely on income from maize as their only income source of the year. This means they will have no money to buy the things they need; including food.

     Some water sources rely on electricity to run. Women and children will have to spend a large portion of their day walking longer distances to retrieve water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, watering their gardens, and drinking.

     Another worry is the increase use of charcoal. Charcoal is made from trees. Much of Zambia is battling deforestation.  Charcoal is one of the few fuel alternatives for cooking and boiling water when people’s power is out. Even people living in gated communities in the suburbs are turning to charcoal.

     Millions of people are expected to go hungry on top of entering hunger season next month. Children who come over to my hut to play games, draw with chalk on my kinzanza floor, look at National Geographic magazines will suffer from hunger like they’ve never known before. And there’s not much I can do about it. I can only watch this happen. I love these children. And the people…these peaceful people…will suffer.

     But, the spiral I am witnessing here in the country I am serving is spiraling fast; too fast for anyone to know what will happen next. My home of almost two years will become another African country forgotten about after the headlines make it known to the world it exists. But, it doesn’t matter because there is nothing anyone can do.

     Zambia has made its way into my heart. I love it here and I love its people. A place I’ve experienced feeling safe, safe enough to hitch rides on my frequent travels and not one time feeling threatened. How many countries can you name where a woman can hitch alone and feel safe?

     Zambia is a place where great opportunity can happen, but, for now, the people must wait. Wait for years until it gets back to where it was when I arrived. This isn’t the States; it’s a developing country. Developing countries can’t afford setbacks such as this. I just hope it stays peaceful and the children I’ve become friends with hang in there until things get better.

*Since I wrote this article the copper prices continue to drop and the Kwatcha is now $1=K8. Expatriates are starting to emigrate to other countries due to job loss. 

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