Plants needed to build a school in Zambia!                                                                                                               Home Page


I am asking any keen gardeners digging up or dividing or cutting back plants, either now or in the spring, to please pot up or take cuttings of any surplus or unwanted perennials or shrubs and, nearer the time to let me have them for a plant sale scheduled for 19th May 2012.


In June 2007 I took a trip down memory lane to a little known part of Zambia to show my husband and son where I had lived as a child. The background to this is that in 1936 my father entered the London to Johannesburg air race in an Airspeed Envoy piloted by Max Findlay. Whilst lying second overall, and embarking on the final leg, they crashed on take off from Abercorn near Lake Tanganyika in Northern Rhodesia. Sadly the pilot was killed and, whilst inspecting the wreckage and attending to the aftermath of the crash, my father was injured and subsequently hospitalised in nearby Kasama. The nurse who attended him later became his wife and subsequently my mother. My father was so impressed by the natural beauty of the area and the gentle indigenous people that he purchased land near Abercorn where he then lived and farmed for the next 40 years until my mother’s ill health forced them to return to England.

Northern Rhodesia gained independence in 1964 and became Zambia. Abercorn was renamed Mbala. After independence the local airport was commandeered for military purposes and civilian flights ceased. With no rail links and increasingly poor roads, the Northern Province of Zambia experienced a sharp economic decline. Despite the spectacular beauty of this area, where the Rift Valley cuts through the high African plateau and dramatic waterfalls tumble to their depths, the world seems to pass it by. Zambia is a poor third world country and its limited resources seem to be concentrated around the capital, Lusaka, the Copperbelt, and major tourist attractions such as Victoria Falls.

Whilst revisiting the Northern Province, I took my family to spend a few days on a beach on nearby Lake Tanganyika. On our first evening we were greeted by members of the neighbouring village, who paddled across the water, singing and ululating as they drew nearer in canoes lit by oil lanterns. They shyly came ashore to bid us welcome and soon had us singing and dancing with them around a log fire on the beach. The following day we were invited to visit the village and borrowed a local canoe to make the journey along the coast. There we were greeted by the village headman, Nicodemus, and crowds of shy children, curious to see and touch white skin. Whilst James entertained the children with the magic of his digital camera, Nicodemus showed us around his village, called Chipwe.

We talked at length; of potatoes, politics and people. To my surprise, we learnt that the Chieftain of the area is STILL the same ancient tribal chief that I remember from my childhood. He would come to visit my parents at home in all his regalia, and be entertained to tea and cucumber sandwiches on the veranda, whilst important local issues were discussed. To my even greater surprise, Nicodemus, on learning of my father’s name, told me, with tears in his eyes, how “Bwana Peachey” had given him his first job, as a carpenter’s apprentice. He remembered my mother administering medication and delivering babies. He was convinced that the coincidence of our visit had to be a providential omen.

He spoke of the problems that his village Chipwe and the nearby village, Miyamba were experiencing especially with regard to the lack of school and medical facilities. There is no road access, due to their location below the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley. The nearest town, Mpulungu, is a four hour boat trip across the lake, a journey that is often impossible due to the high winds that frequently plague these waters. The Zambian Government, via the Department of Education representative in Kasama has promised to supply teachers but the villagers themselves must first build classrooms for the children and houses for the teachers. The villagers are extremely poor, even by Zambian standards, and are completely dependent on fishing for their survival. Life expectancy in these villages is about 34 years due to malaria, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality. The villagers are good builders (especially of small fishing boats) and, given the materials, will construct the school buildings required for the children to receive a basic education.  What they lack are the materials.

Nicodemus’ plea for help has been ringing in my ears ever since our visit and my heart went out to him and his people. The more I have thought about their problems, the more I have actively wanted to do something to raise funds for a school and maybe even a health centre. Thus the idea of starting a charity for Chipwe and Miyamba villages was born.

I have subsequently secured the support of Claire Powell, a business woman living in Kasama, who has regular contact with these villagers. She has agreed to act as my representative on the ground and has already held meetings with local Government officials and the Department of Education who confirm they will indeed supply teachers, once the buildings are in place. Amanda Adams, a close friend who lives in Hillfarrance near Taunton, with family in Zambia, knows the country and loves the people as I do. Amanda has agreed to co-found the charity which we have decided to call BEMBA VILLAGES. Bemba is both the name of the tribe of these people and their language and, by coincidence, the very word Bemba translates into English as ‘lake’.

Over the coming months I hope to announce fundraising events to take place in the Four Parishes while Amanda will do the same around Taunton. This article is to provide initial background to our cause and to ask readers for their support. Thank you.

Anne Wilson

Sanders Barnstaple, Chipstable, 01984 624277