by Zainab Pandor
“Nothing is impossible. By devoting my time to farming, I am contributing to feeding the nation.” – Evelyne Sakala Simbeye
Evelyne Sakala Simbeye’s 6 hectare farm is located in New Makeni. She and her husband own another 8 hectares of farmland in close proximity where they produce dryland crops including 2,5 hectares of maize, 2 hectares of sweet potatoes and fresh beans and about 1 hectare of groundnuts and bambara nuts.
She grows a variety of vegetables and maize for food security, and can’t remember the last time she had to buy maize meal. Currently, her carrots cover half a hectare. Apart from carrots, she also grows chibwabwa, spinach, impwa, sweet peppers, cabbage, groundnuts, intoyo and sweet potatoes. She is in charge of the crops and her husband handles the livestock.
In 2015, they started farming with cattle in Muchinga Province. During their childhood days, their parents were miners and the mine houses had huge yard spaces. They helped their parents to tend the gardens and raise chickens. Excess was sold at the market. This is when the love for and devotion to farming began to develop.
Evelyne’s first born is a medical doctor, the second one is an economist/financial analyst and her son who is studying in the United Kingdom is graduating in July. The farm is where her son was born and where her girls grew up. The kids have seen their parents farming all their lives.
As a part time farmer and being formally employed at GES Architects as Assistant Accountant and Hotel Manager at Shaka-Chaka Lodge, Evelyn is sometimes over burdened with too much work. For one to succeed in farming, she believes farm workers need 24/7 supervision. She is a member and admin of the 230 000-member Facebook group, SSF (Small Scale Farming). Her shop is in Nkonde. This is the business she falls back on when losses are incurred in farming.
Having reached great heights, Evelyne and her husband own a lodge in Lower Zambezi called Shaka Chaka Lodge, the gateway to wild safaris and a retreat to discover the natural rhythms of life. The lodge is located on the picturesque banks of the Zambezi River in the Chiawa Game Management Area near the Lower Zambezi National Park and is about 178 km from Lusaka. At their lodge, they serve organic foods. The small farm near the lodge was acquired not only to provide organic grown food but also to empower the local people with simple techniques for growing healthier food using available local resources and sustain the existing unpolluted environment for themselves and generations to come.
“Talking about farming practices, we usually hire a tractor to do the ploughing and I give priority to my six workers’ wives for piecework like making ridges, weeding, et cetera. We are planning to buy our own tractor soon. In terms of chemicals and fertilisers, we are trying to move away from them so as to grow our produce organically and go green. “With farming, you often just happen to hit bad or good luck. If luck is with me, I can sell my carrots at K15/kg but at one time I had to sell them at 50 ngwee per kg. Some crops like tomatoes and onions have their own share of challenges. Tomatoes are labour intensive and quite expensive to grow, and onions take too long to harvest. Livestock is farming profitable but the initial investment is very high and more land space is required, placing this venture beyond the reach of many aspiring farmers,” says Evelyne.
“In the past, it was rare to see youth venture into farming but not anymore. Recalling those days when we shifted to the farm 21 years ago, our friends and relatives laughed at us, and we were the only ones in the area. The government should also encourage and establish a deliberate policy for people to start farming during their youth and not only after retirement.”