ON THE GROUND: HODI/Baynards Zambia Trust

Dominic Wood

Scheme: To build a hammer mill in Luano Valley, Zambia, to speed up the process of grinding maize

Funding: Receives £5,000 from Baynards Zambia Trust and £1,000 from the villagers

Objectives: To create a sustainable community

At the turn of the millennium, the women of Luano Valley in the central province of Zambia were still using the medieval technique of grinding maize by hand. It meant that they struggled for up to four hours a day to grind enough maize meal to sell. This meant that they had to rely heavily on the local Catholic mission for handouts.

However, a £5,000 loan from the UK-based Baynards Zambia Trust has gone a long way to solving the problems. The loan was provided to the village women's council in 2000 to construct a building to house a hammer mill, and to train women to run it. "We now spend 15 minutes grinding one kilogram of corn, which used to take half a day," says Bibian Manyika, secretary of the women's council.

The money for the corn-grinding machine was provided through the trust's Zambian charity partners, HODI, which was established in 1996. In Swahili, HODI means 'to ask permission to come in'. "We don't go into communities and homes unless invited," says Chileshe Chilangwa-Collins, chief executive of HODI.

The scheme has been a success: the money was paid back two years ahead of schedule and the mill has transformed the lives of the villagers.

People helped by small loans from HODI have used their profits to create businesses and a self-sufficient community. Manyika, a widow with six children, has been able to pay for maize and devote time to her family by managing the hammer mill's use in the community.

The success story has tipped the scales of influence in the community towards women, reducing the influence the mission has exerted since the 1920s. Manyika says she recently asked the mission: "Do you want us to continue begging? We are standing tall on our own feet. We are not well educated, but look what we have achieved. We want independence and pride in what we are doing."

The relationship between HODI and the mission is not an easy one. "The long-serving priest doesn't believe in women being in charge," says Chilangwa-Collins. But the mission is still loved for the clinic it runs, the only place in the area where villagers can go for medical help.

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