Monday, May 14, 2007

Where do I start..?

There is so much I would like to tell you about, perhaps I will start with a few of the basics.

I am going to Zambia for 13 months starting in August 2007.

I will be working for EWB in partnership with CARE on a scaled Sorghum Commercialisation Project

Engineers without Borders (EWB) is an organisation that was started in 2000 by two University of Waterloo Engineering students. The vision of EWB is the appropriate application of technology in order to alleviate poverty and improve standards of living in developing communities around the world. EWBs focus is on tailoring technology to each community's social, cultural, economic and political context. They send Canadian volunteers overseas to work in partnership with local organisations on projects that involve and empower the local people. EWB also does a lot of work here in Canada raising awareness about issues facing developing countries as well as affecting policy changes at our government levels. Please check out their website at:

Would you like to support me by supporting EWB?
I am fundraising and any donations would be very much appreciated! Tax receipts can be given for donations exceeding $20. All cheques should be made out to Engineers Without Borders. If someone requires a tax receipt they should indicate this with the cheque and provide a return mailing address and contact information.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Preliminary Research

Up to now I know some of you have actually found out a bit more about Zambia and Sorghum than I have (my excuse is that I have been too busy visiting with doctor's trying to figure out what shots to get...) So as incentive to learn more before I fly - this posting will be a summary of my future home country.


Zambia is landlocked and sparsely populated by more than 70 ethnic groups, many of them Bantu-speaking. It has some spectacular scenery, including the Victoria Falls (picture above) along the Zambezi river, the Bangweulu Swamps and the Luangwa river valley. 44% of the population lives in urban areas (Lusaka, Livingstone and the towns in the Copper Belt) most rural Zambians are subsistence farmers. Zambia's neighbouring countries include; Congo, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

Full name: Republic of Zambia (formerly known as Northern Rhodesia)
Population: 11 million (UN, 2005)
Capital: Lusaka
Area: 752,614 sq km (290,586 sq miles)
Major language: English (official), Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja, Tonga
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Hinduism, Islam
Life expectancy: 38 years (men), 37 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Kwacha = 100 ngwee
Main exports: Copper, minerals, tobacco
GNI per capita: US $490 (World Bank, 2006)
International dialling code: +260

Brief Political History:

In the 1888 Cecil Rhodes and his British South African company took over control of the region, in 1923 he ceded control to the British Government. In 1964 Zambia gained it's Independence from Britain and the federation of Rhodesia and became the Republic of Zambia. From 1964 to 1991 Kenneth Kaunda was prime minister of the one party state. In 1991 a multi party constitution was adopted and Frederick Chiluba became president. In 2002 Levy Mwanawasa was elected and then re-elected in 2006.

Economic History

In the late 1960's Zambia was the 3rd largest copper producer in the world (after the US and Soviet Union) the collapse of world copper prices in 1975 had a devastating affect on the economy. Over the years Zambia has appealed for food aid and financial aid from the international community. In 2002 the Government refused genetically modified (GM) maize to help alleviate the severe food shortages facing three million people. In 2005 the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Western donors cut Zambia's foreign debt to $502 million from an estimated $7.2 billion.

Other Information

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is ravaging Zambia. Nearly one million Zambians are HIV positive or have AIDS. Over a half-million Zambian children have been orphaned. Malaria is also significantly affecting families and their ability to provide for their own basic needs.

The government has a policy of universal free primary education and health care. Health facilities however are grossly inadequate with only half the required doctors needed to service the population. Some 95% of primary school age children are enrolled at schools with 20% continuing to secondary level and 2% of the 20 - 24 age group in tertiary level. Illiteracy is 27% but the drop out rate at schools is very high. In rural areas, the standard of education is hampered by lack of facilities, transport and teachers.

More to come as I continue to learn...