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A bakery in the jungle

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KACHEPATSONGA—Bread has been synonymous with towns

There is no electricity in Chimelera Village, some 30 kilometres away from Kasungu Municipal Centre, as is the case in many communities in such rural locations.

A winding, bumpy road, sometimes raised with some irregular gravel, conveniently takes you to this village in Traditional Authority Kawamba where locals glory in their new-found aptitude.

Along the way, irritating brushwood and bowing grass confirm that travelling to this village is no child’s game.

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Yet, bread is baked here—with all the know-how that city bakers apply when churning out chunks of loaves and dozens of cakes and scones, all tactically produced in the absence of modern and advanced technology.

“There is no skill about baking that we have not mastered,” says Selina Kachepatsonga, a mother of three who regularly gaits from Mkwesa Village in the same T/A to Chimelera Village to bake bread and its kind.

In this rural community, making it in life among those that seek that is just a matter of time; a few more weeks or months before dreams come true.

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Kachepatsonga no longer worries about the joys of life in urban centres where technology seems to have come to stay while other areas are at the mercy of providence.

“All along, bread has been synonymous with towns. That narrative has been sufficiently changed in our case,” she asserts pluckily.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations states that while hunger continues to threaten rural people with under-nutrition cases coming out daily, sufficiently processing and preserving food is saving some poor people.

The UN agency further observes that with dwindling quality of soils due to climate change, farmers—particularly smallholder and poor ones—have to adapt to new mechanisms of making their land relevant.

“For example, the application of mineral fertiliser may generate higher yields under average climatic conditions but may bring lower yields when rainfall is highly variable or delayed,” the UN agency declares in a 2017 report ‘The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges’.

For Kachepatsonga and her colleagues, the threat of climate change is also something that they always pay attention to.

This is particularly so because they use a lot of firewood in their baking business.

“Having realised that climate change is exacting a heavy toll on our venture, we do plant trees every rainy season to replenish the trees we cut,” she states.

Chairperson of Kakhome Comsip Cooperative—to which Kachepatsonga belongs— Mercy Banda, brags that through the group, they have managed to learn many more things about nutrition, food diversity, sanitation and business.

And from this rural community, cleft in the midst of tall greenswards and thick shrubs, there is hope for better lives of households, both those in the cooperative and others from within and without.

“The 32 of us, 11 men and 21 women, have learnt the skills of how to be resilient in the midst of difficult times,” Banda states.

And about baking bread in a place without electricity and any modern technology, she argues it is all about using what is available.

“We may not have wheat but we know fully processed foods have more value and attract more money. Our bread is doing just that,” Banda boasts.

Group psychology

If there are those that are doing things right in terms of local investments for livelihoods enhancement, there should be others who can succeed in the same terms, fancies Kachepatsonga.

She claims that she always believes in following a people she shares the same ideologies with.

“At the end, life becomes transformed in your own liking because you seek what you like. A group that is so firm about its progress should be necessary for locals like us who often lack basic business acumen,” she states.

Among them, every trouble is shared without a glitch and might soon become a symbol of their resilience and hope as they search for something that will preserve their identity.

“In Kakhome Comsip Cooperative Bakery, the future is now,” this is a mutual statement from both Banda and Kachepatsonga as they brag about how they have navigated familiar logjams.

Banda recalls that all the differences that members had from their communities got easily buried in their united purpose for improved livelihoods.

“Once in our group, we do one thing as long as we are sure we are doing the right thing,” Banda discloses distinctly.

Shared responsibilities

In the Comsip Cooperative just like in other similar enterprises in T/A Kawamba’s jurisdiction, triumph further banks on dividing that which needs more hands and brains to accomplish.

That also allows those with leadership skills to exploit them to their fullest.

“For instance, I am in the production department, and I have to ensure nothing prevents us from harvesting enough according to the means and space that we have,” Kakhome Comsip Cooperative Production Chairperson Abel Chaliwa says.

And those doing the marketing matters ensure people are willing—or compelled to be willing— to buy their products regardless of where they are produced.

They take them to trading centres and other busy places where all assessments about demand and supply are given full attention.

Then, they know where the market is and how they can make it more effective.

The group’s resilience and unity also excite Comsip Community Facilitator responsible for T/A Kawamba Maxton Banda who admits he always finds it easy to interact with these men and women.

“We have regular engagements with them according to their needs. One important thing is that they always approach me when there is something on which they need help,” Banda stresses.

He adds that households that have one or two of their members in the cooperative have improved their livelihoods within a short period of time.

He states: “It is clear that through the group, they have acquired properties they initially didn’t have. Some have built iron sheet-roofed houses and are rearing more livestock.”

With the cooperative now owning K2.5 million, they hope to up their bakery business and strive towards producing more than the 10 kilogrammes daily average that is the case currently.

They are adamant about this despite that they are several kilometres away from electricity power lines, almost in the middle of a jungle.

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