History of the Peace Corps in Zambia
In April 2004, the Peace Corps celebrated its 10th anniversary of service in Zambia. Following the formalization of a country agreement in 1993, Peace Corps/Zambia opened its program in 1994 with a first group of water and sanitation/hygiene education Volunteers. In 1996, the program expanded to include projects in community action for health and rural aquaculture. The project expanded again in 2001 to encompass an income, food, and environmental project. In 2003, a new education project was launched and a fifth program is underway. Using emergency HIV/AIDS funding, a separate HIV/AIDS project will begin in the summer of 2005.
Since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived 1994, approximately 600 Volunteers have served in Zambia, which is now one of the larger Peace Corps programs in Africa. Volunteers live and work in eight of Zambia’s nine provinces.
Volunteers are helping the Department of Fisheries to develop fish-farming projects that will improve livelihoods in rural communities. After determining rural farmers’ needs and resources, Volunteers provide technical assistance in establishing dams, furrows, fishponds, and integrated agriculture. In addition to providing an excellent source of nutrition for rural families, surplus fish and agricultural products are sold to provide substantial supplementary income. Volunteers provide training in small agribusiness skills to assist farmers in applying a business orientation toward their farming activities. Volunteers also help build the organizational development capacity of fish farming associations.
Learning at Taonga Market (Education)
One new Peace Corps’ education project builds on the initial success of a national radio education program called “Learning at Taonga Market.” This interactive program, produced by the Ministry of Education, is broadcast over the national radio station and covers the primary school curriculum in a fun, engaging way. The program helps deliver education that does not require a trained teacher or a school building, allowing for improved access to basic education in Zambia’s rural areas.
In early 2007 this program was renamed as the RED (Rural Education) program. The name change reflected a broadening of scope for efforts made by RED volunteers, emphasizing various means of training counterparts in rural areas rather than focusing solely on the LTM IRI (distance learning via radio) approach.
Linking Income Food and Environment
In 2000, the Zambian Wildlife Authority invited Peace Corps/Zambia to join a new environmental initiative to help communities living near national parks gain an economic stake and a voice in managing protected areas. Working in six provinces, Volunteers help strengthen the civil participation of rural communities in natural resource management and economic resource allocation. Volunteers have assisted community groups in developing the decision-making skills necessary for this new responsibility and have provided education on environmental and conservation issues. Volunteers have also worked in schools to enhance environmental education curricula and deliver lessons to pupils in schools near national parks. Other significant Volunteer activities address food insecurity and livelihood diversification of these communities, thus reducing pressure on parks’ resources.
Community Action for Health
Volunteers work with counterparts from Rural Health Centers to build and strengthen the capacity of neighborhood health committees to address health problems at the village level. Volunteers share leadership and organizational skills and strengthen communication skills. They also facilitate better links among the committees, the Rural Health Center, and district health management boards. Additionally, Volunteers help communities implement cost-effective, sustainable health interventions.
Using HIV/AIDS emergency plan funding, Peace Corps/Zambia is developing and implementing a new project focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Twenty trainees will be invited to join the LIFE training program in May 2005, becoming the first full-cycle Volunteers to participate in this project. The program, delivered at the district and community levels, focuses on awareness, education, prevention, and nutrition as a means of reversing the tide in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.