Thousands of Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent high school students have laid the foundation for the creation of a new high school in Zambia.
Members of Enactus Lambton were recently on hand to see the official opening of a new elementary school building in Gaali – a village of 4,000 in southern Zambia – as part of an effort to accept 200 more students into the school.
Construction of the new school block means villagers can move forward with their plans to turn another nearby elementary school – with a current population of 200 students – into a high school.
“Without (the new building), there would be 200 kids who wouldn't have a chance to go to school because there's no room for them anywhere,” said Jon Milos, faculty advisor of Enactus Lambton.
Over the last five years, the Lambton College chapter of the student leadership and entrepreneurship organization has undertaken several development projects in Zambia.
In 2014, student trustees with the Lambton Kent District School Board spearheaded a board-wide fundraising campaign to support the school expansion project.
Plans to expand Gaali Elementary School had previously been on hold for years.
“When (Enactus Lambton) went there, we saw the foundation and it had been sitting there for 15 years, so through the efforts of [former LKDSB student trustees] Emily Schaefer and Kristen Dawson, they raised the funds to get that building built,” Milos said. “Otherwise, it would never have happened.”
Milos recently had a chance to attend the building's opening ceremony that drew Zambian school board officials, village leaders and students together to mark the occasion. A plaque commemorating the efforts of the Lambton Kent District School Board was erected on site.
Villagers also played a critical role in the school expansion project, providing the manpower and some of the raw materials for the build.
Milos said communities have more dollars for their own development efforts thanks to the One Seed Project, an Enactus Lambton program that teaches no-till farming practices in order to boost local corn production.
About 5,000 Zambian farmers have now drastically increased their corn yields, and in turn, income through the multi-year program – and not a moment too soon after last year's devastating drought in Zambia.
“Our farmers who used the no-till method had enough corn to feed themselves for the entire year and also a lot of their community members who don't use no-till,” he said.
He hopes 10,000 additional local farmers will be educated on the no-till farming method this year with the support of local trainers.
Plans are also afoot to help Zambian farmers diverse their agricultural offerings through the growing of peanuts and get into the value-added side of the farming sector.
“We're actually in the process right now of doing our due diligence and all the homework that has to be done to create a small manufacturing plant for peanut butter,” Milos said. “The community is on board with this. They're putting the resources to this to help us develop this with them.”
Plans are for fresh organic “ZPB” – Zambian Peanut Butter – to be sold first across the African nation before starting to export the product to other countries like Canada.
“We're hoping by February that we'll be making it in small quantities and we'll fine tune it over the summer and hopefully on a commercial scale launch it in the fall,” Milos said.
Enactus Lambton plans to make trips back to Zambia next February and May.