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Food security

Lack of food, and especially of nutritious staples, is mentioned by virtually every narrator. Those with access to a dam or other water supply talk of being able to maintain a vegetable garden, but food supplies for those without are much more precarious.

People’s health has been undermined by their poor diets, and for those coping with HIV and AIDS the inadequate food supply is even more serious.

Ruth is among several narrators who say some people only eat once a day. She adds: “We find it difficult to convince the women [to cooperate in clubs] because their excuses are quite genuine. They need to feed their families.”

Benson explains why his community’s enthusiasm to improve their facilities faltered: “nothing can be done on an empty stomach.”

Grandwell and Utrina point out that although relief food is available, it is needed by a much wider group than that identified as’vulnerable’ by the government.

Warren has no job and sells small amounts of sour milk and mealie meal every morning; if he didn’t do this, “definitely that day we could go without food”.

, and the five grandchildren she cares for, survive mostly on “wild vegetables and roots”.


Food security is a key theme of the Living with poverty: Zambia oral testimony project.


Anna: strong and hardworking

Benson: people need jobs

Dominic: valuing tradition

Edward: anxiety of poverty

Gilbert: cattle is wealth

Grandwell: sustained support

Mirriam: dedicated to others

Ruth: a mother’s struggle

Sara: coping without family

Utrina: working the land

Warren: the HIV burden

Grace: an open approach

Key themes

Introduction to the project


Food security


Water and drought


Survival strategies

Self-help and community support


Loans and debt

Political representation

The cycle of poverty