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Survival strategies

Many narrators describe a number of different means they employ to survive. Charcoal burning, petty trading, beer brewing, growing and selling vegetables, carpentry, bicycle repair, brick making, and agricultural or domestic piecework are all cited.

The value of joining savings clubs and other community groups is also mentioned, mostly by women, although some have not had entirely positive experiences.

Utrina points out that the effectiveness and cooperative nature of these groups is limited by people’s extreme poverty and the need at times to focus solely on their own survival.

Ruth, a single mother, outlines a variety of occupations that she has tried in order to feed herself and her son, including brewing beer.

Anna explains that although charcoal making is bad for the environment, people do it because they are hungry and unemployed and have no other options.


Survival strategies 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