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Narrators mention several development initiatives and organisations, mostly small-scale. Vegetable and poultry-keeping projects, fish-farming and improved stoves are all cited. Agricultural extension workers are said by several to be well-meaning but, according to Utrina, prone to dispensing inappropriate advice.

Grandwell feels government extension workers proved their worth in the past. While appreciative of some NGO initiatives, he feels they don’t sustain their involvement.

Utrina is cynical about levels of government support; she uses her own skills and resources to the full and is better off than some.

Gilbert, like many narrators, says the government has provided little development and that any improvements have been done by the community or NGOs. He also criticises food-for-work schemes claiming that people need longer-term solutions.

Mirriam, a grandmother in a village where many young people have died of AIDS-related illnesses, is frustrated by the lack of support. Despite myriad difficulties, she points out that people work hard:”The government really should come up with income-generating projects… We may be old but we are not lazy.”


Development 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