In Zambia, two-thirds of the 10.5 million
people here live off less than $2 US dollars a day.
People do all sorts of weird and wonderful
jobs just to earn a crust and feed their family.
|A Lusakan mini-bus driver.
Take the 60 year-old man whom I pass every
day on my way to work. He owns a pair of weighing scales that he
sets up on the pavement and charges 100 Kwacha a turn – about one
and a half pence. He even has a special mat to place on the scales
so as not to wear through the cork. Such
things are precious when it’s your only source of income.
Then there are the numerous women selling
homegrown fruits and vegetables by the roadside. A banana here will
set you back 300 Kwacha – about four pence. And when they're finished
for the day the women pile their produce into a woven bowl before
balancing it on their heads and strolling off.
The buses also provide an important money-maker
for many young men.
As well as the drivers, each minibus has
a conductor who sits precariously half in and half out of the vehicle
as it hurtles down the streets. Good cash handling skills and a
certain persuasiveness with customers to entice them on to your
bus is vital.
There is no such thing as a half full bus
in Lusaka. The conductors even pay other young men at the busy bus
stops to shepherd passengers together to ensure a quick and fruitful
|A Lusakan man sell his wares.
Every where you look there are people doing,
making and selling things just to make ends meet.
For a country that is so in debt and a
population submerged in poverty, Lusaka is a city obsessed with
money. But this is not some Western capitalistic fascination, this
is far more important, this is life and death.
As you move away from the city the significance
of money becomes more inconsequential. The rural economy is based
less around hard cash and more around sustainability.
Villagers grow their crops, catch their
fish and breed their chickens. Jobs exist as a means of living and
not just as a way of earning money. It is often cited that it's
rural Zambia that has been hit hardest by poverty. Maybe this is
the case if you judge poverty on pure economics, but it certainly
doesn’t feel the most poverty-stricken.
As a wise old Zambian grandmother said
"In the cities everything is to buy but in the villages people sustain
themselves, they grow their own food.
"Zambians like the cities because they can
chose and they think there is everything. Yet, in the villages there
is still food. There is not the same problem with food in rural
areas as there is in Lusaka."