Swamp Kabwata

Swamp-front propety

We live in a swamp. It’s rainy season in Zambia, and rumour has it that an equatorial band of precipitation hasn’t made it’s regular annual drift south to Zimbabwe but stayed stubbornly stuck above us.

This means the neighbourhood road leading to our home has been hammered by rain almost daily. If the road was paved, it wouldn’t be a big deal. It the road had decent gravel and soil composition, it wouldn’t be a big deal. If the road had even the semblance of functional drainage, if might not have become a big deal.

The road has none of these things. It has become a big deal. Or, more precisely, a real big pain in the ass. 

You can see the photo. Cab drivers around town now remember my home address and the punishment their cars have taken getting me there. They’ve started declining my business.

I’m now frequenting our neighbourhood gym less often. In the past I had a nice jog to and from working out. Now, if I feel up to going, I put my gumboots on, slog out to the nearest paved road 400-meters away, then change into my sneakers and run carrying my gumboots the rest of the way.

Back at the house we’ve taken to laying concrete blocks as stepping stones in a snaking path down the driveway just to get out our gate. This works until our housemate, Marvin, needs his car.

I took to cursing out the local MP, Mr. Lubinda, for not doing something about the situation. But then the last taxi driver to accept my fare filled me in that Lubinda is from the PF party, not the ruling MMD, so his constituency funds are tied up in bureaucratic politicking. Sigh.

Which brings me to my conclusion. The quickest path to becoming the most popular President of Zambia for all time is this: JBR. Just Build Roads.

And ditches. Don’t forget about drainage. Goes to show what debts this world owes to civil engineering.*

*For the record, I was trained as an electrical engineer. I put this in here to say, “hey, if you or someone you loved ever thought of starting a road building company in Zambia, I’d be pleased as punch (and ready to buy shares).”


2 Responses to “Swamp Kabwata”

  1. 1 Mike H March 15, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Hey Graham, thanks for the update! Its cool to hear what you have been up to.

    Its pretty interesting how many little annoying things there are in Zambia that you never would experience. We were there in the dry season, but a couple of the other JFs and I were recently compiling a book on Zambia, and it was insane how many chapters were just on little things that we found so frustrating.

    Keep keeping us informed!

  2. 2 Mina March 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Yo brotha!

    First of all thanks for the post! Hopefully your “The First Mile” crew maintains momentum. I remember hearing a lot about the importance of road infrastructure prior to going to Zambia in 2008 but I never really understood it until I was floating down the Zambezi river for 5hrs to get to one of the villages KZF was working with.

    I wondered how anybody could lift themselves out of poverty while being so remote, and disconnected from potential markets, education, and job opportunities. I would whole-heartedly agree with you the JBR could be a very attractive campaign platform, but what happens to the roads after they are built? I think that’s one of the major problems with infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. Where are the local engineers that will create efficient and quality infrastructural maintenance programs?

    Definitely an issue I’d love to delve deeper into when I’m back!

    Keep posting boss!


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Working to include smallholder farmers in agricultural markets, we know there are no easy answers. This blog is a place to ask "What does it take to make it work?" and to share what we're seeing and learning.
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