Zambia: Youth changing lives one plant at a time

Just like millions of teenagers around the world, Daniel has a dream: to help make the world a better place. Having just turned 16, he recognizes one of Zambia’s biggest challenges: food systems are not robust enough to meet the needs of the population.

“When I grow up, I want to use technology to modernize the way people farm. There are new technologies like hydroponics that can help farmers improve their yields and grow nutritious food. Zambian farmers depend on rain-fed crops, but with this system, crops can be grown each and every month,” says Daniel sitting outside his home in Kitwe, Zambia’s industrial hub, where he lives with his parents and three siblings.

Daniel first learnt about this technology when the World Food Programme (WFP) came to his school to set up a hydroponics garden in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. These gardens provide nutritious meals to students throughout the year without the threat of climate shocks – making a difference to children's health, nutrition and education. 

With the hope of tackling Zambia’s food system problem and growing nutritious food for his family in a sustainable way, Daniel decided to take the knowledge he learnt from school and replicate the hydroponics site at home.

“When WFP first came to my school, I thought 'wow, these people are amazing'. I never thought you could grow plants without soil. I said I have to try to do this at home. I knew I could do it. I started trying to replicate it, until finally I built my own greenhouse,” Daniel says.

As hydroponic equipment is expensive, Daniel had to improvise on the material he used. “I used creative thinking to build the site. I thought of using tyres and plastic sheets as a place where the water could fit in and used wood to make the beds. I even made a pump using wood and rubber to oxygenate the water. My school gave me some hydroponic fertilizer to get me started. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with local solutions that I can use. I tried to make fertilizer by soaking a sack of compost in a bucket of water for 28 days so that the nutrients dissolve into the water. The pH wasn’t good for hydroponics, but I will keep experimenting until I find a solution,” he says.

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