MWANDI UCZ MISSION
Zambia is a landlocked Southern African country with at least 16 major cultural groupings.
The country is instantly recognisable on the map, due to it's tilted figure-of-eight shape. It covers about 752,610km2, which is just under the size of the UK and France combined. However, it's population is only 10.5million people -10% living in the capital, Lusaka, with about two thirds being rural. The average life expectancy is 35 years, with almost half under the age of 15. Zambia is a fairly poor country, with a huge national debt and an economy that relies heavily on copper. Independence from Britain was gained in 1964 and since then, although it's been fairly peaceful, there have been problems with corruption and relations between the different democratic parties. The majority of Zambian's are Christian, having been converted by Missionaries in the 19th century. However, traditional animistic beliefs still abound; such as visiting a witch doctor when sick. There are 3 distinct seasons in Zambia. In September and October it is very hot, whilst Nov-April is the rainy season. May-August is 'winter', which is colder and dry.
Mwandi is about 120km to the west of Livingstone, on the banks of the Zambezi River and close to the border to Botswana and Namibia. Situated in Western Province, the village itself has a population of 7,000 and consists of a single tarmac road with a few bars, and huts stretching along sandy paths beyond. The catchment area contains 25,000 people, as it includes the many surrounding villages as well. Most of the people are subsistence farmers, growing or fishing just enough to survive. The middle class are those who work at Mwandi Mission, as teachers or nurses, or who run small businesses or bars.
Mwandi is home to some of the 500,000 Lozi people. The Senior Chief of the Lozi, Chief Inyambo Yeta, has his palace in Mwandi and he is responsible for civil cases in the area. The Lozi have their own language and greetings (i.e clapping your cupped hands together) and are very family orientated, though there are some dangerous tribal practices that are trying to be phased out. People are very welcoming and friendly and are always willing to stop and chat. Buses and meetings tend to use 'African Time' - they take place when everyone is ready and not at a specified time. With the lack of watches there is no need to rush from one place to another; the pace of life is a lot more relaxed than in the West.
With the introduction of the tarmac road 2 years ago between Livingstone and Sesheke (cutting the journey to Livingstone from 5 hours to 1½), Mwandi itself has turned into a peri-urban village. Trade has increased and with it the number of truckers and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, but the resources are not as good as that of a town. This means that an estimated 1 in 3 people have HIV/AIDS, which is higher than the national average of 18%.
For more information on Zambia, visit the Tourist board website at www.zambiatourism.com
(Left: A Mwandi Hut, Right: A traditional healer/Witchdoctor)