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ZM_2024_FSL_CEOVisit_10-min © Ufulu Studios



How One Legume is Transforming Lives in Zambia

Memory Chilombo Chitengi spends her mornings tending to her farm. She rises before dawn, leaves her home in Lukanda, Zambia, and passes the early hours planting, weeding, and cultivating her crops. For years, 34-year-old Memory’s harvest—maize, rice, and garden vegetables—has supported her family of 12. But this year’s drought, recently declared a national disaster, has threatened the livelihoods of Memory and one million other families across Zambia. It has destroyed crops and devastated the agricultural industry.

Luckily, Memory can weather the storm—with the help of a little something called a cowpea.The cowpea, known in the United States as a black-eyed-pea, is a drought-resistant crop that can grow in dry soils. Cowpeas are a traditional crop in Zambia and grown in some farms across the Western Province. Due to its climate-resilient properties, Action Against Hunger is working with farmers like Memory to cultivate the crop on a larger scale. Memory and nearly 1,300 others are learning to adapt to the impacts of climate change, strengthen food insecurity, and harvest quite a lot of these legumes.

Hunger can be eliminated if we harness data and innovation to solve long-term challenges,” said Dr. Charles Owubah, Action Against Hunger’s CEO, who recently visited Memory’s farm. “What I saw in Zambia was simple: we can grow a crop that not only survives drought, but thrives.”

ZM_2024_FSL_CEOVisit_52-min © Ufulu Studios

Dr. Charles Owubah meets Memory Chilombo Chitengi, a farmer in Zambia's Western Province


While in Zambia, Owubah met with the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Reuben Mtolo Phiri, and discussed ways to further strengthen Action Against Hunger’s approach in the Western Province and support farmers like Memory.

Life in Lukanda has not been easy for Memory and her family. The drought has lasted more than five weeks and affected 84 of the country’s 116 districts. Fueled by climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon, the crisis has ruined 2.5 million acres of planted crops, almost half of the nation’s planted cropland. It has also threatened the country’s water and energy supply and increased food insecurity.
Zambia’s Western Province, where Memory lives, has been hit particularly hard. More than 80% of the province’s population lives on less than $2.15 USD per day and rely on humanitarian assistance. Like many farmers, Memory felt the impacts of the drought and turned to cowpeas.

Cowpeas are nutrient dense and a staple food in many cultures. They’re full of essential vitamins such as iron and potassium, and they carry numerous health benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease. Cowpeas can be processed into flour; turned into paste for hummus or dips; and roasted, boiled, and seasoned for snacks. In Zambia, where 35% of children under five face chronic malnutrition, climate-resilient crops can save lives.


ZM_2024_FSL_CEOVisit_36-min © Ufulu Studios

Dr. Charles Owubah, Action Against Hunger USA CEO, helps farmers with their cowpea crops.


The climate crisis is upon us,” says Owubah. “The question is, how are we going to adapt? The power of science is key.”

In the coming months, Memory and other farmers will continue to harvest cowpeas. Their work is supported by Action Against Hunger, which is spear-heading a 10-year program to tackle hunger and build resilience through climate-smart agriculture. The program aims to support local communities to build lasting change. Memory will learn how to harvest cowpeas, find new markets to sell her crops, invest in her farm, and connect with financial institutions to save for the future.

Memory is a strong woman. She faces difficulties every day, yet still holds on to hope,” says Owubah. “What people like Memory show us is that all you need is the right tools and the right investments to succeed.”


ZM_2024_FSL_CEOVisit_25-min © Ufulu Studios


The transition from maize to cowpeas has been a journey for Memory. She and her family faced many challenges, such as limited land to grow crops and no plows or oxen. With family members lending hands to cultivate the field, it took her just 10 days to prepare the land and seven days to plant the cowpeas.

Her hard work has paid off—she expects to harvest 20 bags of cowpeas, each over 100 pounds. With her earnings, Memory will be able to pay for her children’s school, buy nutritious food, and expand her farm.


ZM_2024_FSL_CEOVisit_51-min © Ufulu Studios

Les producteurs de niébé et le personnel d’Action contre la Faim ensemble dans les champs


Action Against Hunger in Zambia


Action Against Hunger’s climate resiliency program in Zambia is designed to mitigate and prepare for the impact of climate change over the next ten years. In the Western Province, Action Against Hunger is building a climate-smart network that will help farmers grow drought-resistant crops like cowpeas.

Our teams work alongside community members to strengthen irrigation systems; facilitate the planting and harvesting of crops; and build awareness around resource management, food preservation, water storage, and more. Staff will also work to strengthen the local economy and connect farmers to broader financial networks.


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