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Zambian banana plantation teaches at-risk youth useful life skills

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Courtesy ChildFund International

(Read caption) Youths from Chongwe, Zambia gather by the solar panel-powered irrigation system they helped build to keep their banana plantation fertile.

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At-risk youth from the Chongwe and Luangwa districts of Zambia are building a future with their own banana plantation.

A joint effort between ChildFund International, the local government, and village leaders has allowed these teens and young adults to develop what could be a lucrative business plan in growing and selling their own bananas.

The land-locked African country has universal primary education, but few study beyond the first six years of schooling. According to the CIA World Factbook, sixty-four percent of the population live below the poverty line. Some of the most impoverished live in the Chongwe and Luangwa districts.

According to Rory Anderson, ChildFund International Director of External Relations, many of the youth here end up raising themselves because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They live on the streets and engage in risky behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse. Food security is a constant problem; consistently getting enough food and proper nutrition is an issue for many.

"They still have to have a future and find a way to contribute to society," Anderson said.

ChildFund International staff and volunteers in the area, many of them Zambian nationals, saw a need engage these youths and educate them. A group of around 200 14 to 25-year-olds from Chongwe and Luangwa began to discuss their futures.

"We intentionally work with the most deprived and vulnerable youth within that district," Anderson said.

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