ACDI/VOCA implements the USAID-funded Feed the Future Production, Finance, and Improved Technology Plus (PROFIT+) project in Zambia. As part of its efforts to stimulate increased private-sector investment in agriculture, PROFIT+ has provided a grant to Zasaka Agro Ltd. to enable Zasaka to operate an outgrower program in eastern Zambia’s Chipata district. The grant will help Zasaka increase farmers’ ability to produce quality seed at the farm level.

Zasaka believes that it makes business sense to ensure gender equity at all staffing levels. When it came time to hire a cohort of new staff to sort and pack their legume seed, Zasaka eagerly partnered with the Chipata Diocese to help build the skills of former sex workers.

Photo Credit: Amie Fletcher, Zasaka Marketing & Communications Manager

Regina is one of over 30 women that Zasaka hired and trained as a result. Desperate to turn her life around, Regina dutifully attended a Chipata Diocese church program aimed at helping young women increase their skills and improve their employment prospects. Struggling with long-term unemployment, Regina previously had no other option but to turn to sex work in order to earn money to support her five-year-old daughter.

Florence Chitimwango, Zasaka’s Quality Control Officer, oversees the warehouse team and has fostered a strong bond with the women. She says they feel like a big family. Each morning, when Florence arrives on site to open the warehouse at 7:45 am, more often than not, she finds her team there waiting. Some of the women, like Regina, walk for an hour and a half to report for duty.

Regina is very grateful for the opportunity Zasaka has provided her. Reporting for work, makes her proud. She is a single mother and had previously relied on friends and family to help pay her child’s school fees. Safe in the knowledge that she’s earning a regular income from Zasaka, she has been able to save money for the first time in her life. So far, she’s saved half the annual rent of a local market stand where she plans to sell cosmetics.

“Without this opportunity, I would not have had the confidence to dream I could one day make something of myself. I want to be a business woman.” —Regina, employee of PROFIT+ grantee Zasaka