Zambian women turn to stone-crushing business to make ends meet

70-year-old Philister Juma at her site in Kadianga village in Nyakach, Kisumu County where she crushes stones to earn a living. [PHOTO: COLLINS ODUOR/ STANDARD]

Life for 52-year-old Catherine Daka, a resident of Lusaka, the Zambian capital, was comfortable when her husband was around and was able to provide for the family.

But things turned for the worse when the husband died. With no source of income, Daka had a tough time taking care of her six children and all efforts to look for a job proved futile.

To ensure that her family does not starve to death, she ventured into the informal sector and joined other women in the business of stone-crushing.

The women have taken advantage of the booming construction sector by providing stones and the woman says she does not regret her decision.

A drive around the Zambian capital reveals women on the roadsides crushing stones into different sizes which they later sell to prospective clients. The women buy truckloads of stones which they sort in different sizes to cater to various construction needs.

“I started doing this business more than 20 years ago so that I can raise funds to take care of my children. The failure to find jobs in the formal sector forced me to join other women in this business,” she said in an interview.

She said she has been managing to provide food and other necessities for her children as well as sending them to school with one of her sons now pursuing doctorate studies in education in South Africa.

“My son did very well in his senior secondary school leaving examinations and the government managed to give him a scholarship,” she added.

According to her, people, especially women, should use what God has given them such as eyes and hands to engage in productive ventures that will change their lives instead of just complaining.

For 51-year-old Doris Banda, the booming construction industry in the country is a blessing in disguise because it is enabling them to earn a living through stone-crushing business.
She said they have different ranges of customers from whites, Indians, Chinese and Lebanese.

She has however noted that like in any other businesses, they have faced challenges such as lacking a permanent place to conduct their business, resulting in being shifted from time to time.

According to her, she decided to venture into the stone-crushing business in order to supplement her husband’s income in order to properly take care of the family.

The business, she said, has helped the family as she has been able to send her four children to school using the money earned.

“You will find that when it comes to paying school fees, this money we earn has been of great help. I don’t just depend on my husband’s salary,” she said.

Thompson Malumo, a 31-year-old stoner crusher says he decided to join the business because he does not want to engage in bad vices which many young people are involved in such as alcohol and drug abuse as well as stealing.

“I feel this is much better because I am now able to take care of my family,” Malumo, who has a wife and one child said.

According to him, young people should not just look for formal jobs but should get involved in various entrepreneurial ventures because of the current high levels of unemployment in the country.

Apart from crushing the stones, Malumo also helps the women in loading the stones once customers come, a situation that makes him earn some extra money.

According to a study by the International Labor Organization, the informal sector accounts for 87.5 percent of Zambia’s labor force while other studies have put it at 90 percent. Enditem

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