I would like to sincerely thank the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) for selecting me as the Student Ambassador for Zambia.
My name is Chabota Simweemba, aged twenty three years. I was born in a family of seven. We used to stay in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia where my father used to work as an electrician in one of the mines. Unfortunately, we lost him in 2002 so we had to shift to live in a village in Southern Province because my mother was not working. This change of locality had its own challenges but it marks a very serious landmark in my life.
We started surviving on agriculture for upkeep and for school fees for my elder siblings who were in high school by then. Though being young, I was actively involved in the farming process and this is what opened the biological world to me. I developed so much interest in science and wanted to learn more about what life was at about the age of eleven. I could struggle reading books which were way above my level just to try learning and understanding the ‘new’ world. I remember one point at the age of 13 when my grandpa laughed at me because I carried a science book to read in the fields as I took cattle for grazing. This made my base in biological sciences quite interesting and strong which actually earned me awards at Pemba High School where I did my secondary education.
I then decided to study medicine where I would have the privilege to learn how the biological world relates to man. I was enrolled at the University of Zambia (UNZA) in the School of Natural Sciences in 2013. I fought my way through and managed to make points to study Medicine (a highly competitive programme structured so that one gets a Bachelor in Human Biology in 4th year and then continues till 7th year to get Bachelors in Medicine and Surgery). I am currently in my 4th year.
There is a lot of work to be done if we are to once develop Zambia and Africa at large and this requires sacrifice and the spirit of voluntarism. Though with a busy school schedule, I volunteered for the May Measurement Month 2017 (MMM17) which was the first phase of the grand worldwide campaign against Hypertension after seeing that I could save a life and learn something through the same project. I was privileged to have been the Student Leader in the campaign. We actually expanded the campaign to other schools such as the Copperbelt University School of Medicine where we persuaded other students to come on board – and the response was amazing. We also involved our friends studying Nutrition and Food Science who helped us talk to the communities about how to have a balanced nutritious diet.
The programme was being facilitated by the Zambia Heart and Stroke Foundation (ZAHESFO), an organisation delivering life-saving messages to the public on the dangers of heart diseases. I had a great experience in this campaign to interact with the community to measure their blood pressure and learn about their diet. It is true that Africa is on the move from being challenged by infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases of which much can be attributed to the way we eat and our lifestyles (though we cannot rule out the genetic aspect).
It is with the thoughts above that I implore everyone, especially young scientists who want to see Africa develop, to join the amazing young scientist teams in SADC who are coming together to use biotechnology to fight the challenges Africa is facing. A lot of problems such as malnutrition, non-communicable diseases and many other can be avoided as long as we decide to come together as young scientists and brainstorm on the solutions. We are in transition from curative medicine to preventive medicine (preventive medicine is not only for the people in medical field but everyone – and I do mean everyone).
One certain thing is that where there is no good food, good health does not exist and where there is no good health, productivity is reduced – hence no economic growth. This is the reality of nature and all the more reason we need bioscientists to come together to solve the problems Africa is facing. Even though I am a medical student, during holidays I have never missed a chance of going to the farms and see what is going on. I also get my hands dirty because I know that without food no one can survive.
Lastly, I must reiterate how happy I am to be accorded this opportunity to be the SANBio Student Ambassador for Zambia and I am looking forward to working with other young scientists in Zambia and across the region as we to add to scientific knowledge, the tool we can trust to solve our problems. SANBio is the home for scientists determined to bring about change.
SANBio Student Ambassador for Zambia