Student - June 6, 2019

Luxury is relative in Zambia

Eva van der Graaf

Who? Kees te Velde (25), MSc student of Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management
What? Internship at aquaculture company Yalelo
Where? Sivonga, Zambia

Wageningen Master’s students do internships and thesis researches all around the world, getting to know their field and other cultures. Here they talk about their adventures.

‘I’m the first student to do an internship here. I’m at Lake Kariba, in volume the largest human-made lake in the world. My research is about carrying capacity: how much fish can they produce here without harming the water quality?  I also help the company with the changes required to comply with the criteria for the ASC consumer label for responsibly farmed fish.

Resort or not, all the equipment breaks down

It is quite difficult to get hold of a room or house here, so the company arranged for me to stay in a luxury resort. I can see the lake from my room. But resort or not, it is still Zambia. All the equipment breaks down. I don’t have WiFi indoors and a little while ago the whole town was without electricity and so my room key didn’t work. You have to learn to deal with these things.

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Fishing and beer

There is not much to do here at weekends. If I ask Zambians what they do in their spare time, they say: sleep or watch TV. They are not terribly enterprising. They do play a lot of football, though. People from the company sometimes do something together, like go out for a beer or go fishing. Other than that, I read a bit. Soon my girlfriend will come out here and we are going to travel around and visit the Victoria Falls.

I have to travel quite a bit for my research, and take various water samples. In general it is sensible to have a Zambian driver here. If a white person wants to buy something, it is five times the price. It’s nice to have someone with you who knows how everything works.


Never bad news

The difference between the culture here and in the Netherlands is huge. You notice it in everything. 95 per cent of the company employees are Zambian, but half of those in the higher positions are international. People here do not have access to good higher education. And the way they work is not always very efficient. If two men are working on something, four others stand and watch. Zambians feel it is impolite to give people bad news. Once I had to wait two hours for boat, while the captain kept on saying it was nearly there. And if people break something, they hide it. Zambians are very friendly, though, and they laugh a lot.’

Do you too have a nice story about your internship or your thesis research abroad?