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In the heart of Zambia, a small project turning maize sacks into fashionable accessories is making a big difference in the lives of school-aged children in Mfuwe, on the outskirts of the South Luangwa National Park. 

© Marcus Westberg
Gillie and the ‘Amaizing Bag’ range of which 100% of the profits go to local charity Project Luangwa. © Marcus Westberg

Recycled ‘mealie meal’ sacs are combined with brightly coloured fabric from Tribal Textiles to create a one-of-a-kind range of bags and accessories. Designed by Gillie Lightfoot, founder and director of Tribal Textiles, and sewn together by men and women from the local villages, the ‘Amaizing bags’ are made by Zambians, for the benefit of Zambians, from iconic National Milling maize mealie sacks that are truly Zambian.

We met with Gillie and had a tour around Tribal Textiles, a vibrant and very friendly place with African beats playing in the background and a big black pot of maize cooking in the kitchen. Villagers mix the paints by hand, draw the designs by hand and paint the fabrics by hand, all inspired by the spectacular Zambian scenery and wildlife. On the rounds, we met Dorica, a local lady who is now able to help support her family by sewing together ‘Amaizing bags’.

100% of the profits from these unique bags go directly to local charity Project Luangwa, helping to educate children in the Luangwa Valley through various donation-funded initiatives. Being on the road a lot, we chose a large shopping bag with a picture of a round-faced smiling African woman on the front. There are many reasons to support this fun and eco-friendly project, and not just because the bags are, well, seriously ‘amaizing’.

© Marcus Westberg
Smiling schoolchildren in the Luangwa Valley benefit from the dedicated work of Project Luangwa © Marcus Westberg

10 Reasons To Buy An ‘Amaizing Bag’

  1. Local people living in rural Zambia create the bags generating essential employment in an area where jobs are limited.
  2. Profits from the sale of each bag are given to Project Luangwa, a local charity that looks to improve the lives and education of young people in the South Luangwa.
  3. Each bag is lined with brightly coloured fabric from Tribal Textiles, a company that creates beautiful hand-painted textiles in the heart of the African bush.
  4. Each bag is made using maize meal sacks, which are synonymous with Zambian culture – ‘mealie meal’ makes nshima, which is the staple diet in Zambia.
  5. The ‘Amaizing bags’ are made from recycled materials, helping to protect the planet.
  6. The bags are trendy and fun.
  7. They are hard-wearing and good quality.
  8. The people who make the bags come from local villages and are given full training before starting on the project, helping to ensure new skills are being taught through this initiative.
  9. UK schools are also involved in the selling of ‘Amaizing bags’, thus linking children from the West with children in Southern Africa and educating the young on different cultures and ways of life.
  10. Local shops and safari lodges support the ‘Amaizing bag’ project, connecting the community with an aim of helping their environment constructively.

[slickr-flickr tag=”tribaltextiles” captions=”on” descriptions=”on”]

For more information about the ‘Amaizing Bag’ project go to:

Find out more about Project Luangwa: 

Shenton Safaris
Marcus & Kate

Marcus and Kate are a freelance writer/photographer team, contributing stories on travel, conservation and human interest from across east and southern Africa. They just completed a year in Kenya's Masai Mara where they conducted a research project on wildlife tourism and community-based conservation, including working on projects such as Elephant Voices and Living with Lions. They are a Swedish-Australian couple with itchy feet and a love for Africa, adventure and discovery. To see more photos from Marcus and Kate, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.