The Mongers in Tanzania!

We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International and local churches on physical and spiritual development. Find out what's cookin' ... particularly on the fuel-efficient clay stoves Tim works on and Rachel cooks on!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

How One Thing Leads to Another ...

I love how one thing always leads to another ... We were so keen to get into farming and we have learnt such an incredible lot about agriculture this year and now my excitement is moving ahead to places I never dreamt or imagined it could! Livestock! Crop and livestock integration. Pigs and rabbits, goats and cows. Bees. Who'd have thought it?! Making the most of all that manure. Making the most of all that pollination. Making the most of all that crop residue. Making the most of everything. And it all leading towards transformational communities and peace-making! No, I am no expert, and this is certainly a whole new field for me ... but we are learning so much and as I said, one thing just leads to another! And it makes one want to make the most of everything!

This week we were able to visit the TALIRI National Livestock Research Institute which is about 65km outside Mwanza. Our intentions for going were unrelated to livestock; it was purely a jackbean hunt. Yes, we went to pick up some seeds of a variety of jackbean called Canavalia Brasiliensis which I had heard about in a lecture at the Bee Symposium. This variety is said to provide 85% fertility improvement to the soil, thereby able to effectively rehabilitate degraded land and is also incredibly attractive to bees ... and therefore me! After talking with the lecturer in Arusha, I was able to get contact details of a scientist at this institute who had the seeds!

We arranged to visit and were so warmly welcomed by the great team there at the institute. After a long chat around the table about our work and theirs, we were given a guided tour. Thoroughly inspiring! After seeing the reality of the continual conflict between arable farmers and pastoralists here, it would be wonderful to work with our farmers in a peace-making role; demonstrating true community, showing that working together is not only possible but mutually beneficial! And I seriously never thought I would get so interested in types of grasses! Thus all the photos of fields. Sorry ... but there you go... they are beautiful!
Checking out the grass crops

With a jackbean variety interspersed
Sorgham Crop
Thanks to the great help of Joseph, all the maize in our shamba is now harvested. It has all been dried in the sun for a few days, taken off the cob and dried again. Comparing our hybrid and OPV (open-pollinated variety) seeds, we discovered that we harvested 46% more hybrid. Next step is milling and then it's ready for making ugali ... karibu chakula ("you are welcome to come for food!")
Comparing the two different varieties
Maize drying
As for the bees, I wish I had a more exciting update, but progress continues to be slow, but there is definitely progress so we live in hope! We finally got two more of the hives that we had asked a carpenter to make. One is another Kenyan top-bar hive and the other a Tanzanian top-bar, so we are interested to see if there will be a difference! I melted all the wax from our last bees in Iringa (a good use of an old but previously treasured baked bean tin) and coated the bars with it.
And so we continue to wait! I had a second failed attempt last week at getting bees. I went out again, late at night, a little nervously, with all my gear. But this time, we were outnumbered by the bees who had taken over residence in a roof. So Plan B with this lot is set for Sunday night. The nightguard will venture near with a smoker and remove a handful of honey which I will put in my hives.
The most exciting bee progress though was meeting a great guy, Innocent, at the church we went to last week. We went to the church that one of my friends in the Mamas' Group attends. In chatting to Innocent, we discovered he is an experienced beekeeper who keeps bees in Kigoma (which is miles away!) but he knows a lot and has already been over to our house this week to have a look at what we are doing. Again we are reassured that we are doing everything right and he can't understand why we don't have bees! He is confident that the bees will come and he is coming again this week to help with adding some more beeswax. We are looking forward to more conversations and hope we will be able to work together somehow!

The Tanzanian Top-Bar Hive (L) and Kenyan Top-Bar (R)
And so we end how we started ... as one thing lead to another. All the while making the most of it.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Let's Fly!

We have tickets booked! And with that, travelling to Canada and the UK suddenly seems to be approaching rather too quickly! We are so excited about seeing family and friends again (and enjoying those things we miss), but there is still much to do here before then!

It was September, 2012 the last time we landed in England (we stayed until just after a visit to Canada at Christmas), and it's that funny thing about time, which makes it seem just ages ago, yet at the same time, we hardly seem to have been here since long at all!

We fly from Mwanza on March 27th and six airports and a long time later, are looking forward to being Canadian for three weeks with family and friends! Then we have a few days in the Toronto area with EI Canada and are excited about meeting up with Laura (from Iringa) before flying to the UK, to Louisa's great delight, on her birthday! Then we will enjoy being British for a term and see as many of you there as we can before coming back at the end of July.
And now, here are a couple of links to some extra reading if you are interested...

Click Here to read our latest newsletter!

Although if you follow the blog, the newsletter is, (as my sister pointed out in the nicest-possible-way) rather boring! But as not everyone has internet access (although I think this is now few more than my grandparents - who get the blog printed and delivered by my kind aunts!), I try to make the effort for a good ol'fashioned (albeit rather occasional, and perhaps largely unread!) newsletter!

Also, we recently wrote an article for the Emmanuel International Down to Earth Magazine on the agricultural project. Now as the blog is chronological and jumps about depending on what happens each week, this brief article could be an easier way of seeing what has been happening with this project since September.

 Click Here to read the Down to Earth article!

And with that, I would just like to thank you, dear readers, for reading and following along! And a special thank you to many of you for being so supportively interested and encouraging! See you soon!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mama Faith

Mama Faith is 40 years old. She completed Primary School at the age of 15 and married at the age of 20. I enjoyed an opportunity to get to know her better last Saturday morning, sitting on the steps outside the primary school classrooms (which were unfortunately locked up), as she arrived long before the rest of the Upendo wa Mama ("Mother's Love") group. She clearly works hard and she is inspiring in the way she perseveres through adversity. Twice, during our time together she suffered an asthma attack that left her weak and breathless. Both times we gathered around her and prayed. She doesn't have an inhaler; I talked to her about it but from what I could understand, her husband is not willing to take her to the hospital or to purchase one. But with the money she is earning from her small income-generating projects, I am encouraging her to go herself. I would have liked to take her to the hospital, but that would just make matters harder and costlier!

Mama Faith making beads
She has four children, and the three youngest (ages 16, 10 and 4) all have albinism. Things became difficult for her when she gave birth to Jackie, her second child and the first with albinism. Her husband took another wife, blaming her for birthing a child with albinism (and I think he may have taken yet another wife since then). Mama Faith struggles with her husband's drinking and with living with his other wives, who from what I gather, do not treat her well. Yet despite all the struggles, she just gets on with things; she sells bags of peanuts and baobab in town and makes shampoo to sell. She is keen to learn how to bake cakes and bread and has asked for teaching on that when we next meet together.

After we all varnished our first batch of beads together and studied Genesis 3, I went to her house for an impromptu late lunch and was able to meet her three youngest children, Jackie, Nora and Faith, before they returned to their boarding school. Jackie wants to be an accountant and Nora a nurse. Beautiful girls!

Beads in the making

Varnishing the beads

Mama Rose varnishing the beads we have been making
I am really enjoying my time with these women. They have made many beads, which will now be threaded into jewellery. It was beautiful to see their happy surprise looking at their beads on Saturday when the varnish was added! The finishing touch to something of beauty from a scrap of rubbish!
Each woman contributes every time to the group fund and as we think about saving up for an oven to start a cooking business, they are looking into how they register the group and set up a bank account. I am excited about the potential possibilities, but happy going slowly with them to see that things happen in a sensible and sustainable way.

We continue each time reading our Bibles together. This week we were talking about how Eve, when tempted by the snake, doubted that God was really enough. Eve thought she should take for herself what looked good to her (the fruit). If we don't see God for who He really is, this is such an easy mistake to make. It is as easy here as anywhere to reach out for anything that we think will help us, something that looks good and we think will then "be enough". It could be money or relationships, diets, drugs, technology or the witchdoctor, but it will never be enough. Reading God's word, we continue to look for a God who is really able, a God who is good, a God we truly can trust. And seeing Mama Faith walk in faith through difficulty shows me the gracious provision of a God who is able.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Up a Pole without a Ladder?

What do you think? Can we can rescue a swarm of bees from a 9m pole with this big green truck and ladder?
The big green truck
I'll get to that in a moment ... We have been waiting since August to get a prepay electricity meter fixed at our house. We had some unexpectedly high bills which led to long, animated conversations in the office of the electricity company here. For me, this meant a rather intense hour of a wide-eyed jumble of Swahili/English/sign language... or perhaps crazy gesticulating is more correct. But at the end of the hour, in annoyed defeat, I had to cough up the money. Anyway, to make a rather long story short, yesterday, nine (yes, NINE!) men all showed up in a big truck (which they parked outside the house) to fit the new meter. Talk about how many men it takes to change a lightbulb! We thought that was problem solved. But as it stands at the moment, we seem to have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, with no power at all (thus my current location at a cafe) and if we do manage to get it, at the moment it looks like our bills will be even higher than before! We are working on it ...

And while on the subject of large electricity company trucks, while all these nine men were sorting out our one meter, I took the opportunity to ask one of the guys about borrowing their truck. As you know, I am trying to get bees in my hives (and trying to be patient). Finally last week I heard about bees at a friend's house. The family are allergic to bee stings and need them removed. Also because the bees are on the electricity pole, the electricians won't go near it with them all buzzing about there. So I agreed (in my "no worries, it'll-be-fine" way) that I would go and collect them. It all looks so simple after googling. Tim even agreed to come with me, although he honestly wants no part in my hare-brained schemes (he's a good husband!) and also Joseph (who really loves a challenge and as Tim said would do anything for me!). So last Friday evening (with our friend Kat kindly staying with the girls), I gathered together all the necessities: torch, bee-keeping hat, Tim's overalls, rubber gloves, big basket and large white sheet, smoker and sugar-water spray and toothpaste (for stings).

We ventured nervously out into the darkness. We got a little lost in the dark, but eventually found our way and arrived to see a HUGE pole stretching into the darkness. It was crooked and laden with bees just around where the live wires were, about 9 metres up. We only had a short ladder and didn't see how we could get up the pole! We talked about putting the ladder on top of the landcruiser, and at this point you can be glad (Mom and Dad, particularly) that I have a sensible husband. It all looked rather dodgey and buying honey from a grocery store seemed a much easier option. I had to admit defeat to Plan A. But Plan B is now to convince the electricity company men to agree to come with me with their big green truck with the ladder.  I get the bees and they can work peacefully on their pole. Tim reckons I should start thinking about a Plan C... But I will get some bees!

Here are a few photos from my birthday celebrations and other random pics! Thank you for all the Happy Birthday wishes; I had a wonderful day and it's great to have so many lovely friends!
My favourite: coffee cake (Alison Faulkner's recipe!)
On top of the JB Belmont in Mwanza

Louisa's favourite: Sweet hot milk!
As well as harvesting beans at Amon's, (see the last blog post) we have also just harvested our own beans from our shamba here at home. They have been drying in the sun and are now ready to shell. The girls have started collecting all the beans from their pods. We haven't weighed them yet though!
Our own bean harvest!

Shelling the beans

The new hair cut gives Louisa quite the flapper look!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Bean Bounty of the Harvest

The word "harvest" evokes thoughts of bountiful plenty, thanksgiving and grace. And the word seems all the richer to us now that we are more tangibly involved in the process! We shared its richness this Sunday with Amon and his very pregnant wife and young Anna. We enjoyed the fruit of the bean harvest with them!
The Bean Harvest
We arrived in Kayenze in time for the church service after an extremely bumpy and rather longer journey on the deteriorated dirt road! With ominous black clouds in the sky there were only about eight other adults there. As we sang, darkness descended like night in the small church building, and then in the dim light we heard the waves crash on the lake close by and then the rain beat down on the tin roof. It didn't last very long and then after the rain, more people trickled in.

After Tim's preaching and the end of the service, we went to visit and pray with baby Meekness (just a month old) and her Mama at their house.
Louisa with Baby Meekness
Then we went to Pastor Amon's house for lunch and to see how the crops were doing. The beans had just been harvested and Amon was thrilled with the 10kg result from the less than 1/2kg of seeds that we planted using the new conservation agriculture methods. After planting with us, he had gone on to plant more seeds himself, but doubting (understandably) what we were trying, he did it in his usual way and as is common, he did it too late. He lost all of it. Every bean. There was no harvest at all. So he was even more thankful for the harvest of the small patch we did together and all the more convinced now about using the new techniques next time!
Celebrating the harvest: Peter (L), our agricultural trainer and Pastor Amon (R)
Mama cooking our beans and rice for lunch

We went to look at the maize, which will be ready to harvest soon. Amon showed us the maize that we planted together in October with compost and mulch, now tall and green and yielding good fruit. And then we saw the less tall, less green stalks yielding smaller fruit in the area that Amon planted himself without mulch and some without compost too. Amazing to see the difference so clearly and convincingly!

It is not without problems ... the birds did get some and we do have a bit of a problem with stalkborers which can be due to overuse and poor use of the land. But we talked about planting lots of jackbean seeds and other varieties of beans (as well as trees and live fences) this year to concentrate on replenishing the soil. It will take time, but it is great to be working with Amon, and seeing him catch the vision of how this will help his community is exciting!

Maize looking good
This maize not looking so good!
Realising that this maize is much shorter due to being under the great mango tree!
We are planning for a seminar in February teaching on agriculture and health and out of that and meetings with the village leaders, hope to get a group of 10-15 farmers together in this village for the next season of planting and training.

Harvest Grace
The saying goes
"An ocean never dries up,"
But we know your grace also never fails.
This food you have given us
Is one more proof.
Dear Lord,
Your grace is our happiness.
Hallelujah! Amen.

From Table Prayers - a prayer from Africa