We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Amisadai Evacuated Again!

Life has continued in its normal irregular fashion and I'll a give a few updates in a moment. But it has been strangely hard to focus properly with Amisadai's health problems. She has continued to have these strange episodes, with dizziness and pain and occasional blacking out. She is up and down with it, but it's been a bit of a worry! So to cut a long story short, she is being flown back to the UK for tests which we hope will be conclusive and find a way to bring her back to normal.

The tentative plan after talking with the insurance company and medical team yesterday is that Amisadai will fly back with Rachel on Sunday (12th) and stay with Tim's mum in Basingstoke while we sort things out. Tim and Louisa will remain here in Mwanza, Tim carrying on with work here and Louisa at school, which seems the best plan as we have no idea how long Amisadai will have to remain in the UK.

It hasn't been easy knowing what to do. I (Rachel) have been long booked into a Agriculture Conference (ECHO) in Arusha, so the plan is that I will still go to that tomorrow, staying until Saturday. Tim will stay close to home work-wise and we hope Amisadai will be able to finish this week at school before half term. But we take things a day at a time ... she has been in bed again today while Tim took Louisa to the Nyamililio Church near Sengerema. (After Tim had preached and Pastor Tito had preached on Psalm 67, they had another look at the a-maize-ing crop at the church before having lunch at Sharach's house. The picture below doesn't do it justice but the cob Louisa is holding is enormous! They have just returned home after their ferry bumped into another one when docking! It took awhile to get going again, but all's well that ends well!)
Healthy crop of maize
So, friends in the south of England ... we look forward to the possibility of seeing some of you! Everything is very uncertain, but we value your friendship, prayers and support! It will also be lovely if we are in time to visit my Grandad when we get back. He has gone into hospital this week and is very poorly with probably not much longer to live.

Despite the disruption and uncertainty, we are all thankful and relieved that things are moving in the right direction!

Meanwhile, in regular life...

Fantastic Fabrics!

The Mamas Group met again yesterday and Louisa joined us as well for another day of making some amazing fabric! They are fantastic! I was feeling slightly stressed yesterday, and was struggling a little to stay cool with rather chaotic activity involving rather a lot of splashy dye! With mistakes made, too many people with hands in, bundled fabric was dropped in the dye. But at the end of the day, I took a deep breath and realised everything actually came out vibrant and good in the end! It was sad to say goodbye for an undetermined time, but as they prayed at the end for Amisadai, it was precious to know their love and care for us.

Louisa enjoys learning how it's done!

Samantha works with Mama Wilson folding the fabric

What would you do or love to have made with one of these?

Permits and Photos!

As is often the way here, a fair amount of time goes into bureaucratic matters. It has been the season of forms and filling out, and chasing documents as we sort out different work and residency permits. Then with new Canadian regulations, the girls (as dual citizens), are no longer allowed to enter Canada on their British passports so they need Canadian passports. And then Tim and Louisa's British passports expire in a few months, so we need to apply for new ones for them too...

The funny thing is what a palava getting passport photos has been! The different application forms want different sized photos with unique specifications. The poor photo shop in town has been struggling to cope with our family photo requirements. They don't have a computerised system for printing photos to varying specifications. We are talking here about a guy with a camera who hangs a dirty white sheet behind you in the doorway of the shop and shoots. Then with the ruler I lent them, their own pair of scissors and my diagrams of size and proportion, it was trial and error to get what we need. It took several tries and a fair bit of time over three trips (it was closed once)! And now we have piles of little photos of varying sizes of our heads!

Working with the Bishops

We had a really positive and also pretty important meeting on Thursday with the new Bishops and their assistants. Also with Joel and Samantha, Bishop Charles and Pastor Zakayo, it was an excellent time of sharing about our work in community development through the church and how we can best work together.
Zakayo sharing at the meeting

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Newbys Join the Team!

We are really excited to see our team growing! And I want to introduce you here to our new co-workers/friends!
Hephzibah, Joel and Samantha in the States for Christmas!

Joel and Samantha Newby with their gorgeous little girl, Hephzibah, have just returned from visiting the United States where they have been busy meeting family and friends and raising the support they need to live and work here. Now, as they come to the end of securing work and residence permits for Joel, they will be starting to work with us here!

Joel (from Montana, US) and Samantha (from Mwanza) were married last May and live here in Mwanza. Joel has been living here since 2013, working with a church involved in rural development. With his education in business administration, Joel is going to be a huge asset in our work with the churches, as one of his roles will be offering training and help with entrepreneurship projects for social transformation. We are looking forward to what he may do with chickens and goats!
Samantha, trained as a clinical assistant, has been a full-time single mom to Hephzibah for the past five years. She has already been along to the Upendo wa Mama group a few times and is looking forward to helping more with these women! She came along today and was an invaluable help figuring out application forms for the upcoming sewing training! The women have warmly welcomed her into the group and with all her creativity and skill, she will be a wonderful person to have around! Both Joel and Samantha have a heart for strengthening the church in discipling children and have started a children's church program for kids ages 4-10.
We are thrilled that we have joined together with them and look forward to all that they will add to the work with the church here in Mwanza! And even more exciting ... they are multiplying the team themselves - very soon a new little Newby will be arriving! All very exciting!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

When 20% isn't Failure

It was Friday last week and Tim had planned to go to Nyamililo, the new village near Sengerema where Esther has been working hard to start the new agricultural group. He was going with Baraka and Peter but as is often the way, things didn't go exactly to plan as Peter missed the boat! There was confusion at the ferry as Baraka and Tim looked for Peter. After some searching, they made phone contact and knew he was around somewhere. As the boat was bellowing its final call to board, assuming that Peter must have boarded the boat, they hopped on and sailed away. But he wasn't. Peter was caught up helping someone and as Tim later found out, he had ended up going to the police station with the person he was helping. Never a dull moment!

Talk of the Drought

Talking to people as the drought continues, many can't remember a year worse than this one. They have never known the price of maize (used to make ugali, the staple food here) to be as high as it is now. The people we are working with are all subsistence farmers; they eat what they grow, surviving from their own shamba (piece of land).

The maize crops, ideally planted early in October are harvested in January. This season is now over and there is very little, if anything in places, to show for it. But as we said in a recent post, it is wonderful to see the positive difference for farmers who have adopted the practices we are teaching! And even more to see the interest of other farmers in the community who see that difference in this drought and are keen to join in!

When 20% isn't Failure!

Tim and Baraka met on Friday with seven of the fifteen farmers who formed the first Conservation Agriculture (CA) group with us in this area. Only three of these fifteen farmers have been successful ... which in percentage terms may sound like failure! But as we know from experience, the first year teaching something new and different is always tough. People are wary and not keen to commit their efforts. Most didn't give the CA techniques a fair test as they did things the way they were used to or first planted their regular crops in the usual way and delayed working on the CA section. One lady in the group, had prepared really well but then travelled and asked her relatives to finish the planting. All that hard work was wasted as the relatives planted in the usual way!

Baraka (L) with five farmers from the group
But when people see and experience something firsthand ... then things can start to change! And so having these three farmers is reason enough to be thankful! And we now have some good community trainers who will be far better teachers than us!
Pastor Tito of Nyamililo welcomed the group members and after reading and discussing together Psalm 67, they began to talk about how things were going. The first two farmers (whose maize had died out), were unhappy and didn't see the project working. Three others farmers joined the conversation. They had also lost their crops, but they realised that they had made mistakes and were keen to try again and follow through on what they had learned. They were grateful. Lastly, the two farmers who had been successful (the other, Anna, was unable to be at the meeting) shared. Pastor Tito and Shadrach expressed their great gratitude, particularly for all Esther's work. Pastor Tito who has used the church land as a demonstration plot shared how people were coming to see the field, just amazed at its success in this season of drought. Many were coming to the church asking questions. This is amazing progress before a year is done!


The group went outside to look at the work Pastor Tito had done at the church shamba. The maize planted early on intercropped with beans was doing really well! It was clearly better than the area planted later which missed that essential early rain.

Pastor Tito with his maize

These jack beans were planted too late to do their job.

Poor Pigeon Peas Prove Popular

The pigeon peas are now a big hit with these farmers! We laugh about the pigeon peas. No one ever wants to plant them; everyone says they don't like to eat them. The fact is, they are just "different" and no one wants to try. Even Joseph, our guard, for the longest time said he couldn't eat pigeon peas for his lunch; he didn't like them at all. Finally one day, I just gave him some and said it was that or nothing ... much like I can say to our girls! Well, he ate them and really enjoyed them and later admitted he had never actually tried them. And we find it is similar for the farmers who are not keen to plant them at all! But pigeon peas are so easy to grow and good for the soil. They are drought-resistant, providing a nutritious and extremely long-lasting plentiful harvest! Now having tried them, the farmers are already planning their plots for more pigeon peas!
Pigeon peas doing well at the church shamba!

Shadrach's 'Spot the Difference' Shamba

The group moved on to look at Shadrach's shamba. It is not as strong as Pastor Tito's (or his own other shamba farther away) but he will be able to harvest. The group was able to clearly see and discuss the comparison between the section on the left farmed normally and the area on the right farmed at the same time with the same seeds using the CA method.
Shadrach's shamba. Healthy green maize on the CA right side!
So while a 20% success rate may at first seem more like failure, we are all encouraged! Pastor Tito is a good teacher! It is fantastic to see people coming to the church with questions and to see the church reaching out to their community with help and answers in this time of need. Tito is now preparing his next sermon for the church on Psalm 67. As they experience God's gracious blessing, their prayer is that He may be known in their community, that people would thank and enjoy Him!

God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work.
Psalm 67 (MSG)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Beauty Emerging in Colour. Pattern of Creative Design

It was Mother's Love in colour today! The Mamas Group met with Rose, a friend of mine, to learn how to make batiks. Well, I thought we were meeting to learn how to make beeswax batiks, but actually we did African Tie-Dye! But it was colourful and fun and beautiful just the same!

Fantastic patterns and colours!

A morning in colour and pattern. We watched fascinated, to see the colours and patterns that emerged in all their beauty on the once-plain sheets of material.

Something plain and void of design was twisted and squeezed, bound and wrapped. Each one bound differently, but tightly.


And then out from the water coloured, is drawn something new! Something designed, something planned. Bold and beautiful, its colours and pattern showcasing the creativity of an artist.

As each work of art was gently unbound and unwrapped, slowly, its beauty emerged. And then seen whole, it was held up in delight. The smiles said it all. Each one unique. Made with design, made for purpose. Beautiful.

It spoke more of simply fabrics and dye.

It speaks of these women. It speaks of people everywhere.

Folding the fabrics

Tied and bound

Cut free!

Emerging beauty!

In designed wholeness and colourful beauty! Joy!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Difference in Drought

Spot the Difference!
Dry. Hot. As I sit here in the relative cool of the house, the sun is burning down on the ground outside. Flies are buzzing and the stench of an unfortunate dead dog rotting somewhere on the road outside is wafting in on a breeze. 

As I mentioned in the last post (When you're Down in a Ditch), people are saying that this is the worst year for rain in over fifteen years and everyone is talking about it. Indeed, the situation isn't good but if you look at the photo above, you can see it's not all bad! What's the difference? Read on!

As Tim drove out to Kayenze with Peter last week, they drove by field after field of dead and dying crops. Each field represents a farmer and a family. A year's worth of food for a family now gone. It is a terrible and depressing sight.

They went first to meet Shija in Kagee (this new village joined the project in July). Despite, the difficulties, it is amazing and encouraging to see the difference made through the project. Shija followed the basic conservation agriculture (CA) principles of sowing early, using compost and plenty of mulch and the difference is staggering. Last week he harvested his maize and beans! He did this this without any watering whatsoever ... just making the most of every drop of rain by timing and conserving moisture in the soil through mulch. 

Jeneroza (who is also our beekeeper group secretary) also joined the agriculture group this year. She has worked hard, using the principles taught and even carried water from the lake 3-4 times a week to water her field by hand. And she is seeing the difference; she has already been able to harvest maize and beans!
Jeneroza and Peter
Tim and Peter went on to Lutale (you may remember our Lutale farming mamas) Even without watering, these women have been able to get a harvest. The jack beans did really well despite the conditions and through intercropping with the maize, they have provided an amazing cover crop or blanket to hold in the moisture and keep off the sun (as well as replenish the soil).
Mama Aneth's is being harvested. You can see the mulch and the cover crop
of jack beans helping this maize survive just long enough in order to harvest!
Tim and Peter shared chai with Mama Naomi (one of the Lutale farming mamas) and were pleased to see how well her jack beans had done and that she also had been able to harvest something. It wasn't much, but a great deal more than everyone else who lost entire crops.
Mama Naomi's jack beans (see the difference from November here!)
It isn't all bright stories. Samson (who is also one of our beekeepers) has lost everything. He was too late. He did get mulch down, but he was far too late to plant and he has learnt his lesson the hard way. Missing those early rains, has made all the difference. His maize is tasselling early and none of it will now survive. But he knows now. And he is already encouraged and excited to make the changes and do better next year!
Samson's maize farmed his usual way
Samson's CA section of field, planted far too late.
It's not good, but you can still the difference the mulch made!
It is also sad to see our Demonstration Farm at Kisesa struggling. Even doing everything we could, it has been drier there than anywhere and there is a very small harvest. The pigeon peas seem invincible like ours at home (our girls are really tired of eating pigeon peas!) and the canavalia beans doing well, but the mukuna beans are drying out and the jack beans not spreading the cover we need. But despite it all, Joseph has been faithfully putting out water for the bees, and they are all still there!

When we work with farmers on this project, we ask them to practice these principles of conservation agriculture on a section of their land. Many are naturally wary and do not want to risk their whole shamba (field) and so will continue to farm as they usually do on the rest of their land. This year, our farmers got nothing at all from the rest of their land. The difference is dramatic.

And that is the difference you see in the photo of Jeneroza's field at the top of this post. The section of land on the right was farmed with CA methods. The plants are tall, green and strong with a harvest of maize. The section on the left was farmed at the same time in the same field, but it's all now dead. The difference is also starkly evident at Mama Aneth's farm.

Peter stands where Mama Aneth harvested her crops farmed with mulch and intercropping
Immediately adjacent is the maize she lost at the same time from farming conventionally
This last picture is true for most people in this area. A bleak picture with nothing to harvest this year. But looking at the CA group farms, the people in the community can see the difference. Many people are now very keen and excited about joining the conservation agriculture project!

So, while the drought across Tanzania this year is still a terrible thing, in these little fields in these small village communities, there is hope making a difference!

Incredible maize for this year!
May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him

(Psalm 67)