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

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Back-to-front Thanksgiving

Usually Canadian Thanksgiving weekend is associated with harvest. But we are back-to-front here now! In Tanzania, the week was all about planting. But whichever way round it is, it is still all about thanksgiving!

I am just so thankful that we are finally getting our hands (and a lot else besides!) dirty in these Tanzanian shambas (farms). For several years now, we have felt so strongly that if we are to work alongside people in rural Tanzania, we must understand their life and livelihood. Over 80% of Tanzanians farm and depend on their crops to live. Many people over the years have asked us if we have a shamba and what we grow. We were always the wazungu (white people) without a shamba. Now finally, (to a small degree) we can relate ... as of last Wednesday, we have a shamba here at home and we are growing maize, beans and (from Thursday) pigeon peas! And during this past week, it has been wonderful to be working alongside farmers in their fields; proudly keeping up with the physical labour in the hot sun! And despite hardly being able to move the day after the first planting, I am so thankful for the opportunity to work again in the villages, this time with Robert, Baraka and Amon and their families.
Our shamba: A measured line for planting the maize in holes at each cloth marker

Joseph helping us plant the beans in the furrow

Bean rows looking good!
For Amon Suge, last year there was no harvest. Amon and his wife and two children live in Kayenze, a village 35km from Mwanza on Lake Victoria, where he pastors a church. Last year he planted maize and beans on his one acre plot. A usual yield for an acre of maize we think should be over 150kg but the family only got 10kg. And only 5kg of beans. This is supposed to feed the family for the whole year. So this year they must buy all the food they need with the small money they get from the church offering and whatever they can raise. With the abundant variety of food our family eats in a year, it is humbling to see how thankful this family is. And as thankful people they are eager to generously bless others. They served us tea and chapatis and later in the day they shared with us their rice and few beans and incredibly, also some goat meat. Humbled and thankful. We planted maize and beans in Amon's field on Thursday; with the new conservation agriculture farming techniques we are working on with them (a new page will soon be up on the blog explaining more of what we are doing using the Foundations for Farming method), we hope to vastly increase the usual yield.
Amon and Esther's house
Getting started with Amon ... the first hole for the first seed!
Starting with the maize seeds ... and a big bucket of manure!

Holes looking good! Planting maize seeds.

Time for chai ... hot sweet tea and chapatis!
But decided to give a toilet break a miss! The advantage of physical work in the hot sun!
Getting rather dirty and itchy!
Covering the planted seeds with a blanket of dried grasses

On Friday, Tim went to Kisesa with Peter and Esther (our trainee trainers). The field had not been so well prepared there, and they were all delayed in starting due to the traffic havoc created by the President's visit to Mwanza, but after a hard, hot day of digging, they had a field of maize and beans planted with Robert, one of our four Kisesa farmers.
Robert adding compost to the furrow for his beans
On Monday, we were all back near Kisesa at the Church Planting School, planting more maize and beans with Baraka ("blessing") and his wife, Esther and youngest daughter, Anna. This lovely family who currently live in the classrooms of what will be the school, are going to care for the demonstration farm we are hoping to establish there. The students are expected to arrive in January, by which time a house should be finished for Baraka's family! Our hope is that many trainee pastors from across the region will be able to observe and learn about the farming techniques while they complete their four month intensive studies and then take it all back and put it into practice in their villages as their also train and help their neighbours.
The church planting school
 ... also a home (centre) for Baraka's family and a meeting hall (right) for the church
Mama Esther prepares tea on an open fire in the classroom!
(don't worry, the fuel efficient stove project gets going next month!)

Planting with Baraka and Esther. Baraka is digging evenly spaced holes (using the marked blue strip of mosquito net as a guide). Baraka's wife, Esther is filling each hole with compost, our trainer, Esther is following with seeds and then I am covering over with soil and mulch. A good assembly line!
Planting beans in furrows

Baraka and 4 year old Anna

Little Anna was a great helper!
Tim and Anna planting beans
We are excited to have started this agricultural work and now praying for the rains and for a good harvest in January! We are looking forward to working alongside these eight or so farmers, over the next months, training them as community trainers, that they can then be the ones helping to transform their communities in all kinds of ways! We are hoping to later include tree-planting and bee-keeping as part of this and also working with the women with cooking and health-related issues.

And still on the subject of planting ... there is a church being planted in a village called Kisamba. And it was here on Sunday that Tim preached to, without a doubt, the smallest congregation he ever has! We had been invited (many times over the past few months!) to visit a church in a village beyond Magu (about 75km from Mwanza). So we arranged to go and were delighted to have Monica (a lovely woman from Bishop Charles' church) and Matilda (a young woman training to be a doctor who also happens to be Bishop Charles' niece) with us to direct us. We had no idea what to expect, but we arrived to find a very small enclosure of sticks holding sheets of cloth around the sides, with a small section of sacking overhead at one end. We were ushered under the sheets and found the six of us sharing the space with the pastor and one woman and six children (not, as I falsely first assumed, a family!)

It was the first time in Tanzania that as invited guests we sat at the very back! We were actually given the best place to sit because the back was the only place which had a small strip of shade from the hot sun. Tim unfortunately didn't have his hat, but smothered on the suncream before standing to preach at the front in the full sun! Three more children arrived as he preached which brought the total number up to eleven. He started with Matthew 13:31 with the parable of the mustard seed which starts small and grows to become the biggest tree of the garden! Our family and Monica and Matilda also turned about to be the choir, so we spontaneously sang Michael W. Smith's song "Alleluia" which we had heard Matilda sing beautifully at her home church a few months ago and so knew it was one we all knew! Amisadai found it amusing that the whole church including all the children and all the guests individually introduced themselves and she tried to imagine how long that would take in our church in Tadley! So thankful for small seeds, praying for a big harvest!

Tim preaches under a hot midday sun!
The Kisamba Congregation with our family and Monica
At time of writing on Monday, we have just had a call from Amon who tells us
the plants are sprouting! Bwana Yesu Asifiwe!

Praise the Lord for his great love... 
For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
-- Psalm 107.8-9 --


  1. Exciting news and progress. We pray that God now crowns your efforts with his blessing.

  2. Great to see you guys experimenting with Farming God's Way of Foundations for Farming, praying for a bountiful harvest that will convince other farmers!


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