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

Saturday, 8 November 2014

DANGER! Cross Bridge at Your Own Risk!

DANGER! CROSS BRIDGE AT YOUR OWN RISK! What would you do?

This is the sign on the road to Kayenze. It's interesting because it is written in English as well as Swahili! Actually it is not as bad as it looks, as there is an alternative to this dilapidated bridge. And I think except for Louisa (and I would never admit it) the rest of us have a little bit of a secret desire to try the bridge ... just to see if it is really so bad! But we don't. There is probably an important and valuable parable lesson here. But even the alternative route leaves much to be desired and the road deteriorates into what can best be described as moguls without the snow. Sections of road have eroded rather dramatically in places on both sides, leaving a narrow space to pass through and in a couple of places, the culverts have collapsed leaving holes in the middle of the road, so it's good to keep your wits about you when driving!

We drove to the village of Kayenze on Sunday and joined the small group there for the service. After the 3 hour service, we went to check out the shamba (crop fields) of a farmer interested in what we are starting. By half past two we were more than ready for some lunch with the teacher and his family and a sit down in the shade.

The simple act of eating lunch makes me realise the importance of this and similar agricultural projects. These are not "hobby farms" for fun. There is no big Sainsbury's or Save-on-Foods supermarket down the road where the regular job pay can be spent to buy groceries. A year's worth of eating depends on a crop. What people grow, they eat. Conditions are harsh here; rainfall is low, deforestation and failure to care for and manage the soil has led to consistently poor yields and Mwanza region is now reported as being unable to feed itself. The Canadian government is actually currently making huge moves to help Tanzania in promoting conservation agriculture. Through the improved techniques, farmers can harvest not just enough food for their family to eat, but also to sell. These farmers can teach their children, their neighbours. With the extra capital, they can start other business, pay school fees for their children, improve their homes, build toilets. The knock-on effect can be huge! They can know the sense of satisfaction from enjoying the fruit of their own labour; with no shame of a handout, they can provide for themselves and help their community. And that is our desire here, to see lives transformed!
Through the farmer's maize fields
Checking out the farmer's zucchini
After lunch we hopped back in the car with Pastor Amon, Pastor Zacharias, a school teacher and a farmer and went to check out some more shambas. It was very encouraging to Pastor Amon's field which we planted a few weeks ago (see the Back-to-front Thanksgiving planting post here). The maize and bean plants were looking good! It was especially encouraging to see how much difference the mulching has made. It was initially very hard to convince farmers to cover the soil with dried grasses after planting the seeds. They thought the little shoot would never make it through the mulch. But those little shoots poked through the mulch just as well as they poked through that soil! And the benefit of the retained moisture was evident in the healthy plants and visibly better in comparison with the other half of the field we didn't mulch!

Mulched maize in the distance compared with the uncovered in the foreground
Looking good, maize


Bean Rows
Then we were back in the car to the next shamba. We didn't realise it was in another village and we kept going on, assured all the way that it was just ahead! 6km later, the road got increasingly worse and to the point that we had to abandon the vehicle and proceed on foot! Louisa, with her slightly dodgy tummy and lack of energy, had been a trooper through the long service, traipsing round fields in the sun and eating a big plate of rice and beans she really didn't want to eat, but I felt she had reached her limit now at 4pm! So Amisadai stayed with her in the car while the rest of us walked on ... as they said "It's just ahead here!"

Vehicle Abandoned
It was at least another kilometre walk! When we did finally arrive at the field, I have to admit my heart sank. They had obviously skipped some of the steps of the new conservation agriculture techniques we are teaching. It was so dry and there was no mulch. Rather than dig small holes to plant in, they had turned over the whole plot. It was discouraging, but as Tim reminded me, we didn't expect it all to go according to plan, and it's good to have a comparison! And the other good and encouraging thing was that we didn't have to say a word to the farmer; Pastor Amon and others were now convinced and they were firmly asserting the need to mulch! We trekked back to the vehicle and were glad to make it home by dark.

Tim and Pastor Ammon in the distance, continuing on foot

The dry unmulched field
There is so much more I want to say about this agricultural project, which is a key foundation for further community development. It links together so many other things. The tree planting is moving ahead and I'll save that for another blog post. The fuel-efficient stoves project is also gearing up with clay pits dug and some clay about to be collected. We are so excited about about Mendriad and Hosea coming up from Magozi (Iringa) in a week to train the new Mwanza group! More about that in another blog too! And lastly the bee-keeping. I am off very early in the morning on a terribly long bus ride to Arusha, to attend a Bee-Keeping Conference until Friday. Exciting! But that too will have to be another blog post!
 
I wrote this blog earlier in the week ... and am happy to say Louisa is doing much better now! Thanks for your prayers!

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