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

Saturday, 31 October 2015

What's the Harm in Witchcraft?

A year ago, on last Halloween, I posted on the gruesome reality of witchcraft in Tanzania. But, it's not just for Halloween here. Since my post last year, more people with albinism have been attacked or killed for their body parts to bring "good luck." More elderly women have been murdered for their red eyes, being blamed for deaths or crop failures. The Legal and Human Rights Centre, a civil society organisation in Tanzania, estimated there are as many as 500 elderly murders a year. And with this year's national election, despite claims of "banning witchcraft," it seems the witchdoctors have continued to play a role in the "luck" of politics. 

CBN4 reported that during the election this month, some politicians continued to seek out the witchdoctors. Before the election, one witchdoctor, "Doctor" Manyaunyau (which effectively translates as "meow") said “the big candidates who are running for parliamentary seats or for president send me their assistants: with his or her assistant, I plan an appointment to meet the famous politician in a hidden place. Right now, we can’t be separated, I’m still communicating with them, until the end of the election."

Manyaunyau lives in a house given as gift to him by a re-elected government minister. He is called "Meow" because he decapitates cats (either by chewing off or chopping off their heads) so their blood can be drunk in order to bring "good luck." He has a website, and I clicked on it to reference in this blog, but felt physically sick just with a 2 second glance and immediately closed it down. Sickening.
Image result for halloween cat image

It is hidden and dark. But it is subversive and prevalent. It is powerful and it is controlling. Mathias Chikawe, Home Affairs minister is reported to have said, “Law by itself cannot stop it, and even our warnings to the public, to the leaders, to business communities, will not stop it either.” And I agree. The power of witchcraft cannot be undone by human laws or human effort.  

Tanzania has now elected a new president, John Pombe Magufuli. The CCM party continues to hold power. It was the closest, most tense election in the history of the country. And yes, it has been a strange week for us staying glued to home in Mwanza, although full of fun and political pontificating with other housebound friends! The result was announced amidst much doubt and mistrust. It was announced as the Zanzibar vote (for which the opposition claimed victory) was annulled and tensions were rising throughout the island. The EU expressed their concerns of a lack of transparency of the whole election and many cried out against foul play. The result was contested by the opposition, but all this was quickly dismissed. Yet, through it all, the peaceful nature of Tanzanians held strong and despite some rather loud tear gas bombs, peace won over violence. 
CCM celebrating Magufuli's victory
While thankful for the apparent current peace, I am sickened by all that brews under the surface. I know I don't understand the full picture, nor do I know or see the half of it. But wherever there is evil that is hidden, which is disguised, or hidden in shrouds of darkness, it will bring harm and eat away at peace. Witchcraft, wherever it is and in whatever form, will bring harm and eat away at peace.

My prayer is that the new leaders of this nation will come into the light; that laws and government could be built on and formed out of truth; that justice could prevail and ultimately true peace.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Rainy Day Soup during Election Weekend

With Mwanza anticipating the arrival of President Kikwete and presidential candidate, John Magufuli, I confidently planned to make soup. And while it didn't start out as rainy day soup, that is what it became.

Yes! You read that! Rainy Day. It was real rain. We have been praying for rain, waiting for rain. And after all the planting we did yesterday, it was a real answer to prayer (but I'll get to that in a bit).

The political rallies and events were to take place not far from our house, and I thought the arrival of these very important figures would at least give us a day of power and I could use my blender. But before the washing machine could finish, the power was cut yet again. We'd settle for lumpy soup. And then with the lights all out, it suddenly became very, very dark. And then the rain began. The lumpy soup became lumpy rainy day soup. At this point it seems like a very good thing. Comforting hot soup for a cold, rainy day. But the rain came harder. And harder. It got so dark, I couldn't see what was going in the soup anyway. And then the rainy day, lumpy soup became rainy day, lumpy, watery soup as rain started to come through the ceiling. I shriek down to Tim "the roof is leaking!" He shouts back, "Stop freaking out!" and carries on working. "But it's raining in my kitchen!" But it isn't yet coming up in floods in Tim's office, so why worry yet?

Now to look at the bright side of all this rain ... it watered a lot of yesterday's hard work! Yesterday, we went with Peter and Joseph to Kayenze to finally begin planting for the Conservation Agriculture project! Remembering that one step forward and two steps back isn't failure, it's just the Cha-Cha, I'll say it's been a good dance. Despite being without most of the group, with no measuring sticks prepared and no beans brought, we danced forward with the guys we had, the seeds we had, in the fields we were in.

Tim plants a row of canavalia beans, intercropping between the maize
There was a bit of a bee cha-cha in here too. When we arrived at Amon's farm, I couldn't see the beehive I had given him back in March when we left. Amon has a mango tree that apparently bees swarm to every year, so we had talked about putting the hive in this tree. I had fully expected there to be bees here by now. But the hive wasn't there and when I asked where it was, he replied matter-of-factly that it was in his house. Inside his house! I was stunned. I was even more stunned, because the other week I asked Amon if there were any bees in his hive yet, and he had just replied, "No, not yet!" While I was incredulously spluttering inwardly, Tim and Peter were laughing. No, there wouldn't be any bees yet. Cha-Cha.

But it was good. Good to see Amos and Alfonce learning the conservation agriculture techniques well, good to be all working hard together. Good to see the job done when our limbs were tired, our bodies were sweaty and our skin sunburned (mine anyway!).
Adding mulch beside the rows of lablab beans

Taking a sugar cane break!

Stopping for chai and a huge shared plate of mashed beans and yams
So the up-side of all that rain today was that all those precious seeds were watered! The down-side may have been my kitchen ceiling and the erosion of our road, but the up-side was that the crowds were staying out of the rain rather than fanning political frenzies on the streets. And that made school pick-up much easier.

Please do continue to pray for peace and safety here in Tanzania over this weekend and into next week as we wait for the results. Today, news of another person with albinism attacked was a tragic reality near Dar es Salaam and we continue to pray for the safety of others with albinism throughout the nation. Here in Mwanza, there is definitely an increasing amount of uncertainty and fear for everyone. We trust it will amount to nothing more than a few skirmishes in town, but the threats and rumours are rampant and there is level of fear that is very uncommon for Tanzania.  We read about people planning to steal cows on the Saturday night before the election to prevent people from voting. We hear about threats of young people who want to hit the polls early and then try to prevent the elderly from voting. We hear about plans to take advantage of the volatile situation and police distraction to commit crimes unrelated to the election. Mwanza is predominantly an opposition party city people talk about what will happen if CCM are re-elected and foul play is suspected. But all of this is still just "talk", and we hope and pray that is all it remains.

And all that said, we are now well prepared sitting tight at home and actually really looking forward to a quiet (metaphorically speaking as it is pretty noisy around here) week at home together. We have flour, Blue Band and sugar, rice and beans stocked up; we've had the "What to do in an emergency" talks, we have fuel in the car, phones topped up and are ready for lazy starts, games, friends and baking. And maybe some more rainy day soup, preferably without the extra lumps and rainwater!

Love this!
A little maize plant springs up from the dry plant we did in Kisesa two weeks ago!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

What Will You Wear to the Polls?

What are you wearing to vote? This was the question much discussed by all the Mamas at the meeting in the garden this afternoon, a meeting to plan a wedding send-off for Mary. Mary is the eldest daughter in the family that lives on the property with us here. (Incidentally, Mary is marrying our friend from MICC who has been doing carpentry work for us.) While the meeting was to plan the party, it seemed to me it was rather a party in itself, with over twenty women and dishes and dishes of food! And after my full plate of rice and stewed goat earlier for lunch in Kayenze, I confess to struggling a little! But back to the question ...

Mamas tucking in at the planning meeting!
The question was a serious one. And it was one that Pastor Amon also talked about for quite some time in the morning church service in Kayenze. With tensions running high in this election, he advised everyone to wear very neutral clothes to the polls on Sunday. To be safe, people are advised not to wear anything with the colours of either political party. This means no CCM green or yellow. This means no Chadema red, white or blue. So the ladies were looking critically at their clothes, discussing what was a "safe" outfit.

I hope I remember this conversation the next time I start to complain that I don't know what to wear... this puts female "wardrobe woes" into stark perspective.

These colours are "out" ...

Chadema Colours
CCM Colours
I asked some of the mamas if they were afraid to vote in this election. Some said no. Some said "Mungu atasaidia." (God will help us.) All said they were far more afraid about the day the results are announced. But they are all planning to go to vote very early in the morning on Sunday. Before the crowds, or so they hope. All are praying for safety and peace.

Our plan has been to avoid crowds and rallies. But late the previous afternoon, my Upendo wa Mama group turned out to be in the midst of a CCM rally. Rather than take one of the crazy daladalas home (most of them were driving recklessly around with people hanging out waving flags and scarfs and blowing horns), Tim came to pick me up and we went on to collect the girls from friends. We didn't even realise until afterwards that CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli, was at the centre of all the commotion. We were only 10 minutes from home, but the chaotic crowds were so thick and the traffic so jammed, we were not moving anywhere. We tried to divert through town, but that was even worse. We ended up taking a huge detour out of town and coming back in from another direction. We were very thankful to arrive safely home over an hour later. But that experience definitely convinced us to stay well clear of crowds this week and the week following the election.

As it's election day in Canada, we'll be thinking and praying for you... and wondering what you are wearing to the polls! Here, we will be sure to plan our wardrobes sensibly this week.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Election Fever in Tanzania

Today, we got caught in the middle of election fever during a quiet cup of coffee after errands in town. As the crowds gathered outside and police and men in black gathered around us inside, we realised the Presidential hopeful had been sleeping upstairs and was about to depart. The noise was unbelievable (see the video clips below!) The crowds were tightly packed on the streets and highly excited, but peaceful. Tim and I waited by the red carpet, and as Lowassa came out, I managed a "Shikamoo" and shook his hand. So, have I shaken hands with the next president of Tanzania?

Tim with Edward Lowassa (right)

Huge crowds gather around Gold Crest Hotel

Lowassa Comes to Mwanza from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

Lowassa Supporters in Mwanza from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.
(The crowds are shouting "Rais" which is Swahili for "president")

Election fever is rising here in Mwanza as October 25th approaches! Flags are flying the colours, larger-than-life photos are in your face at every turn and deafening music and chanting voices blare out from speakers balancing with bodies on the back of pick-ups. People are parading with piki-piki cavalcades (motorbikes) and the streets are busier and crazier than ever.

Driving through Mwanza
This 2015 election is a close contest, highly competitive and controversial. It is also a significant political event not just for Tanzania, but also for the watching world.
For the first time since Tanzania gained its independence from Britain over fifty years ago, there is a real possibility that the ruling party which has operated in essentially a one-party system could be ousted by another party. So for the first time in Tanzanian history there are two candidates with a realistic chance of winning.

So who’s up for election? The dominant ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) (Party of the Revolution) has nominated John Magufuli to run, replacing the incumbent president, Jakaya Kikwete, a Muslim who has served 2 five-year terms. Magufuli was an unexpected choice which came about because an expected front-runner, Edward Lowassa, was side-lined in the nominations. Lowassa subsequently defected to the opposition party, Chadema (Party of Democracy and Development). So now the charismatic and popular Lowassa, who also happens to have been an ex-Prime Minister who left in scandal, labelled by some as one of the most corrupt figures in Tanzanian society and others as a scapegoat, runs against Magufuli. Lowassa has unified a confederation (Ukawa) of opposition parties, which has increased his chances of gaining in the race.
And what are they saying? Magufuli, in an effort to look clean and able in comparison to the dirt attached to his opponent and the reputation of his own party, emphasizes he is serious about work and demonstrates his fitness to lead with public press-ups! He says he will address issues of poverty, unemployment, security and corruption. Lowassa, as a popular man for the masses, emphasizes better education for all and promises to revamp Tanzania’s economy and infrastructure. But both candidates seem to be promising what voters want to hear… water, roads, electricity... and I’m not sure either is very convincing.

Since its independence in 1961, Tanzania has been one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. Tanzanians often view themselves as a Tanzanian first and of their tribe second which has contributed to the peaceful nature of the country where different tribes and religions live together in harmony.
But the controversy surrounding this election has led some to feel this peace is threatened. The tight, close race and perception of rigging outcomes (particularly accusations against CCM for replacing the Director of Elections with an easily manipulated novice chief, and consistently obstructing the opposition) has sparked concerns about post-election violence. There was a report last week about the kidnapping and attack of a Chadema MP candidate and we have heard of several occasions in Mwanza where rallies have turned riotous, resulting in a few deaths. Some of the parties are reported to have organized militias which could be mobilized to stir up trouble after the count. Universities and schools are closing and this adds to the fear that young radicals will be looking for trouble on the streets, especially if they feel the count is corrupt. For this reason, a good number of expats are leaving the country for the election, more particularly, for the results announcement 3-4 days following the voting. Embassies are advising people not to travel during this time and to avoid crowds and rallies. We will be lying low at home, avoiding town while being well stocked up on supplies and fuel.

Yet it seems that although most Tanzanians desperately do want change, the majority of Tanzanians value peace too highly to resort to the kind of violence seen elsewhere in African nations. And indeed when Lowassa came to Mwanza on Monday, crowds reported to be as many as 50 000 gathered on the field not far from our house and, from what we have heard, all was peaceful.
We pray and trust that this election will as peaceful as it is interesting. We have an unexpected CCM candidate trying to distance himself from the name of his increasingly unpopular party. And we have a charismatic, wealthy politician trying to make a name for the Chadema party despite the fact that just a few weeks ago he represented the other party. After over fifty years of a single-party government, one that has held a monopoly on power for so long, Tanzanians seem ready for change. Although Lowassa (who appears to be playing the parties for his own gain) may not be the greatest leader for change, if he did manage to win, it would be an amazing demonstration to the watching world of a successful transition of power from one party to another. A rare event in African politics!

Kikwete and Magufuli

I have not included in this post the danger that is posed to people with albinism during the election period. Body parts of people with albinism are in demand for good luck charms and during this electoral period at least 4 have been killed. Pray for the peace and safety of people with albinism as the election draws closer.

This is simply my own interpretation, gleaned from what I have heard in conversation and read during the complicated and rather convoluted build-up to this election! Please post your comments to add or correct anything!


Monday, 12 October 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! This weekend has been Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and also this little part of Tanzania! A time to give thanks for the harvest and all the many blessings we have received!

Although we are far from harvesting here, (we are waiting for the rains to begin planting), there is no better time to stop and give thanks!

I am thankful for our new gas oven! We bought it on Thursday from friends moving from Mwanza. It has revolutionised my life! No more cooking everything over the single burner on the floor! It now takes about a third of the time to cook dinner as I can cook simultaneously on up to four burners and even use a grill or an oven if I so desire! Amazing! No more half-cooked bread or muffins started when I optimistically believed power would stay on! You may have read about the major power problems here a the moment. It all seems to come down to a serious lack of rain, technical problems with a new system and possible political games (read the news here). So with power coming on usually for a few hours in the middle of the night last week, there is no better time for my gas stove! And best of all, we could have our Canadian friends over for a real Thanksgiving Dinner last night! Roast chicken, stuffing, squash, pumpkin pie, butter tarts, maple cookies...! Truly very thankful!
Thanksgiving together in action
(and notice that thing top-centre of the photo ... yes, we even had electricity!!!) 

Pumpkin pie, Maple cookies and Canadian Butter Tarts
Boiling water AND cooking dinner at the SAME time!
I am thankful for our water tank! With the constant power cuts, the mains water pumps are often not working. This is a real problem for many people. But I am so thankful for our large tank which keeps us supplied with water.

I am thankful for kitchen drawers! At the weekend, a new drawer unit was fixed in the kitchen, after the previous drawers fell through a few weeks ago in a termite heap! In the midst of fundi fixing going a bit pear-shaped rather late on a Saturday night, I remind myself that I am thankful for a place to keep knives, spoons, measures, ladles... all organized and accessible! Small things can be big blessings!
Removing the old drawers
I am thankful for God's provision! Early the other morning, when the power went out yet again, I didn't feel so thankful. I cried out as I prepared breakfast, "Oh no! My joy is lost!" But we sat down to eat breakfast together and I asked that we all say what we are thankful for. Food to eat was top of the list at the time! And yes, joy is found! We have all we need and with a new jar of jam and baked banana bread, so much more!

I am thankful for the opportunity to live and work here in Tanzania! Yes, sometimes if feels so hard to be away from family. Missing friends and special occasions and feeling far away. Sometimes we miss the familiar things of "the other home" and get frustrated with all that is different here. But often it's through these lenses we appreciate what we do have here so much more! How thankful we are for the amazing friends we have have here. Thankful for the support we receive to live and work here. Thankful to be learning new things all the time and doing the interesting variety of things we do! Thankful to see God at work in different ways in different people and places! 
Thankful to be with this precious girl, Maria
and her little sister, Grace on Saturday
I am thankful for our family! Louisa prayed this week, "Thank you God, for putting me in this family," and I am so thankful He did! Celebrating our anniversary recently (with two cards arriving late this week!), I am so thankful for the wonderful husband I have, for the life we have together and the two fantastic, beautiful girls who share the adventure with us!

Sometimes it seems that appreciating what we have, what we are thankful for, comes that much more strongly through the lenses of what we have missed or lost, or what we have seen others go without. I'm humbled and amazed at how thankful some people can be in the midst of very difficult circumstances. I'm thankful for eternal lenses. Thanksgiving is a perspective and it's a decision.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Coming Out of Dry, Hard Ground ...

"This year, the rains will be early and they will be heavy!" So we were told. And so we were prepared. Group formed, teaching done, seeds ready, fields mulched. But still we are waiting for rain! We have had a little rain here in the city, but the ground in both Kayenze and Kisesa remains dry and hard.

I am always amazed at what can come out of dry, hard ground. Seemingly against the odds, the seedlings planted in Kisesa as we left in March are still alive. They have had very little rain in that time and I would not have been surprised to see them all dead. But hanging on to life, although small, they are surviving! The tree seedlings we planted in November are also growing. And as they hang on to life, as they grow and spread their roots, they are in their own small way, slowly transforming the situation there. There is something encouraging for all of us demonstrated here!
A Neem tree planted last year
Seedlings planted a few months ago
And as for the pigeon peas ... again despite the lack of water, they have more than survived! They too are transforming the soil with their rich roots and providing a harvest to eat and replant.
The pigeon peas
We went today with Joseph and Peter to Kisesa to plant with the students at the Church Planting School. (Tim and Esther earlier gave two-days classroom training on conservation agriculture.) The students have now completed their four months of courses and are ready to return to their respective homes. Therefore rain or no rain, it was our last opportunity to do the practical teaching ... planting.

Beans would have to wait for the rain. But maize can be "dry-planted" whereby the seed waits in the dry ground for the rain to come. This is something we have never tried, and neither had any of the students! But despite the doubts, together after morning uji (runny porridge), we went ahead and just planted a few rows for teaching purposes and also to see how it works!
Some classroom review before planting
Working together, the rows were measured, the small holes dug. The compost was added and the seeds were planted two by two. And then all was re-covered with mulch to wait ... wait for the rains. There is no water here. Just fetching water to drink is a time-consuming and difficult task.

Measuring the rows and spacing

Women get busy planting seeds

Actively watching!
As we finished, we gathered to pray. To pray for the rain, to pray for the harvest. It is at times like this, we realise how fragile and dependent we are. We cannot make it rain. We cannot make a seed sprout or a shoot bear fruit. But we know our Creator, the Giver of Life.
Praying for the rains and harvest
We hope that these students as they go on to start churches, will work with their communities to help them practically as well as spiritually. That the seeds sown would reap multiple harvests and communities would see transformation. If even one pastor of all these 28 students grasps what we are teaching, it will all be worthwhile. We are ready to go and support; another group of 15 from his or her village could be trained!
Taking notes on the field
And meanwhile at Kisesa, our hope is to have a vibrant "Demonstration Shamba" where all the students who pass through, as well as the local villagers, will see and learn something rather transformational! Here, in this dry and barren land, which receives very little rainfall per year, there will be trees of different varieties, there will be enriched, good soil bearing a variety of crops. There will be piles of compost, hives of bees, fuel-efficient stoves to cook fresh bread (we had several requests for bread-making lessons again today!) and food from a healthy kitchen garden. There will be water. There will be life!

Yes, this could take years ... with many failures on the way! But years of continual thankfulness for everything that springs miraculously from that which once was dry and hard!
Top-Bar Hive is hung

Talking to Pastor Baraka about the upcoming bee project!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Walking Together: Sugar and Rice and a Landcruiser Search

Four bags of sugar, a bag of rice and a basket of money. We are so grateful to be working together with the church in Kayenze! This very small but hugely missionally-minded group had a "Missions Service" last Sunday. And out of what they had, this group of maybe 18 people, gave. And then they gave to us.

It was wonderful because we realised then that we were together! So often people look to us as "outsiders" to provide or give. Often we have received a gift as a thank you for what we have done or given. But as they gave us these gifts, Pastor Amon acknowledged our need and our place with them. He appreciated and shared the fact that the work we are doing, we cannot do alone. Everything we have and do comes from the giving of others. It comes from people in other countries faithfully supporting us each month. It comes from the help we get from people here in Tanzania. We are doing this work together! He encouraged the church to support us in our work; as well as practically helping us, also financially and sacrificially supporting us. Yes, it was humbling to receive such a gift. But beautiful.

Upendo wa Mama (Albinism Mamas Group)
I am also so grateful to be walking together with a group of women who support one another in a humbling and beautiful way! I'm so glad to be back with the mamas again! Last week, after several failed attempts to get together, we finally met on Wednesday and then again on Saturday in that Primary School classroom. I had already met twice with one of the Mamas, but one of those times is another story...

Mama Mary and I met on Monday to try and find one of the mamas, who no one had seen or been able to reach by phone for some time.

It was one of those unfortunately now familiar landcrusier adventures, as Mary directed me where she didn't really know. We ended up on a crazy dirt "road" full of the biggest potholes (which made the "road" disappear) and eventually came out at a primary school where she told me to turn in. I wasn't sure that there was a road out, but we continued ... weaving through the classroom buildings, then through the middle of a football game on the school field until we really could go no further! We continued on foot, but Mary could not remember where our friend's house was. After much asking around, including a visit to the local official, I was starting to get concerned. I knew that the woman's husband had left her and that she had fought attempts made on her girls' lives. I was concerned for her safety and whereabouts.

After fruitlessly searching in the heat, Mary and I discovered that we were looking around the wrong school! So we took directions to another school, which Mary was convinced was near the home we were looking for. I began to worry about how we were going to find our way back home as we travelled on small dirt roads and took turns this way and that, following doubtful directions from people along the way. But to my great relief, two hours after setting out with Mary, we arrived at Mama's house! To find she was out! But we saw her two young daughters (both with albinism) and they said their Mama was fine. We sat with them awhile. We are thankful Mama is physically okay and are hoping we will meet with her soon and have an opportunity to talk.

While I was driving all these roads with Mary, we had plenty of time to chat. It was difficult to hear about her struggles. Her little girl (with albinism) is struggling with her eyesight getting worse and finding it difficult at school. Mary is hoping to get her into Lakeview School, but the fees are high and the sponsorship places are limited with so many children wanting to get in. On her own, she is trying to raise school fees for her other children as well. We talked about the Upendo wa Mama group and how working together the group could help one another, and it was exciting on Wednesday to meet together and talk a plan through into action.

I was thinking about how the profits from the group (small weekly contributions from the group and necklace sales) could be used to help Mary get a loan to pay her school fees. But as the group talked about it at a special meeting on Wednesday, I saw that all the mamas wanted loans. I knew how much Mary needed and knew there was only just enough for that. But she was so immediately willing to share that amount between them all. And they didn't just divide it equally between them. They discussed their needs and some agreed to take less so that others could have more. They also all agreed to hold back some savings for an oven for the benefit of the whole group later on. It was beautiful to see. And the Savings and Loans scheme is now in place and in action, helping these mamas support their families!

That we could all be so willing to acknowledge others needs before our own. To be willing to give and able to receive. That we could all then truly be in relationship, walking "together."
Mama makes some cards with the group this Saturday
Dora and Louisa have fun playing school while the mamas work

Making Christmas cards
*Names in this post have been changed to protect identities

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Bees and Wedded Bliss

It's been a while since I've done a Bee Post! But it's time now! And I'm sure this post will be far more popular than my gripping last post on bio-fertilizer. Yep.

I was so delighted (yes, maybe a little over-excited!) when we arrived back home to see that bees had taken up residency in my two hives at the bottom of the garden, but I was a little nervous to investigate much further. I wasn't sure what I was looking for in there and wasn't sure how to go about looking even if I knew what I was looking for. Things seemed great from the outside and I was content to think (albeit naively) that it was just as great on the inside!
Our friend, Innocent (a beekeeper in Kigoma) came over one evening this week and together, in wellies, he and I made our way in the dark, down to the hives. We had a torch and a long piece of wire. Innocent ever so slowly and very gently poked the wire through the holes in the hive to determine the honeycomb situation inside.

I was relieved we didn't have to take the hive out of the tree and remove the roof and top bars. We didn't need my smoker or even my hat. I admit I was a bit disappointed not to wear my hat, but when Innocent laughed at my suggestion to put it on, I thought I should just act cool and carry on. But even without my beekeeper hat, I immediately caught Innocent's contagious excitement as he exclaimed in amazement at the number of bees and the activity going on! And then again when we checked the second hive! Awesome!

Innocent poking carefully in the hive (I was chief torch-bearer)
We trekked happily back up to the house where Tim was sitting comfortably in the candlelight and told him all about it.  Hives bursting with bees, and buckets full of honey and plenty of beeswax for industrious mamas on the way! I am geared up with anticipation for harvesting the honey in possibly just six weeks! And all on track for our bee projects starting in villages in February! Buzzing with excitement! Tim managed to show five minutes worth of enthusiasm, but then I could tell there was only so much bee passion he could take. He tried to tell me he was excited on the inside, but I could tell it was time to stop buzzing out loud!

The other buzz of excitement this week was celebrating our fourteenth wedding anniversary! I am so thankful for my wonderful husband and our years of adventure spread across our three continents! He treated me to a lovely lunch out at Hotel Tilapia, with a long, lingering proper coffee. Bliss.
Coffee with a view!

Coconut Paneer, Honey shredded Beef, Rice and Naan
And later on, as darkness fell, we enjoyed a romantic candlelit evening, courtesy of TANESCO, the electricity company! But it crossed my mind to wonder if we would ever make the effort to do this candlelight thing on purpose! It seems rather odd to me now that people would light a candle when they have electricity!

This week has been a bit of write-off for power! We had none on Monday but some in the evening and then in the day on Tuesday. But then aside from a few hours in the middle of the night we didn't get any again until Thursday at 10pm. I wondered what to do! Should I start doing laundry, or bake some cookies and do some ironing? In the end, I just happily had a hot shower and went to bed. Not very industrious, but what were my priorities? It was a shaky off-on-off-on start on Friday (not good for cake-making) and then off again Friday night and Saturday and still off now on Saturday evening! Word has it that all will be well on October 10th. But I'm not holding my breath!

And as I bring this post to a close, this week Joseph built a shelter for the small seedling nursery we are starting here at home. We planted moringa, jatropha and a few other seeds and settled them safely in their banda. We will add a variety of trees to our small collection and with Bahati Daudi's nursery, put all to good use in the agricultural and tree planting work. So wonderful to watch things grow... in more ways than one!
The Seedling Banda

Some previous bee posts!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Homemade Bio-Fertilizer

Once again, this week there seems to be far too much to write about! But I will keep this blog post short and entirely focussed on one thing ... bio-fertilizer.

I'm sure I just lost a bunch of you! But for those of you still interested, follow along!

Last week, with the able help of Joseph, we made our own bio-fertilizer which we can teach other farmers in the agricultural project how to make and use for their crops. The bio-fertilizer can be used to provide bigger and better harvests. As it is made from natural food products, it is a far better alternative to chemical fertilizer and not to mention a lot cheaper and easier to get hold of!

So, step one involved pounding the skins and flesh of a pineapple with a pestle and mortar. This we then soaked in water to soften ... and then pounded again.

Pounding the Pineapple
Then we pounded a kilogram of dried fish into powder. This was hard work and Joseph ended up doing this on the verandah with a large stone!
Dagaa (small dried fish)
Pounding the Dagaa

Then we heated a large hunk of solid molasses sugar to liquefy it. This was harder than anticipated because boiling caramelised it and any time off the heat solidified it again! But we got there in the end and mixed it in a bucket with the pounded pineapple, powdered fish and some extra water.

Hard molasses

Mixing the strange and smelly concoction!
It stank! We mixed some more. We put the lid on and labelled the bucket with the date. Since that day, every day for seven days I faithfully stirred the fermenting mixture. Now it really stinks! On day 7, we stopped stirring and are now leaving it until day 14 to stir again. And then we will stir again on day 21 when it will be ready to be poured into glass containers to store until we dilute it to use in the field.
Job done!
And as a post-script to this post, we also made some homemade natural pesticide to deal with some of the pests in the crops. An awful concoction of chili peppers, garlic, onions, baking powder, soap pieces and ash mixed with water. This also (if it proves successful), we can teach the farmers in the project how to make and use for their benefit! It's easy and it's cheap and soon we'll see if it works! Has anyone else tried this? Or find it as interesting as I do?!