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

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Avocado Oil and Grainsacks

There seems so many things I could write about, but my head just doesn't quite know where to start or how to make sense of it all! While there are plenty of good things at the moment to be encouraged about, there are also things that are discouraging, frustrating or sad. This isn't unusual, I know! Life is like this. And it usually all overlaps and intertwines and even in the sadness we find joy and in the discouragements we are encouraged!

Turn my Avacados into Oil

The old motto "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" has been my mantra with parachichi's this week! Parachichi is the Swahili word for avocado. With the mamas groups eager to get making their beeswax products, I have been working on how we supply our own oils. A good place to start was avocado oil ... we have lots of big avocados here and they benefit hugely from bee pollination. And so I tried extracting oil. With Joseph's help... pounding, crushing every part of the avocados, drying for days. And then with my homemade press of cloth and spoons, I squeezed and squeezed. For nothing. So then I started again, trying just the flesh. Pounding and drying. Days later, I squeezed again. I ended up with beautifully oiled and moisturized hands and an oily cloth, but absolutely none in the jug. Not a drop! Now designs are in place for Tim to make me an oil press and I need to find myself a whole heap of parachichi. There is something here about anointing my head with oil that surely my cup will overflow, but I'm too tired to formulate that right now. And sorry, I have no photos of this whole episode. I was too crushed!

Turn my Grain Sacks into Bee Hats

I carried the mantra on into protective beekeeper-wear made out of grain sacks. If you have ever thought about working with this material in your sewing or craft projects ... don't. It's horrible stuff. Scratchy and rough and it shreds by the second. I have given up on the first design for a combined hat/shirt. Amisadai refused to be my model any more based on the fact that she couldn't breathe in it without an air hole. I didn't want to cut the window for the face until I had the rest right. That never happened. She couldn't breathe. So not succeeding there, I tried again with a simpler design; a hat/shoulders design to go under overalls. And this, despite all the fraying, worked better. We have a Mamas Sewing Bee (yes, sorry, pun intended!) in Kayenze next week and I hope we can copy this and get enough made for the beekeepers there. And then another Sewing Bee in Malya the following week. That will be enough of sewing grain sacks for me.
First attempt

Second Attempt

Fuel-Efficient Stoves

I repeated the mantra as Tim and I sat in an empty church building for well over an hour and a half this morning, waiting with 18 mandaazi (donuts) for a stoves group to arrive. We were joined by one man, Daudi, who worked with his machete outside to find the kiln buried in the undergrowth. After much waiting (and another man arriving) we discovered that most of the stoves group has actually now left, with just three remaining. With the two men there, we had a lot of mandaazi to eat. But reflecting afterwards, we realised we can actually be encouraged. We are left with the three best workers from the group. We do hope that they will stay keen and interested, be willing to learn, willing to serve and able to train and teach. There is something deep and meaningful hidden in the undergrowth surrounding this buried kiln as well!
The buried kiln

Earrings and Necklaces!

On an encouraging note, the Upendo wa Mama group has been busy. With more beeswax activity planned for this Saturday, last Saturday they finished lots of cards and earrings and necklaces to sell. Jeni, the new young mother, joined us for the second time and there is another woman with albinism named Angelina, who would like to join as well. She had planned to come on Saturday, but was nervous and didn't come. I hope she joins us this week. Tim has been super helpful sorting out their bank account which has had lots of loose ends to tie up which involved numerous trips to the bank! Again sometimes with all the hoops to jump, all the waiting alone early on Saturday morning in a school playground for any mamas to arrive, it is tempting to think about giving up and going home. But at the end of the day, these women are so special and at the end of the day, it is they that encourage me.

Much about Mulch!

After a discouraging visit to some of the farmers in Kayenze we are working with, we were a little concerned about what we should do. Not only has the weather been extreme and damaging for the crops, also a couple of the farmers have not followed the principles well. It was frustrating and disappointing. But this week, Tim returned with Pastor Amon and was very encouraged by good preparation of farmers who had previously not been at all keen to try the new ideas! One of the most difficult things to teach is covering the soil with mulch, a difficult and time-consuming job! But look (in the photo) at what this farmer had prepared when Tim got there! Tim and Amon (yes, we are really missing Peter at the moment!) also met two potential participants, one of whom had observed the work at Amon's farm and started to implement some of the ideas himself already! Encouraging!
Look at all this mulch!
I have looked at some of the rather more light-hearted frustrations we have seen this week. But it isn't all light-hearted. There has been nothing light-hearted about Peter waiting all week in pain in that hospital for his leg to be set. (He has been told today that he will go for surgery on Friday.) There was nothing light-hearted about the young girl hit to the ground outside our gate at dinner-time yesterday as her phone was stolen from her. There is nothing light-hearted about waiting to go back to England to be with Tim's dad battling cancer.

And while the mantra to try and try again is a good one, there are better ones out there! Sometimes just realising we alone cannot succeed is the best place to be. Sometimes just receiving the anointing of oil on our heads as our cup overflows (abundantly more than out of my avocado) is a reminder that surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. And as for sewing clothes out of grain sacks ... we can be reminded that He has turned our mourning into dancing, taken off our sackcloth and clothed us with gladness!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Road Accident with a Boda Boda

It wasn't news we wanted to hear. On Friday evening we had a call from Peter, our agricultural trainer, saying he had been hit by a boda boda while jogging on the side of the road and had been taken to a military hospital with a broken leg.
Peter working in Kayenze
A boda boda is basically a motorbike carrying a load. You have no doubt seen or heard about the crazy loads that people carry on bikes here. Well, the photos may be good for a laugh, but in all seriousness, these overloaded, poorly driven bikes can be very dangerous. Many lose their lives every year here in motorbike accidents on the roads.

Peter had been hit by a motorbike pulling a trailer with a large load of logs which stuck out to the side and caught him on the leg. Thankfully the driver who hit Peter was extremely sorry and helpful and managed to get him somehow to the hospital. And thankfully other than the leg, there were no other injuries, but our immediate concern was getting his leg properly set. We have seen and heard too many stories of legs not properly set or operations gone wrong in poor hospital conditions.

Tim was able to visit him first thing Saturday morning with our good friend, Dr Bernard Makori (along with some bread, water and cash). It took a while to gain admission to the hospital... first of all it wasn't visiting hours at the time and then they had to wait for the changing of the guard, but one guy got it rather wrong and they had to start all over again! The hospital was basic (Peter was in the men's ward which had six beds, three of which were occupied), but Tim and Dr Bernard were satisfied that the hospital would be okay and the senior doctor (a Major in the army) turned out to be a good Christian friend of Dr Bernard's.  After looking at the x-ray, they were confident that the leg could be easily set and would heal well. But he would have to wait until the swelling went down before they would set the leg. Surgery was set for today.

The poor guy has been in a lot of pain since then. Tim went again today to visit, but was turned away at the door by a guard who said that no foreigners were allowed in. But he was with Pastor Amon, (not a foreigner!) who was given 3 minutes to take the bread they had to Peter and get back out. Such is life in a military hospital, I suppose.

The surgery scheduled for today to set his leg didn't happen. He waited all day, but will wait again tomorrow. Tanzanian time in this case is rather more painful.

But one thing is for sure, it makes one grateful for the NHS!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Mama Bees Beeswax

I was nicknamed Mama Nyuki ("Bee") last year, but now we have many Mama Nyuki's! It has been wonderful having Zoe Willford with us teaching women's groups how to make value-added products with beeswax. All the mamas are very excited about the potential business ventures and we thoroughly enjoyed our lessons with Zoe!
Finding a place to hang the hand-dipped beeswax candles to set! 

Malya Women's Group

Interestingly, this group of ten women from Malya village had named themselves the Upendo ("Love") Group and it was a privilege to be with them for the two days of the Beekeeping Seminar! We found a small spot in the shade of the very hot sun and Zoe taught how to clean and filter wax from the hive and how to make different types of beeswax candles (even using cut-up pipes as moulds!), beautiful body creams and soothing lip balm. I was on translating duty, learning a whole new Swahili vocabulary in the process! Zoe also taught how to make cheap and easy protective bee-suits for the beekeepers using flour sacks and mosquito nets.
Making bee-suits
Trying on for size!
At the end of the two days, they had elected a chairwoman for the group and when we return next month to continue the work, they will elect a treasurer and secretary and begin the process of starting a Village Savings and Loans Group. They will be able to buy the beeswax from the Beekeepers Group and use it to make products to sell for a good profit that we pray will greatly benefit them and their families.
The Upendo Mamas, Malya

Upendo wa Mama Group

The Upendo wa Mama Group (Mamas with Albinism or children with albinism) has been busy recently! The group made a good batch of the cards that Megan taught them how to make last month. They then took these along with more necklaces and earrings to sell in Dar es Salaam last week. They had the great opportunity to go as a group to a Business Entrepreneurship Seminar for Women with Albinism or with children with Albinism. They thoroughly enjoyed the conference and were also able to make some money selling their products!

We are also pleased to welcome a new member to the group! Jane has two young children and has been through an horrific time, losing her husband, being rejected by family and then needing to escape and hide after attempts were made to kill her young child. We pray that she could find the healing and the help that she needs.

Last Wednesday afternoon, we met again in Mama Penina's school classroom and Zoe taught all the women how to make the beautiful beeswax products! Again, everyone thoroughly enjoyed getting involved and were amazed and thrilled with their results!
Making candles

Zoe in action!
It is time-consuming work, but the end result is some really lovely natural products. For the creams and lip balms, we are able to use locally sourced natural oils like coconut and almond oil and we are working on extracting avacado oil to use as well. So watch this space to see when these bee-utiful products hit the market!
Here are few more photos ... just because it was all so beautiful!
Dipping candles
Everyone was so proud of their accomplishments! 

Making Body Cream

The body cream was very popular
(this poor child didn't seem so impressed with the smothering!)
Loving the Lip Balm!
Melting the wax

Finished Products! Not bad for a first time!
 Click here to go to Part 1 on the Bee Project


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Beekeeping Off to a Buzzing Start

It's been a busy hive of activity around here! With Julian and Zoe Willford with us from the UK (Bees Abroad) we have launched the Beekeeping Project! If it's possible, Julian is even more excited about bees than me! And Zoe is for real all the things I try or want to be: a maker of candles and beeswax products, cheese and sausages; she knows all about aloe vera and gardening... and she kept pigs! They have been fantastic here!

Julian and Zoe had an incredibly wet introduction to Mwanza, caught in a torrential downpour in town on their first day while looking for innovative things to use for candle moulds and obscure items like Borax. They then had the off-road introduction to our life of getting to villages as the following day we headed out for four days in Malya and it was fun and games trying to pass the truck stuck in the mud on the terrible road! Julian, with all his years of farming on Exmoor, told Tim exactly what to do and we successfully made the off-road diversion!

Looking for a way out!

Oh dear!


We were warmly welcomed to Malya by Pastor Kayuli and Mama Shukuru who settled us in a basic guesthouse and kept us well supplied with good food! We had 17 beekeeper attendees (about three of whom already had bees in local hives). Tim began by introducing the project in the context of God's promised land: God's desire to take his people to a land flowing with milk and honey. The names of both villages we are working in suggested great abundance but something has been lost and Malya in particular has become a centre of witchcraft. We hope that God will use this bee project as a means of bringing His transformation to these communities! Tim also used the life of bees to talk about the importance of teamwork as we begin to work together and used the bee as an analogy for the way that Jesus laid down his life for the sake of His people ("colony") and how we are called to do the same.  And then while Julian taught the group "An Introduction to Beekeeping," inside (with Peter and Tim translating), Zoe and I went outside to find a spot in the shade with the ten women from the village Mamas' Group. Outside with our three-stone fire melting wax, we learned how to make value-added products using beeswax. But I'll blog more about this in Part 2 tomorrow!
Mama Shukuru arrives at the seminar with the first group hive
We visited one member of our group who keeps bees in a tire in his tree!
While we were in Malya, we were able to visit the Seed Research Centre, a brilliant location for hives with the wonderful variety of trees planted there. On the final day of the seminar, we baited our first group hive with wax and placed it up on the church land which will also be the site of the future tree planting project. And we enjoyed our time with the church there on Sunday morning, as Julian preached and gave Bibles to the small group who had just been baptised the previous day.
The first hive hung in Malya!

The Malya Beekeepers and Mamas Groups


The following weekend, with Amisadai and Louisa joining us, we were in Kayenze to train a group of 22 new beekeepers. We were less confident about this project site! With no beekeepers in the area, and no hives colonised and even no bees spotted as we took Julian for a walk around the area, I confess I was starting to doubt the plan! And unfortunately when we arrived, we saw that the carpenter had for a second time ignored instructions about the measurements of the top bars for the hive. The hive, which we had hoped to bait at the beginning of the seminar and place at an apiary site, was unusable. But thankfully, the carpenter made amends and was able to fix the hive in the nick of time in order for us to hang it in Alfonse's shamba at the end of the final day!
Amisadai and Louisa help to teach about protective gear
Louisa leads some singing at the seminar
The group takes the hive to the new apiary
To our great delight, when we went to visit the hive we placed in the mango tree in Samson's shamba back in November (see "Through Hives and High Water"), we saw that bees had colonised it! Although Julian despaired at the ridiculous mess made tying the hive in the tree at such a height, it was relief and delight to see the bees buzzing in and out!
So in both Malya and Kayenze, groups have now been officially formed, with chairpersons, secretaries and treasurers elected! It was fantastic having Julian and Zoe to do the training, and it was all a lot of fun enjoyed by all ... right down to the Waggle Dancing! We will be having monthly meetings with both Beekeeper Groups in which we will study God's Word, discuss a chapter of our Beekeeping Manual, discuss progress and any problems and look forward together to harvesting a lot of honey! The Malya Group will be able to sell wax to the Mamas Group and the Kayenze group will be able to sell their wax to the Upendo wa Mama Group in town. And pooling resources, we are looking forward to the potential in honey sales for both groups! Watch this space for when we hit the market!
Kayenze Beekeepers Group


In between seminars, we had a few days to meet with a few beekeepers, do a mamas group beeswax workshop and in between that and keeping home and school life ticking along, we also made a trip to the church planting school and demonstration farm in Kisesa. We had placed a poorly made hive there months ago without any real confidence in bees colonising it yet. It fell out of the tree twice in the high wind and rains... which did nothing to raise our hopes! We arrived, just two weeks after putting the thing back in the tree again (Joseph this time secured it tightly and high up with knots of tangled rope, which again caused rather great distress to Julian!). To our amazement, bees had colonised the hive and already done an incredible amount of work! We could be harvesting honey there in three or four months!
Amazing progress in the Kisesa hive!


I have to say that I am rather gutted that the bee story at home is not so exciting! We were confidently fully expecting a great harvest and with Julian prepared a "bottling zone" in the house and bucket extractor and lots of jars. We (Julian, Peter, Joseph and I) donned our gear and trekked excitedly down to the hives. But all the honey was gone. With all the heavy rains, the bees have been unable to go out and so had made themselves comfortable inside and scoffed the lot. Big shame. But on the bright side, if they hadn't had all that honey, they likely would not have survived. So we are thankful that the hives are still strong and hopeful that with rains ending, they will be building up their stores and we might harvest in May.
Starting work on cutting the legs off the hive and rehanging at a better height
So now, we have eight hives up in four apiary locations! Four of these are already colonised! Two more hives will be going up in Kayenze and Malya in a couple of weeks. And within a couple of months we should have all 31 hives up and are praying for them all to be colonised! Let's get Waggle Dancing!

Click here to go to Part 2 on Mamas and Beeswax!