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

Monday, 12 September 2016

Seasons. Preparing and Growing


A new school year begins. A new "season." We missed joining the FB crowd last week with those "back-to-school-by-the-front-door" photos, but both girls are excited to be a year up with new teachers! Growing up.

Routine resumes. Or so they say. To be honest I'm not sure I really know what routine is... I think it is possibly over-rated. Our first week back to school, which was a quite a busy week, was thrown out of routine on the very first day when school was cancelled due to nationally planned political protests and rioting. Which didn't happen. We enjoyed the day off anyway. Planned schedules (not such a great idea here) were thrown with changing meetings and Bible college timetables. And a planned meal failed to materialise, so fried eggs for dinner it was. Then there was an unexpected earthquake; that didn't actually throw our routine here, but it did make one pause for sober thought and prayer. You can't actually prepare for everything.

It is the end of "summer" (yes, for lack of knowing what else to say, we still call it summer) and a new season begins. We miss the summer-autumn seasons in Tanzania, but there is definitely a dry season desperately waiting to turn into a rainy season here at the moment. It is consistently hot in the low to mid 30's here and evenings are still and humid. The ground is hard and dry and brown; the dust is constantly sweeping and covering while the cracked earth cries for rain. But in this harsh hot, dry season we are eagerly anticipating and planning for the rains. And this is the exciting part of our work here in agriculture!

It is always exciting getting ready to plant! Planning the crops and preparing the fields. The anticipation of the rains, of new growth, of seeds sprouting and fruit appearing. Tim has completed writing and translating our own manual for teaching groups of farmers the basics of Conservation Agriculture from a Christian perspective! Now printed (and widely available on Amazon for a grand sum - just kidding!), these manuals have been copied and given to all the new farmers training in this next phase of the project.

The new manual in English and Swahili
It is particularly exciting this year to see Peter and Esther taking increased responsibility for the whole agricultural project. Tim has taken a step back as Peter and Esther, together with help from Pastor Amon and Amos (a keen participant from last year's group in Kayenze), are doing all the teaching. Peter and Esther have been teaching the two-day seminar each week in a different village for the past three weeks - and done a fantastic job!

It is also exciting to see the project growing and spreading out. We have started working in a new village, Nyamililo, and are training fifteen farmers there. A third season of training is being held this week in Kayenze for a group of about 20 new farmers. And with the help of the village agricultural officer, we have extended the project to sub-villages of Kayenze; a new group of 21 farmers was trained last week in Lutale.

Also exciting for us this year, is to see local church members in Kayenze taking the work on in their community. They are inspiring others to try the new methods and now, after our two years of rather hard slogging, it seems to be catching on! People in the village are noticing and trying things in their own fields, even without the training! Peter, Esther and Tim can only teach in Swahili, but the church is now teaching in Kisukuma (the local language of the tribe), and next year we plan for them to do the whole training by themselves.

And now with classroom training coming to an end, the hard work begins. All the participants now need to prepare their fields; gathering composting and mulch material and laying down the mulch to capture and hold any early rain to soften the ground for planting. And then we wait for the rains...and new growth.

Amos teaching in Lutale
Meanwhile on our practice farming plot at home, we were delighted to eat our first home-grown bananas! We planted a little seedling banana tree a year ago and last week chopped off our first "bunch" of bananas. The whole hanging cluster (or bunch) is known as a banana stem and made up of tiers which are called hands. We had three hands on our stem, each with numerous fingers, or bananas as we tend to call them! And another banana stem is already ripening...

Ripening on the tree
Small but sweet!
After three attempts at growing sunflowers, this year we managed to get some huge sunflowers! They were enormous, up to 15 feet high! As you can imagine, our bees just loved them! Unfortunately so did the birds. We lost lots of seeds, but with the thrill of success, we will try again!

Bees enjoying the sunflowers
We are finally doing well with our roselle plants now and have harvested
 and dried some calyces for juice or jam!

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