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

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

When 20% isn't Failure

It was Friday last week and Tim had planned to go to Nyamililo, the new village near Sengerema where Esther has been working hard to start the new agricultural group. He was going with Baraka and Peter but as is often the way, things didn't go exactly to plan as Peter missed the boat! There was confusion at the ferry as Baraka and Tim looked for Peter. After some searching, they made phone contact and knew he was around somewhere. As the boat was bellowing its final call to board, assuming that Peter must have boarded the boat, they hopped on and sailed away. But he wasn't. Peter was caught up helping someone and as Tim later found out, he had ended up going to the police station with the person he was helping. Never a dull moment!

Talk of the Drought

Talking to people as the drought continues, many can't remember a year worse than this one. They have never known the price of maize (used to make ugali, the staple food here) to be as high as it is now. The people we are working with are all subsistence farmers; they eat what they grow, surviving from their own shamba (piece of land).

The maize crops, ideally planted early in October are harvested in January. This season is now over and there is very little, if anything in places, to show for it. But as we said in a recent post, it is wonderful to see the positive difference for farmers who have adopted the practices we are teaching! And even more to see the interest of other farmers in the community who see that difference in this drought and are keen to join in!

When 20% isn't Failure!

Tim and Baraka met on Friday with seven of the fifteen farmers who formed the first Conservation Agriculture (CA) group with us in this area. Only three of these fifteen farmers have been successful ... which in percentage terms may sound like failure! But as we know from experience, the first year teaching something new and different is always tough. People are wary and not keen to commit their efforts. Most didn't give the CA techniques a fair test as they did things the way they were used to or first planted their regular crops in the usual way and delayed working on the CA section. One lady in the group, had prepared really well but then travelled and asked her relatives to finish the planting. All that hard work was wasted as the relatives planted in the usual way!

Baraka (L) with five farmers from the group
But when people see and experience something firsthand ... then things can start to change! And so having these three farmers is reason enough to be thankful! And we now have some good community trainers who will be far better teachers than us!
Pastor Tito of Nyamililo welcomed the group members and after reading and discussing together Psalm 67, they began to talk about how things were going. The first two farmers (whose maize had died out), were unhappy and didn't see the project working. Three others farmers joined the conversation. They had also lost their crops, but they realised that they had made mistakes and were keen to try again and follow through on what they had learned. They were grateful. Lastly, the two farmers who had been successful (the other, Anna, was unable to be at the meeting) shared. Pastor Tito and Shadrach expressed their great gratitude, particularly for all Esther's work. Pastor Tito who has used the church land as a demonstration plot shared how people were coming to see the field, just amazed at its success in this season of drought. Many were coming to the church asking questions. This is amazing progress before a year is done!


The group went outside to look at the work Pastor Tito had done at the church shamba. The maize planted early on intercropped with beans was doing really well! It was clearly better than the area planted later which missed that essential early rain.

Pastor Tito with his maize

These jack beans were planted too late to do their job.

Poor Pigeon Peas Prove Popular

The pigeon peas are now a big hit with these farmers! We laugh about the pigeon peas. No one ever wants to plant them; everyone says they don't like to eat them. The fact is, they are just "different" and no one wants to try. Even Joseph, our guard, for the longest time said he couldn't eat pigeon peas for his lunch; he didn't like them at all. Finally one day, I just gave him some and said it was that or nothing ... much like I can say to our girls! Well, he ate them and really enjoyed them and later admitted he had never actually tried them. And we find it is similar for the farmers who are not keen to plant them at all! But pigeon peas are so easy to grow and good for the soil. They are drought-resistant, providing a nutritious and extremely long-lasting plentiful harvest! Now having tried them, the farmers are already planning their plots for more pigeon peas!
Pigeon peas doing well at the church shamba!

Shadrach's 'Spot the Difference' Shamba

The group moved on to look at Shadrach's shamba. It is not as strong as Pastor Tito's (or his own other shamba farther away) but he will be able to harvest. The group was able to clearly see and discuss the comparison between the section on the left farmed normally and the area on the right farmed at the same time with the same seeds using the CA method.
Shadrach's shamba. Healthy green maize on the CA right side!
So while a 20% success rate may at first seem more like failure, we are all encouraged! Pastor Tito is a good teacher! It is fantastic to see people coming to the church with questions and to see the church reaching out to their community with help and answers in this time of need. Tito is now preparing his next sermon for the church on Psalm 67. As they experience God's gracious blessing, their prayer is that He may be known in their community, that people would thank and enjoy Him!

God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work.
Psalm 67 (MSG)

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