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

Thursday, 7 December 2017

We Have Tables!

It has been exciting these past few weeks to see things moving ahead with the Upendo wa Mama workshop! After much discussion and several visits of measuring and budgeting, a carpenter custom made a large table, sewing table and kitchen cupboard for us and they are perfect!
Sewing Table

Mama Faith and Fatuma delighted with the new additions!

Kitchen cupboard
With Mama Laurensia's twins, Esther and Elisha
A Beautiful Mess! (we haven't got chairs yet ... but they are less essential!)
In the midst of all the beekeeping, we have had a busy hive of activity in the mamas group too! It was a bit of last minute rush a few days after I arrived back from Malawi and two days before Julian arrived to get everything together for selling at the Isamilo School Fair, but we did it! Adding to our range of beeswax products, we have started making Mamas BeeWraps, a brilliant natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage! We have made in three sizes, using local kitenge fabrics and pure local beeswax.

Mamas BeewWraps
The women did really well selling at the Fair and also sold a variety of their beeswax products to Bees Abroad UK. They were so thrilled with their results and we are all so encouraged with the progress being made in the group! Here are a few colourful photos of their hard work on display and sale!

Faith, Penina, Monika and Jeni 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Mamas Get Cookin'

It was farewell last week to Albert. Little Albert, our firstborn goat left us to go and live with the Mamas in Malya!
Albert the Goat and the Mamas

Albert ready for the long drive to Malya!

with Albert at his new home!
So now Albert's role is to start a family and thus a goat project for women in Malya!

Mama Elizabeti with Albert
I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with the Mamas Group when I went with Julian (from Bees Abroad UK) and John (our new EI beekeeping assistant) to Malya for the Beekeeping Project. While Julian and John headed off with some beekeepers to plant miracle moringa trees, we mamas got cookin'!

The women had made honey soaps, beeswax lip and body balms and gift bags which we had sold at the recent International School Fair (more on that next blogpost!) and were thrilled to receive the proceeds from that. Half the money was shared between them and the other half they banked for group savings. They are now starting a very simple rotating saving scheme, a sort of peer-banking and lending which will help them to save for later investing.

Products at the Fair with Upendo wa Mama
Already with some of their savings, they have jointly planted a shared field with chickpeas. We had been talking last time about cooking with chickpeas and they were interested to see how I made chickpea burgers! It was Amisadai's friend, Alice, in England who gave us the recipe, and it proved very popular with the Mamas group and the beekeepers in Malya! We prepared them simply, sitting outside the church building and fried them on the fuel-efficient stove. 

Cooking the burgers

The mamas were also interested, although rather suspiciously cautious, about learning to cook rice in a haybasket. They were extremely doubtful that a basket of hay could effectively cook rice. I could hardly convince them to take the rice pot off the stove after 2 minutes to put in the basket! And then we had to wait just 30 minutes ....

While we waited, we moved on to the sweet stuff! They have been very keen to learn how to make wedding cakes for some time now. They are hoping this could make a good little business for them. So, again using the fuel-efficient stove we made a small cake.
Elizabeti and Tabitha mixing the cake
While the cake baked, Mama Elizabeti shared a great word with us from Proverbs 30:24-28 about four things on earth that are small yet extremely wise. It was so encouraging to see these mamas full of hope, striving ahead, as it says in verse 27, "advancing together in rank!"
Baking the cake
It was then time to ice the cake and then the moment of truth to see if the rice had cooked inside the basket. There were excited exclamations of surprise when the lid came off and the rice was clearly ready to eat! The mamas are keen to make similar baskets to cook their rice at home after seeing how much firewood we saved! We shared the rice with the disbelieving beekeepers who were convinced there was some trick involved in making this rice! They had by now returned from planting their moringa trees and also enjoyed sharing the burgers and cake with us. I love times like this! The following day, Julian, John and I were warmly welcomed at Mama Elizabeti's home for a meal in the evening and shared a lovely time of eating, talking and singing with all her children and mother-in-law.

Iced cake, ready to cut and eat!

Rice enjoyed from the haybasket
I love being with these women! In the midst of a challenging time in Malya, these women were such an encouragement! We also shared some good laughs together ... especially over dear little Albert! They found it so amusing that we would actually give a name to a goat, but in the end they were all fondly (with a little smile) referring to him as Albert! 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

When Wax Moth and Snakes Do Invade...

It has been two weeks of more epic beekeeping adventures! Our first visit to the hives at Kisesa saw us working up on the roof of a container against the invasion of wax moth and then in dire straits escaping the angry bees with bees in our bonnets, literally. Our visit to the beekeeper group in Malya culminated on the last night with the shocking discovery of a colony of snakes co-habiting a hive. What followed was much thwacking of sticks and throwing of rocks to kill the snakes, which as you can imagine, slightly upset the bees.

Beekeeping is clearly not for the faint-hearted. 

We have had Julian Willford with us from Bees Abroad UK who has helped the groups tremendously and kept life exceedingly far from dull! We have traipsed across fields in our suits and wellies on foot visiting numerous hives with our beekeepers. We have bumped many crazy trails through mud and rocks in four wheel drive, only getting a bit stuck once! But with ten beekeepers with us in the vehicle, it was an easy push to get out!


The exciting news recently is that we have three new people added to our EI team! I will share more about this in a later blogpost. This meant that when Julian and I went to Malya, we took John, our new worker for the beekeeping project with us! It was a fantastic opportunity for him to get initial training ... and I guess although this didn't go at all as we expected, he learnt many things the hard way! And the amazing news is that he still wants the job! He will be a fantastic asset to the project as well as our team.

Julian with John on his right and two of the Malya beekeepers either end.
Our time in Malya was challenging. We seemed to hit hurdles every step of the way over the three days we were there. We had difficulty getting the group together with councillor elections going on in the village. We found no preparations had been made as arranged for the tree nursery, and we were unable to plant out the tree seedlings with confusion over the site. We found hives that needed fixing (which we took to a carpenter who unfortunately messed them up further), hives that bees had deserted, hives with very angry bees, and as I mentioned, the hive full of snakes. The days were very long and tiring as we covered all the hive sites and dealt with one thing after another! But despite it all, we are left with a group very keen to persevere and we had some really lovely times with people there (I will share about my time with the women's group in the next post). We still have hives with bees and brood. As you can see from the photos, the rains have started, transforming the brown ground into green grass with flowering plants which is a hopeful sign of good things to come!

This hive lost the bees when it was knocked out of the tree
by livestock who came through Credo's field

Snakes in the hive!


It was great to be back with this group of beekeepers now under new elected leadership! Usually our groups shrink over time as those less committed drop out. But this group somehow seems to have grown! And with everyone so keen, it was a struggle to get everyone safely kitted out in the beekeeping suits. This made us particularly thankful to the Basingstoke Beekeepers Association who have donated some suits to the project! On this visit, we presented the Kayenze Beekeepers with another suit for the group which they were delighted with!

Our greatest need now is for gloves! The rubber gloves we were using rather desperately, ended up being stuck together on hands with tape!

It was another full-on few days in Kayenze with late night and early dawn beekeeping, but definitely a more encouraging time! We didn't have any trouble with the bees, which meant John was able to get a good look in the workings of the hive. We also tried out night-time beekeeping with a red light for the first time, which proved very good! We were able to harvest a little early honey at one of the hives and see that all the colonies are strong and full of brood and we think come May, things will be sweet!

So yes, not for the faint-hearted, but I am so thankful for the opportunities to work with the amazing people in these villages! Thankful for their enthusiasm and perseverance and prayerful for their future!

Mama Meriziana's hives in the mango tree are surrounded by her mulched maize
and bright sunflowers (she is also in the conservation agriculture group) 

Our Awesome Beekeeper Team stopping for a quick dinner!
Anti-Clockwise from top: Julian,  Peter,
Pastor Amon John and Kazima (new agricultural worker)

Julian speaking to the Kayenze beekeepers with John translating

Getting kitted up and the smoker fired up at Samson's home

Off to the hives!
One beekeeping mama had her baby with her, so while she got busy,
I waited with this beautiful baby under a mango tree!