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

Friday, 23 March 2018

Push-Me-Pull-You

Our latest work in agriculture reminds me of the Pushmi-Pulyu in Dr Dolittle. But we are not talking about animals or livestock integration. No, in a couple of the villages we are working with, we have introduced Climate Smart Push-Pull Technology, a method used for controlling pests and improving soil fertility. We are introducing this to farmers like Mama Veronika who with nine children to feed from her small plot of land, has faced the discouraging disaster of pests devouring her crops.
Mama Veronika (right) with her twins and baby and neighbour (left)

The tiny maize pest: Stem-borer

The Striga plant is a parasitic plant which attacks maize
Mama Lea holding the parasitic striga plant

So what is Climate-Smart Push-Pull Technology?


It is an improved method of the conventional Push-Pull that fights the challenges common after a drought when the soil is poor and plagued by striga and stemborer. Desmodium is planted in between rows of maize. Its roots stop the striga weed from growing and attaching to maize while improving soil fertility and its leaves also cover the ground and prevent soil erosion. The smell of the desmodium "pushes" the stemborer moths away from the maize. Brachiaria grass is planted around the maize (or sorghum) plot and attracts ("pulls") the stemborer moths to it to lay eggs, but few larvae can survive on Brachiaria grass so the maize is saved! Both plants are also excellent fodder for animals and will improve health and increase milk production.

Starting with the seeds
A few weeks ago, Tim went with Peter, Elisha and John to an Agricultural Research Centre just outside Mwanza to learn more about the technology from Dr Rwiza, the research scientist there. They had a good tour of their demonstration plots and came back full of enthusiasm and with the gift of some rather expensive seeds!
Brachiaria Grass growing round the outside of the maize

Desmodium growing in between the maize

Peter, Dr Rwiza, Tim, John, Elisha and Simon

Putting it into Practice

The guys then went to the villages of Igumumoyo and Nyamililo with the research scientist to work with our farmers to plant out a Push-Pull Demonstration plot in each village.

At Isaac's house in Nyamililo - 'the classroom'

Planting begins

Supporting us in this Agricultural Project, is Team Hope in Ireland. This week we are delighted to have Niall and Sue Barry from Ireland visiting us and it was wonderful to be take them to Igumumoyo to see the work in this village getting off the ground! We trained 27 farmers in Conservation Agriculture in September. Even after the late rains and plague of pests which followed the drought, while many farmers in this village have struggled to harvest, our farmers are pleased with their harvest after the first rains. And with the work we are doing to beat the pests, they are encouraged and optimistic for greater harvests to come! Almost all of them have planted again now to make the most of the second rains. So wonderful to see the transformation of hope at work! Huge thanks to Team Hope for their help making it possible!

We began our day with a time of introductions and sharing at the church

With some of our the farmers participating in the project on the church demonstration plot
Walking out to the fields
We visited the shamba of Mama Veronika who talked to us about her involvement in the project. She is 38 years old and has nine children, the oldest is 23 and the youngest a baby and in the middle somewhere there are sweet 6 year old twins! As she said, providing food is a struggle. It was great to hear her testimony that, "...through the project, even though there were challenges [pests], we got a better harvest. We ask you to please continue this project. There is plenty of food in our home now. And in the home there is joy!"
Mama Veronika talks about the project 
After visiting another woman's shamba, we went to see how the Push-Pull Plot was looking. It had only been five days, but already the maize and desmodium were poking green through the sandy soil! It was very encouraging to see the good germination and exciting to see something new started!

At the Push-Pull Plot

Monday, 19 March 2018

Bandaged Zebra Prints and more ...

So there is lots to write about! Next up on the blog will be our new Push-Pull Technology in the Agricultural Project. And an update on the Kome Island health project. And then the results of the Great Mwanza Bake-Off with the girls at the Shelter ... But now I will start with the mamas! Upendo wa Mama has been a hive of industrious activity. This is a good thing. But also slightly daunting! Here is a bit of an update on what's been cookin' ...

Our latest new project!
A few weeks ago, staff from UTSS in Canada and Dar es Salaam arrived in Mwanza. They were joined by Dr Rhodes who taught a week seminar on counselling for over 100 participants working with people with albinism. This was followed by a great service with Peter Ash and the team at BMCC church (with Pastor Mbuke). It was lovely to see so many of the kids with albinism from Lakeview school there! And for the Upendo wa Mama group, it was especially wonderful for them to see their own children!

Prayer at BMCC
We enjoyed some time with friends, Brad and Meg Sumner, who were able to stay on a bit afterwards. They joined the Mamas group one morning, bringing some much appreciated gifts from Langley! They, along with two visiting pastors, witnessed the Magical Rice Cooking in a Basket Demonstration ... always fun!
With our gifts from Langley
The women in both the Mwanza and Dar es Salaam groups have been working hard! They were thrilled to sell over $1000 worth of products to UTSS for their upcoming Gala! It is fantastic to see the products improving and also new things starting! As well as the jewellery, cards, lip balms and soaps, we are loving the new Mamas BeesWraps! A natural and antibacterial alternative to plastic wrap ... and also brilliant for travelling with bananas ... or your toothbrush! They are great!

Mamas BeesWraps

Our new Coconut Shell Soap Dish with handmade soap
Lip Balms and Neem Creams

Gift Bags
We are having some fun with fabrics! We have been improving our African tie-dye techniques and have recently been learning how to do screen printing! We started with some great giraffes. Then one mama bought a new screen with a large zebra on. She took it home and unfortunately that night, a rat found it and ate a hole in the zebra's leg. It has added a little character to the printing as every zebra now looks like he has a bandaged leg! Oh dear.

Screen printing zebras
...with banadaged legs


So with all our fun fabrics we are looking forward to improving our sewing skills as we make cushion, aprons, bags, scarves ... if I have a seamstress friend reading this who would like something new to do .... do please come and help!
Loving the colours

The baking lessons are also going well! We are hoping to soon start selling our selection of breads, breadsticks, cinnamon buns, rolls and biscuits! Yes, rather nerve-wracking.
Making cinnamon buns (and filming the process on their phones!)

The group in Dar is also doing well with leadership from Shoma, Rahab and Hadijah! They were thrilled to receive the income from the sales of more products. I was with them a few weeks ago and we had our first attempts at soap-making and oven-less bread making. They have also started making nutritious flour to sell for porridge and are enjoying their ROSCA loans scheme.

With the group in Dar es Salaam

Soap-making
Bread-making



Card-making
It is exciting to see the progress being made! But a little daunting to know how best to proceed! While I do hope that we can successfully grow in business, the best thing for me is seeing these women grow in enthusiasm and hope! We are learning new things all the time (practically and spiritually) and as we learn, we grow in skills and knowledge and also in confidence. And God is working in each of our lives. My prayer is that as He works in us, we would carry that blessing to many more people.
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