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

Sunday, 19 May 2019

When it Rains it Pours

When it rains, it pours! This was very true last week in Dar es Salaam! And just to give you a bit of "a day in the life of me" here goes...

I left home early last Wednesday morning with some rather heavy bags full of beeswax products, ready for Upendo wa Mama's first time at the Artisan Fair. The flight was delayed and that was just the beginning... it began to seem rather like if anything could go wrong, it would go wrong!

On Thursday I went with Rahab and Anjelita from the Under The Same Sun office to the mamas group. We were over an hour late leaving to drive the three hours out to Mama Happy's home where they meet to work. I was disappointed to lose some of the precious time I had with them but it was wonderful to see them again! They had made well over a hundred balms and many beeswraps since my last visit, and we continued the work. Things then became rather difficult as the heavy rains started but we huddled inside together and managed to keep working. Then the power went out, which stopped the beeswraps production. Persevere and change the plan … lotion bars. We finished our balms and bars and sat together to talk. 
Lip Balms in the making
When it was really past time to go, I learned that while it is easy to get out of the city in an Uber taxi, it is nowhere near as easy to get back! There are no drivers out there! It was a very long time before we managed to get a driver not to only come, but also to find Mama Happy's house! When it finally did arrive, I was carrying a box of just-made lotion bars out to the car, trying to keep them dry in the rain. The ground was awash in rain and mud and … you already know what was going to happen. Splat! I was lying in the mud, but … I saved the lotion bars! Wet and muddy, I was in the Uber taxi and on the way to meet someone I had arranged to talk to about small industry workshops. About 20 minutes down the road, we ran out of fuel … so waited in the car while the driver walked off in the rain to find some. One wonders if things can get any worse. Then we finally arrived for the meeting only to realise that the organization has two offices, and we were at the wrong one. By now we were in rush hour traffic and it was time to give up and go back to my little guesthouse as darkness descended for a very late and much-needed kuku na chipsi (chicken and chips).

While eating my kuku na chipsi, I read my email which said that because of the torrential rains and terrible forecast, the Artisan Market (an outdoor event scheduled for the Saturday) was giving full refunds to anyone who wished to pull out. Oh dear. But after all the hard work that had gone into this, we were committed! Work would carry on through Friday and we would be there whatever the weather on Saturday! And here is a clip of the journey back to Mama Happy's early on Friday morning!

The Artisan Market was certainly a huge challenge in the rain. The ground beneath the table was soggy, making it very difficult put anything down. In front of our table was a small river, which meant that anything that dropped or fallen from the table was instantly ruined in the mud. It was also a very new experience for the mamas and a challenge as most customers spoke English, not Swahili.  Yet, despite the terrible weather and challenges, many people still came and we managed to sell a good number of products! It was just wonderful for the mamas to see, for the first time, people showing interest and praising the products, people buying the things that they had made! They were encouraged and delighted! And so despite the weather, and despite the fact that we took more home than I would have liked, I had to say it was so very worth it!

When the rain eased!

I went to bed rather late and very tired that night! But all sorted and packed up for my early departure in the morning. I went with my friend, Ester Rwela, to the 7am service at Victory Christian Centre and then enjoyed chai with her before heading to the airport. And as it would be, my trip would end in a similar vein to its entirety. I cannot even put into words all that happened at the airport from when I arrived at 3pm for my 6pm flight. The plane was delayed, but reports kept changing as to why that was and when it would take off. As all the Mwanza passengers sat in the check-in area between customs and departures, we were told 7pm. Then it was no, check in at 8pm as it would leave at 10pm. Then we heard it would be the following day. Maybe. Or maybe 10:10pm. Then 10:20pm. Then 10:30pm. But there was no plane. And we couldn't even check in and get to the lounge where we could get some food and water! Then we heard that the morning flight was full, so if we didn't make it out that night, it would be the following evening. With Tim away in Kigoma, it was all a bit confusing as I tried sort out an airport pickup for an unknown arrival time, while also making sure the girls could stay with very kind friends and they could get to school the next day.

Then we were told there was a plane … so we could finally check in at 8:30pm. By this time I was really tired and feeling so very ready to be home. I went to check in and discovered that I had been booked on the morning flight (6AM!) and so had already missed it anyway. Oh my! So I was back out through customs and over to a ticket office to try an sort something out, rather lacking confidence of anything working out well with no ticket and a full flight the next morning. Now over these long hours sitting in limbo I had rather bonded with some lovely Canadians on their way to Mwanza. One of them so kindly came out with me to keep me company as I tried to make a way to Mwanza, while the others waited for us on the other side. Such a kind thing to do. Truly troubles are easier when shared! Miraculously there were two seats left, and after a grimly apprehensive 20 minutes, I was back through to check in!

Now we were all feeling more positive that we were all checked in and had heard that a plane had arrived. But upstairs it was a very different story. There actually was no plane. There was no way we would be leaving at 10:30pm. In fact, by now (9pm), if the plane had not left the airport it was arriving from, it would not be able to come tonight. But just wait here in case, they said! And so we waited. And waited. In the end we did make it into Mwanza. And by 2am on Monday morning, thanks to a very kind Simon Ewing who got out of bed to come and pick me up, I was home!

But my grumbling about the rain and delays must be put in perspective. It was easy to feel tired and fed up, but the reality of the rain was very different for many others. This rain in Dar es Salaam, coming from the same weather system that was so devastating in Mozambique, has created havoc in the city. Roads flooded. Homes destroyed. Lives lost. Hard and tragic reality.

Yet while realising that others are suffering far more terribly than me, as the following week went on and things got increasingly busy, a kind friend reminded me that it is still ok to admit when things are tough! And even when things feel overwhelming and exhausting, when my body is physically rebelling, when nothing seems to be working and I just want to drop everything and cry… its ok to admit it and find rest! Which I did this morning. I wanted to laugh at my crazy week … but even though it still doesn't feel funny or fulfilling yet, I'm ready to go again! And I'm sure my story will be funny soon!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Easter Eggs and "Inuka" (Rising Up)

Easter Sunday morning saw us boarding a ferry on our way to the church in Nyamililo. We arrived a little late as one ferry was broken and so they were down to one. But we were still treated to a morning breakfast of plantain and potatoes with hot milk on our arrival at Tito's house.

It was great to see how Tito's family have used the profits from their extra harvest of pigeon peas and soya to buy chickens and make a chicken house. They are now selling eggs in the village! And so we bought some Easter eggs to take home with us! Somehow these eggs seem rather more exciting the mass-produced chocolate variety!
"Easter" eggs
Tito and Louisa with the chickens
Then we walked over for the church service. Now, if you want to see how to dance on Easter morning … look no further than the choir in this church! Their new outfits were a lively orange and their moves radiated life and energy! See the video below ...and no, I didn't speed it up! That is original speed! Tim preached an excellent Easter message and then there was more singing and dancing!

Back in Mwanza, it was then wonderful to welcome the Williams family over for hot cross buns and a Battenberg cake Katrina had made! It is so lovely to see Pete and Helen again and we have enjoyed meeting up on several occasions this past week! As well, over the Easter weekend, we enjoyed time with Laura and the families on our team … with an Easter egg hunt (again, not the chocolate variety!) and more hot cross buns!

Louisa crosses the buns

Inuka (Rising Up)

A few weeks ago I went to visit our beekeeping groups in Ngudu and Malya with Bhatendi. We started with a group meeting in Ngudu at which the group elected a chairperson, secretary and treasurer. They have now written a constitution and named themselves "Inuka" which means "Rising Up." It was wonderful to pray with the new leadership as they assume their roles and for the group as they "rise up"! They have nine hives out in the forests and fields now with three more to bait and hang.

Praying for the new leadership of the Inuka Beekeepers Group
On the following day we drove on to Malya, and met with the mamas group there. We made various beeswax balms and then sat together for a Bible study and chat. They are doing well and thinking well about more things that they can do together! The goat we sold to them a few months ago is now pregnant and will deliver in a couple of months. They continue to work a garden together and are planting a variety of vegetables to sell. They now want to use some of their profits to start a chicken project (more Easter eggs and more Inuka!) and also a business selling second hand clothes. 

After a lovely time with the women, we then had a meeting with the beekeepers. It was disappointing to hear about the loss of three hives due to high winds in a recent storm. Also the eight new hives they bought last year with the honey sales have been slow to colonise and start producing honey. But yet there is progress and we are still hopeful for a harvest!
Having a quick look at the hives near the church building

Bhatendi and I ready to visit the bees
That night as darkness began to descend, a group of us headed out to check some of the hives. Then, as is the story of my life rather often, things went pear-shaped! We got all suited up and ready as the sky darkened with great black clouds. We got the lid off the hive as the thunder started to rumble. As we looked into the hive, which was in a bit of state with ants coming in and the combs higgledy-piggledy, raindrops started to fall. There was nothing else we could do …a crazy wind picked up blowing the tin roof off the other hive and our hive started swinging. We packed up fast. Then, now completely in the dark, we were running in our beesuits through the fields in torrential rains with high winds, cracking thunder and crazy bolts of lightening! 
Ready to go … but the clouds darken!
We made it back to the Land Cruiser and piled in, wet suits and all. I was driving back to the dirt road in the dark in pelting rain, which was another adventure in itself. On a narrow "track", through bushes and branches, slipping and sliding in black cotton soil and through thick mud … We ended up at Bageshi's house, where his kind wife gave us heaped bowls of hot rice and beans! 

And so there is a brief update on a few of the things going on right now! Truly Easter is a special time to think about rising up! It is wonderful to celebrate that indeed Christ has risen and through what He has done, we too can rise with Him. And what joy there is in sharing this! 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Can it Get Worse in Bukoba?

We thought a little break in Bukoba would be a good idea during the Easter holiday. We thought some time walking to waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful banana, tea and vanilla farms would be lovely. So we packed our tents and supplies, set off early on Thursday morning, enjoyed a beautiful drive and arrived eight hours later. But the holiday didn’t quite go as expected!

When we found our campsite, it wasn’t quite the peaceful lakeside spot we were expecting. Maybe more like a beach bar beside a road with a stream of people cutting through the only spot on which to pitch our two tents. The ugly, giant Marabou storks hovered hungrily on the sand. People hovered and stared. Finally I hovered beside one guy and stared back!
Who is looking at who?
After setting up, we boiled some water and sat down with a cup of tea. As the load speakers started blaring music, a man, fairly high on something, wandered up and sat on our gas burner. After some awkward minutes, the eighteenth guy selling peanuts approached and on seeing the man sitting on our gas burner, quickly jumped away behind our car. But the man had seen the peanut guy and started to chase him. They came to a standstill, one on either side of our car and I asked Tim if we had locked the car as I expected one or both of them to hop in. Then the peanut boy dashed out, was tousled up by the other guy but wriggled away and was chased through our tents and tea and thankfully off down the road. We then made sure everything stayed locked in the car.
Laugh and eat burgers...
The man running the campsite was really helpful and kind. And that evening he gave us a key to one of the little beach huts so that we could charge our phones safely in there. I was also glad that we could sneak in to use the toilet which saved a trip to the rather public hole in the bar area. There was a communal area with one door saying Wanawake (Women) but in my experience there, the men had no regard for either the sign or the door itself!

By 9pm we were feeling very ready to settle in our tents for the night. Trying to ignore the loud music that had now been going on incessantly for 6 hours, we tried to go sleep. Surely it couldn’t get worse!
Later on, a couple came up to our tent with the campsite guy to wake us up. Arriving late, looking for a place to stay, they needed the key to the beach hut. I crawled out of bed and realised we had given the key to the girls. I went to get it, gave it to them and went back to bed. 

Soon after 11pm, Amisadai threw up. I settled her in my camp bed in the compartment in our tent, and went to join Louisa in their little pup tent. Around midnight with the loud music now blasting out more swear words than I had ever heard, I marched out of the tent to the bar to see what I could do. But I chickened out halfway and crawled back into the tent! Surely it couldn’t get worse!

Around 1am, I was horrified to see the shadow of a man creep up to our pup tent and crouch down to the zip. Heart beating fast, I prayed! The shadow moved away … and then I remembered I had left my sandy crocs outside the door of the tent. I unzipped the tent and realised, yes, my crocs were gone and zipped the tent back up. But then very cross, realised I didn’t want to lose my crocs, so unzipped the tent and marched out barefoot  in my pajamas to find the croc thief. There was a man and I marched over to him and asked if he had seen a man steal my shoes. He looked blankly at me as I continued rambling on in Swahili about thieves and shoes … he told me to wait there. Then he came back with my crocs. He told me there were thieves around and to keep them in the tent. I asked him if he could turn the music off. And went back to bed. It couldn’t get worse.

At around 3am the rumbles of thunder began. Pretty soon, the biggest thunderstorm hit the beach. Great cracks of thunder, bolts of lightning, torrential rains, waves crashing on the sand beside us. Our little tent was bent over and shaking. Drips were coming from the top and puddles were seeping from the bottom. It was really crazy and very noisy. Louisa was reciting over and over “The Lord was not in the storm. The Lord was not in the earthquake. The Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice.” We zipped up tight in our bags in the middle. There was a brief respite in which we were able to call out to Tim and Amisadai in the other tent. Amisadai was rather glad she had thrown up and got a camp bed! Then it started again! We waited until the end of the rains at 7:30am to crawl out into the grey morning. It couldn’t get worse.

We hung out our bedding and other wet things. Mopped up the tent. Amisadai was feeling a bit better and cooked up bacon and egg and fried tomatoes, baked beans and toast. Everything is better with a good camp breakfast! Louisa, by now highly security-conscious insisted everything be packed into the car and come with us as we went to find a women’s bakery and then some waterfalls. It was hard to convince her not to take the tents with us!

Drying out...

Amisadai gets on with breakfast
After driving about and abandoning the car to proceed on foot, it was good to find the BUWEA women’s bakery and food processing centre. I had been in contact with the woman running it and was very interested to chat to her about the work and training they do there. They were busy processing Soya milk, yogurt and flour. They have a big fuel-efficient stove for baking bread and cakes and provide the neighbouring orphanage with bread. We were given some of the legendary banana muffins they also sell. 
Processing the soya

We went on to find a nearby waterfall for some walking and picnicking. But when we arrived at the trailhead, there was an empty shack next to a large board stating fees to walk there. Not sure we could safely leave the car, I went to investigate. Hearing the falls close by, I started down the trail. Suddenly a guy with a machete was running towards me, shouting! He was there cutting back bushes, but adamant we could not enter the trail without paying $10 each! But there was no one to give the money to. The machete guy said the guard had left for a while. We tried some negotiating, but there was no way. We would have to go and find some office to pay and get tickets in order to come back and walk the few metres to the waterfall. As the rain started coming down, and Amisadai not feeling well, we decided it really wasn’t worth all the effort and cost. We decided to go back to town and find the museum instead. After much driving around and following wild goose instructions in every direction, we gave up and returned to the campsite to eat a rather late lunch. Amisadai slept and we read our books. We lost count of how many peanuts we were asked to buy. Louisa rather stunned one of the guys staring at us as she forcefully burst out in Swahili questioning what he was doing and why he was standing there and told him to walk on!
As the loud music started up again in the afternoon, we decided to go and make the most of clear skies and find a viewpoint we had been told about for the sunset. The directions which sounded easy before we left, didn’t make any sense as we drove around with no hill in sight! We texted our friend at the campsite for further instructions. He sent very detailed instructions, 400m left, 200m straight on, followed by 100m right, directing us to the 72 steps to climb up. But it wasn’t clear where the starting point was! We saw a hill which looked promising and drove towards it and starting looking and asking in vain for steps. We gave up over three times as the sun was getting lower, but each time found reason to hope … and searched on. Finally, we saw a way up the hill! Tim was a bit concerned about leaving the car (which had absolutely everything in it!) but with our camera and binoculars, we climbed quickly up the 72 steps and arrived at a beautiful viewpoint. A quick photo opportunity, but seeing the people crowding around our car far below, Tim decided to go back down while the girls and I enjoyed the view a bit longer. We decided to climb up the rocks to reach the top. 

Poking our heads up as we summited, we realised we were not alone as we saw huddled further in the rocks, a group of guys smoking something. It would have been great to watch the sunset at the top, but the three of us felt it better not to hang around with our fancy camera and binoculars! As they spotted us and started shouting, we turned for a hasty retreat, me thinking it was ironic that Tim was protecting our passports and belongings down below! The girls were far quicker and more agile than me on the steep rocks. With the camera swinging from my neck, I was descending rather more un-elegantly on my rear end, when the girls turned and urged me in a loud hissed whisper to “HURRY, MUM! The guys are running after us!” My first thought was to tell them to wait for me! But then realised it was probably better that they hurry down! I bumped and slid my way down. Finally we reached the 72 steps. I saw Tim in the distance below and waved quite demonstratively, more to show the guys behind me that we had back-up below! About twenty people staring up waved back, and I realised we would actually be fine. But still it took a while for my adrenalin to stop pumping after we reached the car! So much for the peaceful sunset spot with the panoramic view.
On the way up! 
That evening, in stitches and tears laughing at how much had gone wrong, we decided maybe this was enough for a holiday… and we would cut our losses and return home early. We made the most of our last evening, cooking over a campfire with hot chocolate. As the music blared and we crawled into our tents the second night, I checked the forecast on my phone. 90% chance of thunderstorms after 4am. I prayed it wouldn’t be! At 6am, we woke to the sound of distant thunder rumbling across the lake. No! We would NOT be caught in this. I jumped out of bed, quickly folded up the bed and shoved the sheets into a bag. Running to the girls tent, as spots of rain started to fall, I told them to get up and out FAST and get the tent down before the storm arrived! We ran about in the dark, throwing everything in the car, the tents dropping to the ground as we pulled pegs and poles. 

Quick work!
A red light burned the rumbling dark sky as we finished and with spots collecting on the windshield, we were off before the sun was up.  By 1pm, we were back at the Busisi Ferry and the girls and I boarded … still in my pajamas! We pulled away from the shore, waving futilely at Tim who didn’t make it on with the car! We waited on the other side for him to join us on the next ferry. 

We picked up pizza in Mwanza and enjoyed it in the comfort of our home at 4pm. Holiday over! Not exactly relaxing but truly unforgettable and pretty hilarious now that it's over!

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Forgiveness, Peacemaking and Reconciliation

Two weeks ago, Amisadai and I (Tim) travelled on the 16 hour bus journey through the night to Nairobi. Amisadai took the empty first class seat in front of our seats and settled in for the trip, only woken up twice by officials wanting to check our passports. We arrived at our accommodation at Pan Africa Christian University at around 7:30am and went straight to bed for a couple of hours!

Once up and showered we strolled off to Artcaffe for our first good Kenyan coffee as we began our father-and-daughter time. What better way to start it!

Our main reason for going to Nairobi was to attend the Africa Society of Evangelical Theology conference on 'Forgiveness, Peacemaking and Reconciliation.' This is a much needed conference for war and trouble-torn Africa and also particularly for the African church. Today, 7 April, as I write this blog, Rwanda is remembering 25 years since the genocide, where sadly at that time the church generally failed to stand up against the atrocities although there were some notable exceptions. The conference covered many topics from A Christian response to Religious Terrorism in Northern Nigeria, Pastoral Care and Counselling for Victims of Violence against Women, The Role of the Church in Reducing Civil Wars in Africa, to Jesus the Peacemaker.

In Tanzania, proud to be a peace-loving country, we have our own issues, not least with the way people with albinism are exploited and attacked. I was able to present a paper on 'The Role of the Church in bringing Peace and Reconciliation with People with Albinism.' Our prayer is that the church will be spurred on to take its role seriously in seeing these people finding new life, protection and hope in the family of God.

We enjoyed a number of the other sessions. Unfortunately, there were too many parallel sessions so we had difficult choices. I particularly appreciated one on what the church can do among refugees, the presenter himself a refugee. He has spent all but the first 2 years of his life outside his country, DR Congo. And yet we could see a man full of life and energy and seeking to convey that refugees are often people of hope, which can be fulfilled if the barriers and obstacles can be cleared so they can access the opportunities in their new country.

Different approaches among refugees
It was great to see Nyambura Kamau, a friend from many years ago when we both studied at Regent College, Vancouver. Nyambura was organising the conference, but found time one evening to have a meal with us. Where have those 20 years gone? It was also good to catch up with friends at Deliverance Church Umoja on the Sunday and talk about the role of the Church in community transformation with Pastor Oscar on the Monday.

With Nyambura
Amisadai, who was the youngest delegate at the conference by far, found it all very stimulating, and went off to sessions on her own, whether biblical papers, or papers dealing with social issues concerning women or those unpacking the honour and shamed-based nature of African cultures. And of course she found the bookstore and picked up the book, 'From Genocide to Generosity,' which looks through the eyes of young people at how the nation of Rwanda can be healed.

Amisadai's purchase
So we are back and inspired. It is the gospel of Christ, in which God shattered the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and indeed between rival tribes and peoples, that is Africa's hope for a new beginning. And may this gospel go deep in this continent so that Africa's potential can be realised.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

A Stolen Phone... and other Recent Events!

It hasn't been the easiest of weeks! But it is always so encouraging to look back when writing a blog, and find the little joys that make it all worthwhile! These mamas in Dar es Salaam are one of the joys! It was good to be with them last week and see all they had made since I was last there, and work together on more products. We continued our readings through Proverbs, which always brings wisdom into our lives and situations! And we were visited by the Director of UTSS who came to meet the women and talk about their activities and plans. These women are gaining confidence and starting to generate other ideas for further entrepreneurial activities. We have all learned a lot over the past year about things that work … and things that don't!
The Dar es Salaam mamas group

It was a very hot and busy week with hours of driving in traffic in a very hot car, traipsing and hunting around a huge and insanely crowded market, a full schedule with no lunch breaks and then a late chipsi mayai (egg and chips) or kuku na chipsi (chicken and chips) when I eventually got to my little guesthouse. But while in Dar es Salaam, I was able to make the most of the opportunity to visit suppliers of equipment and ingredients for the Mwanza Mamas bakery! The road towards the Bakery has been a long, and to be honest, fairly daunting journey recently, navigating through tax laws, legal registration processes and viability spreadsheets (none of which are remotely "my thing" and remain way out of my comfort zone and area of gifting) but we are seeing the light of progress glimmer!

The light of all progress dimmed however when my phone was stolen right out of my hands! The thief sped by on the back of a motorbike and was obviously well practiced in theft technique. Not a nice experience! And that made all activity in Dar es Salaam suddenly very complicated … the whole police and phone process was long and complicated and trying to arrange meetings and taxis was complicated with no phone or internet! But all is well now … I have bought a new phone here in Mwanza and was very thankful to get my own number back and keep all my contacts!

Suffice to say, it was good to be home again on Friday night! Just in time for a quick turnaround to get to the Mwanza Mamas workshop early on Saturday preparing for the School Family Fun Day in the afternoon! It was a great opportunity for the Mamas to again be selling in the community, and Amisadai was working with them to practice their English, but most of them got a little shy! It was good to share a table with the girls from Christ's Daughters again. Laura had been staying with them for four nights last week and had been making cookies with them to sell, while she practiced her Swahili! It was a fun community event and we were glad to share in it! Jeni was even brave enough to ride a horse ...the others couldn't contemplate the thought of getting on, certain they would fall off! And they all enjoyed their first taste of cotton candy!

Jeni has her first horse-ride!

Upendo wa Mama and Christ's Daughters table
And now, Tim and Amisadai are in Kenya while Louisa and I stay in Mwanza. As I write they are on the bus and have just crossed the border and should be in Nairobi by 5am! On Friday and Saturday they will be at the African Society of Evangelical Theology where Tim is presenting his paper  … more about this in the next blog! Then they have some time to enjoy coffee shops and buy hundreds of honey jars and meet various people from churches and projects there. We look forward to being all together again on Thursday … albeit briefly before I am off to the beekeepers and mamas in Malya and Ngudu with Bhatendi … but those are events for another week!

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Difference in where the Beans have Been

Meet this lovely group of people … the small church in the village of Chabakima!
A group photo by the CA demonstration plot
On Sunday, it was good to be with this church group again. Tim preached a great impromptu sermon after being told someone else was preaching … but plans changed! We went with Elisha, who also shared and encouraged the church in the Conservation Agriculture (CA) project we are working on together. After the service it was lovely to share lunch with everyone. Large pots of rice and beans were brought in, and a special pot of liver for us, the guests.
Elisha encouraging the church
We are working with Pastor Peter starting CA groups in this village. We started last year by forming a group of community farmers and a planting a demonstration shamba (crop field) beside the church building.

Things don't always go according to plan … as well we know! And that was the case with the demonstration plot. This year, after successfully harvesting their maize last year from their field intercropped with nitrogen-fixing beans and mulched to keep in the moisture, the pastor who really likes cassava just went ahead on his own and planted a whole field of solely cassava. No CA techniques used whatsoever. There wasn't much that Peter and Elisha could do then! But the interesting thing is the visual lesson that all can still learn ... the cassava planted in the area that had been selected and started last year for the CA techniques is flourishing! Right next to it the cassava planted in unenriched soil is really struggling. The difference where the beans have been is starkly incredible! So hopefully a lesson learned and the demonstration shamba will be better next year!

Cassava in last years CA section where the beans had been
Adjacent cassava struggling

After lunch, we went to visit the shamba of one of the group members. His son, Stephano, showed us how things were going. It has been another hard year with very little rain in Chabakima. But Baba Stephano has a great field of intercropped maize, beans, field peas and cassava. They are thrilled with the amount of maize they have just been able to harvest and with the project in general. They are excited to continue in the project and we hope that Baba Stephano will become a Lead Farmer helping other Chabakima farmers.

Stephano with Elisha at his shamba, with maize just harvested

Jack beans and Kunde (field peas)

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Latest Buzz: New Beekeepers in Ngudu

The long-awaited Ngudu Beekeeping Project has finally begun! It wasn't exactly smooth sailing, but when has beekeeping ever been smooth sailing? Tim and I went with Bhatendi, our new beekeeping officer-in-training and it was a full three days. But Bhatendi did really well, jumping in with some of the teaching and it was exciting to get this project off the ground! 

The Ngudu Beekeeping Group

Bhatendi leading the Bible Study
We were able to complete a first draft of our own Beekeeping Manual just in time for this training seminar. It is good to be drawing all we have learned along the way together in a useful format! The course goes through the basic introduction to beekeeping, learning about the bees and life in the colony and then looking at hives and equipment and how to start and care for an apiary. This is all integrated with a foundation in God's word, looking at creation (including the benefits of bees in agriculture) and his kingdom purposes (including business and entrepreneurship). 
Introduction to Beekeeping
We faced quite a number of challenges and frustrations (including some very burnt, soggy chips in a very noisy guesthouse!), but one real struggle was just getting the group together. On the first day, only one person out of the twenty who had signed up showed up … and this was starting three hours after the set time! Four others joined us and the pastor was adamant that more were coming. Anyway, by the time we finished on the second day we had a group of ten including the pastor. Bhatendi is returning in a couple of weeks to teach another mini-seminar to all those who missed it for reasons still rather unknown! 

Learning about protective gear!
If anyone has contacts with any beekeeping groups who would like to help our beekeepers with any protective gear, it would be really appreciated! Getting the suits and veils and gloves is a challenge here … so any donations of second hand gear would be a big help!

Tim teaching one of the session

Tim checks the hives with the carpenter … he did a fantastic job!

Practical learning about baiting the hive

Hanging the hive in a local forest

A new mama beekeeper greases the wires to keep the ants out
As we were not so far from Malya, we were also able to visit the beekeepers and Mamas there. It was a great opportunity to introduce Bhatendi to them all as she will be working closely with them. We are waiting for the harvest in May … they were able to buy more hives with their profits and we are praying with them for a good honey harvest! It wasn't planned, but the mamas were very keen to get working … so we ended up having quite a balm-making session as well! All good to get some more batches of Moringa Balm and Foot Balm ready to sell! I love these women!
Moringa Balms in the making