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

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