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

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Work of Eden in Buchosa

On Thursday, Peter and I (Tim) went to two villages in the Buchosa district, Busenge and Itabagumba, where we have begun a conservation agriculture project. With delays at the ferry crossing, it took us four and half hours to get there. We arrived in Busenge, a very rural village, clearly far removed from many of the influences of the wider world. Everyone had time and stopped to greet me and chat. When they weren’t talking to me, they all used their tribal language, Kisukumu, as they conversed with one another.

When we begin a new project, we usually have low expectations for the first year. It takes people time to adjust to the new methods of farming. Can they trust us? Will it really work? But I was surprised in Busenge; yes, they were late in planting, but that was more down to the lateness of our seminar than any reluctance on their part! We quizzed the group members to see if they remembered what we had taught. Two grandmothers were able to give the correct answer of spacing of 60cm between maize plants - “It’s two rulers,” they said. We all chuckled when a young man thought his correct 60cm spacing was in fact 25cm! One Bibi (grandmother) had surrounded her shamba with a fence to keep the livestock out, which in our experience is rare. 

Bibi in her fenced shamba
Pastor John in his shamba
Later, as we met with some of the participants we talked about how God put Adam “in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” When we discussed whether we do both of these responsibilities, the answer came back unanimously, “No, just the first one, to work the soil.” We usually ignore the second, to care for it, which explains why crop yields are falling year by year, as the soil progressively deteriorates. We were able to remind the participants the purpose of the conservation agriculture training groups is to teach people to do both of these responsibilities. We emphasize the importance of the second responsibility, done through enriching the soil, covering the soil, planting nitrogen-fixing crops, using agroforestry, crop rotation and as I added, putting a fence in place as Bibi did. No, we cannot just say it’s bad luck the animals came in and ate the crops!

As we turned to leave we were called by the pastor to have chai first. His heavily pregnant wife had made a nice breakfast. The Sukuma tribe are well known for their generous hospitality. We then went on the second village, Itabagumba, arriving only 2 hours late!

We were late but so were the villagers. While we waiting for them to come, we walked with the pastor, Simeon to his house. Simeon is also the Bishop of the West Mwanza Diocese, a wonderful man with a kind heart. After inheriting this land from his father, he returned to the village a few years ago after a successful career as an engineer in Dar es Salaam. As we approached his place, I was stunned! While only a few hundred metres away was poor sandy dry soil, here, this part of creation had been beautifully cared for. Banana trees, papaya trees, mango trees, pineapples and other plants in wonderful biodiversity, making the most of the rich moist fertile soil.

Bishop Simeon with Peter in his shamba

There was also this delicious mystery fruit that we don’t know the name of!
Anyone know?
When we saw his extremely healthy maize planted amongst the trees, we asked him if he had put manure in the ground. He hadn’t as he said the soil was already enriched enough. The shamba had been looked after so well for many years that it was now supporting and caring for itself. It was an excellent example of permaculture. Everywhere in the Mwanza Region we see the destruction of the environment, particularly with the cutting of trees. But here I was reminded that if we fulfil those two responsibilities God has given us, his creation can become abundant and fruitful again and we can enjoy its fruits. And talking of fruits, Simeon sent me home with two loaded bags of mangos, pineapples and mystery fruit!
Bishop Simeon in his maize

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