Yes we are mad. When the alarm went at 6.00 a.m. I knew this was true. However a quick shower in scalding water and a refreshing cuppa and we were prepared to go to church. The service was in English, although at times it was hard to follow, particularly as there is some work to be done on numbers. A hymn would be announced, we scrambled to find the hymn in our hymn books to discover everyone else was singing something else! The sermon was hard to follow, especially as the preacher seemed concerned to quote from as many parts of the Bible as possible. It was though, mercifully, short. Nevertheless we were made very welcome and the prayer I was suddenly asked to ad lib seemed to go down reasonably well.
It was quite cool this morning so Nora’s hot omelette and cup of tea were very welcome. We prepared to leave when Thomas phoned and asked for a half hour postponement. So we assembled at Asifiwe’s office at 10.00. Asifiwe is the Diocesan Development Officer and as energetic and as enthusiastic as Thomas. His English is very good, so the four of us had a very useful meeting with much agreement on what needed to be done.
At about 11.00 Imani, our driver, picked us up and we headed into Ngara to pick up bottles of water and the government extension officer with bags of maize seed. These officers give agricultural advice to farmers to help them adapt to climate change. The problem is that there are few of them and many farms. This one, Christine, was pleasant enough, but struck me as a typical government official!
Imani drove us back to Murgwanza and then dropped us off the edge of the ridge, down a ‘road’ (I use the word loosely) which was basically a slightly inclined rock face. I remember this from last time and clearly nothing has been done to it in the interim! Eventually we joined a better dirt road and Imani was able to pick up some speed, scattering chickens, goats and people to either side as we came through. The road followed a ridge for much of the way and the views were stunning. After about half an hour we reached the Nyakariba Farm. This is quite a large area of diocesan land which is rented out to farmers in blocks for a nominal rent. In return they try new methods and serve as a model to others.
We parked outside of the house of the manager and were created by about 15 people plus children. We then all trooped out into the fields, the women carrying benches and an ingeniously made wooden folding chair. Apparently these were for us to sit on as they thought we would not be able to stand for too long! The bottled water was also brought and placed in the shade of a tree. Then the extension officer began her demonstration. Firstly a line was laid out using string and she fashioned two measuring sticks to mark out how far the rows should be apart and the distance between each plant in each row. Then she took her jembe and dug holes. A handful of manure was put in the hole and then three seeds were mixed in with the manure and soil but spaced apart. I told Thomas that in England we say that one is for God, one for the birds (or animals) and one for the Devil.
There then followed much discussion about costs and what should happen to the vegetation litter on the surface. Asifiwe, Thomas and Christine answered the questions well and allayed the farmers fears. The yield should increase from only 3 bags of maize an acre to between 8 and 12. The seed is a short stemmed type and fast maturing making it more suitable for the shorter growing season. The farmers were told to plant when the first rains come. I was asked to put in my ha’penny worth and told them that our farmers were also having to adapt to climate change and many of them were using manure to give heart to the soil. This seemed to go down well. As the meeting came to an end Christine broke out the Haribos for the children followed by the bubbles. The bottled water was passed around which was badly needed after 45 minutes in the blazing sun!
Then it was time to go. As we climbed the path back up to the house, I was too intent looking at birds (your fault Daltrys!) and fell flat on my face. I bounced back but not without a degree of consternation and embarrassment on by behalf. We took a different road home as I suspect the aged land cruiser would not have managed the climb back up the ridge without a rope and pitons. The views continued to be fantastic though. We dropped Christine back at her office and then headed back to Murgwanza and lunch! After which a nap was called for. The sky has clouded over and the light gives everything a sepia tinge. Is rain in the offing? Probably not, but we can but hope!