Kagera – Tuesday

We awoke early to the sound of a waterfall. Strange, it hadn’t rained in the night and we are at the top of a hill. It was very close. I got up and went around the back of the house to find water cascading out of the water tank. I turned off the tap which fills the tank and the cascade eased and then stopped. Question …..is there a ball cock and had to failed, or had someone turned on the tap and just walked off. We will probably never know.

The other notable sound that morning was wind. Now before you jump to the wrong conclusion this was entirely meteorological, although our intake of pulses might have indicated otherwise. It remained windy for the first part of the morning and then the wind dropped and we enjoyed a cloudless sky all day.

We all got up and Dorothee and June went to communion in the Bible College. Christine and I ate breakfast and waited for Thomas who it turned out was waiting for us! Slight breakdown in communication. We arrived at our meeting with Vithalis the Diocesan Secretary fifteen minutes late. Clearly we are now running in African time!

Vithalis is a very big man in a very sharp suit and he made us very welcome. He is just completing an M.A. In Theology. He had received Jean’s Email stating that we were sending £2,750 to help with the earthquake relief and drought relief. He was very pleased. Churches in Karagwe have been damaged and this will show people that they are not alone and that people in the Ipswich Diocese are thinking of them. In Karagwe cows are dying as there is not enough pasture. The money will be used for maize and bean seeds to plant when or if the wet season comes.

Vithalis made the point that this is now happening year after year. Famine, is a regular occurrence in some part of Kagera. What is needed is training through CCMP as a means of improving agriculture so that famine is avoided or at least reduced. He believes that Kagera should be exporting its food, particularly its fruit. He told us that coffee is grown on small farms in the Karagwe and Kyerwa areas but farmers are paid very little. An opportunity for Fairtrade perhaps? It was an interesting meeting. He expressed his thanks for all that do in Ipswich Diocese to raise money to help Kagera, but also thanks for our prayers. I said we were also very grateful for theirs. After half an hour we headed back to the house for a cup of tea.

O.K. If you don’t find banana farming particularly interesting you may want to skip this bit. On the other hand I didn’t think it would be very interesting, but the last hour or so has been fascinating. Thomas and Asifiwe picked us up about 20 minutes later and Imam drove us out to Thomas’ shamba on the edge of Murgwanza. His plot of land looks very different to others as he is practising CCMP techniques to improve his banana crop and to use a demonstration to others. There were several large holes dug about 6 foot square. In the side of one the humus and laterite layers showed very clearly. Thomas will then fill the holes with manure from a local farmer. Then he plants his bananas and covers the hole with a mulch of dead banana leaves. This means that the banana plants have room for their roots to expand, the manure will give the plant nutrients and retain water and the mulch prevents evaporation. All basic stuff but local farmers do not do this. Thomas showed us with pride the bunch of big bananas he had got from this method, compared to the smaller things of his neighbours. He has also been careful to remove any diseased leaves so that other plants don’t get infected. As we looked across the valley we could see that many shambas had been cleared of bananas and the shamba opposite Thomas would be planted with maize when the rains come. Banana is the staple crop of the area, so the price of bananas has risen considerably. Thomas has no difficulty selling his bananas, in fact buyers come looking for him! Many are now growing cassava which used to be the famine crop. Fortunately the banana disease I’d decreasing thanks to advice from government extension officers working in the area.image

A banana plant (they are not trees) takes up to 2 years to fruit. The flowers form and then each flower is pollinated and forms 1 banana. The flower is layered and each layer is uncovered in succession to reveal the flowers for pollination. That is why bananas hang in bunches. The plant shoots at the base, but you should only aloe three shoots per plant. These can be cut off and planted in new holes. One is usually left to make a new plant when the parent is cut down. Thomas grows a short stemmed variety that gives a large crop of bananas.

Thomas has planted avocados between the bananas to give shade, but also as another source of income. It will take 3 years before they fruit. Avocados are in demand and often provide employment for women and children. Cassava does not grow well with bananas …..both crops suffer.

More education of farmers is needed to improve yields. Farmers are naturally conservative so it is difficult to do. Much of the work is done by women. Men are lazy and do little. I like to think that we are the thinkers and planners, but Christine says that is b…….t, and I suspect she is right.

Back for lunch …..peanut sauce!

After lunch Thomas picked us up and took us to Ngara. First we went to the bank to acquire some more Tanzanian shillings, Christine having spent vast quantities on a colourful selection of baskets. What we are going to do with them all Heaven knows……I hope! Like most things involving bureaucracy in Africa you have to relax in to the procedure and try not to think that this is an hour of your life you are never going to get back. Thomas seemed to ignore the queue and stride straight up to the first clerk he could see with me wallowing in his wake. Money, passport observed and then a form to fill in…..all quite straight forward. The exchange rate seemed reasonable to me, so they took my money and then the fun began. We waited in another queue for a cashier and when our turn came he seemed unhappy with the exchange rate. He kept disappearing off to consult with others and each time he returned the rate had dropped. He finally settled on one so low that I expostulated…..not something I ‘m given to doing in public on a Tuesday. He had now decided that I had given him Euros not pounds and so had lowered the rate accordingly. My protestations caused him to flee his little cabin yet again for further consultations and finally equilibrium was restored when he settled on the rate we had all started with. By the time we got outside everyone else had left the roasting vehicle and were engaged in trying to photograph a stuffed best balancing on a bush….don’t ask!

From the bank to the market in search of kangas and vitenge for the ladies of course. I’m not sure hoe often Thomas goes clothes shopping with his wife…..I suspect not often. His good manners managed to survive the experience but I could sense that his patience was being sorely tested. I went off to photograph various stalls of dried fish, maize and beans, but ended up having to search for vitenge in order to speed up the process. Eventually, loaded down with brightly coloured material we headed for the bus station to buy water, serviettes and toilet paper. The store was run by delightful twins who loved having their pictures taken and posed outrageously. Then there we went to a small supermarket for coffee, tea and some Cadbury’s dairy milk!

We returned and set about various tasks and Dorothee managed to get the shower over the bath to work. Just after she had finished all the power went off. We checked with our neighbours who all seemed to be still able to see and listen to music. We contacted Faris who phoned a man who worked for the power company. His verdict was very simple, we had run out of credit in the meter. Promising we would be repaid, Joan parted with some Tanzanian shillings and he rode his bike into Ngara to buy credit and get us back into the light. How long the credit will last goodness only knows. An early night is called for anyway as tomorrow Christine and I leave at 8.00 a.m. to visit NAPS. As I type the window is getting up and the curtains are blowing into the room.

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