Kagera 11

Monday

Last night it rained. Those four words are not adequate to describe the frightening deluge released from the sky – ‘a rain of terror’ perhaps? For those coming out after us I recommend wellington boots, raincoat and over trousers, a small ark and a white dove. It finally stopped about 8.00 a.m. but it is cold and damp.

We spoke to Thomas last night on the phone. The car was apparently repaired within the hour. He seemed surprised that we were concerned! Today he intends to take us to the tree nursery in the valley bottom and then to his shamba.

We managed to get up fairly early and had breakfast before Naomi arrived. She works incredibly hard and we feel guilty as she bustles around us, mopping floors on her hands and knees, ironing, washing etc. Thomas came at ten on the dot just as we were going next door with a thank you card that Christine had fashioned for Fareth and Naomi. We delivered it to Tabitha who was at her back door and then climbed into Thomas’ car and headed down into the valley to the Diocesan tree nursery.

The site has been carefully chosen:

  1. It is close to the river, a much needed source of water in the wet season. At that time the seedlings need to be watered morning and evening.
  2. It is close to people’s houses, which means it is more secure as the workers live near by.

The seedlings are grown in plastic tubes which are the main cost and are imported from near Mwanza. The seeds take up to a year to produce seedlings of a suitable size for planting, although some are suitable within a month. We were a little concerned about the use of plastic and asked about organic pots. An elderly man called Thomson was summoned and he disappeared off into a nearby shamba, returning with some yellow banana leaves and a wooden post.

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He drove the post into the ground having dug a hole with his machete. He then proceeded to create a pot out of the leaves. It was fascinating to watch, but obviously very labour intensive and probably not practical for 120,000 seedlings they are planting here. There are a mixture of eucalyptus, pine and another species which grows very quickly. The eucalyptus is for planting in remote rural areas away from farms as they take a lot of moisture out of the ground. However they grow quickly and provide protection against soil erosion. All the trees offer this protection plus wood for burning, construction and furniture. They also improve the short term water cycle.

Many seeds are planted in each pot, then as they germinate they are thinned out and the thinning are potted on. It takes about 6 days for the seeds to germinate and they can be potted on after about two weeks.

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The workforce are employed for around Tsh 40,000 – 50,000 a month (about £13 – £17), but the main object is not employment but to train them so they can go away at the end of the year and set up their own nurseries. Some have already done this. They are 10 local people, 2 of them living in sight of the nursery so they can keep an eye on it. They work from 7.30 to 12.30 as the nursery is established and from 7.30 – 10.00 at a later stage.

The soil is mixed using 20 parts local soil, which is rich in humus from the valley bottom and 3 parts manure which is brought in.

This could well become a business in the future but currently they are supporting churches, schools and poor families by giving them for free. Funding has come from the money raised on the Kilimanjaro climb and from the AFC. The aim is to make the nursery self-sustaining in the future. It has been running for a year and a half.

It was all very interesting and the workers were clearly delighted to see us posing for a group photo at the end.

We drove home and Thomas came in for a coffee and a chat before lunch. Naomi had excelled herself again with a very tasty rice, egg and vegetable mix with her signature aubergine stew. She divulged the recipe for the juice she makes – avocado, passion fruit, ginger and sugar. We are unlikely to return any thinner!

We sat out on the porch but it was decidedly chilly. About half three we went for a walk out to the ridge. The view was very clear and we could make out the Kagera river very clearly. We walked eastwards along the ridge just below the primary school. It was breath- taking. I don’t think I could ever tire of it.

Thomas arrived at 4.30 and we went off to his shamba which is a model of good practice. His banana trees and widely spaced and produce massive bunches of large bananas. What his family don’t eat he will sell at about Tsh8,000 a bunch. The price is down this year because it is a good year for everyone but it will rise to Tsh15,000 in a dry year. He has planted grafted avocados through the shamba and these will produce plentiful large fruit which will also provide a good income. He also has some trees, already very tall after only five years. He sees all his products in terms of school fees. They are investments for his family. What distinguishes Thomas’ shamba is that it is fenced to keep out animals so that young avocados and other saplings are not eaten by deer. It is all very impressive.

Back home, we settled down for an evening of writing up the day, dinner and scrabble. However I got a bit waylaid and managed to complete the monologue I have been working on on and off over the last three weeks. It still needs some work, including some research which I can’t do here, but I think it will work.

Tuesday

We woke early as we had promised Absalom that we would attend communion. It was a lovely service with Fareth sitting between us and translating for us. The student choir sang beautifully accompanied only by a drum. Wilson preached based on Joel 2. There is a heavy emphasis it seems to us on the Old Testament and the Day of Judgement. We have yet to hear a sermon (apart from Tim’s) based on the New Testament. I keep thinking that while we need to repent, of course, Jesus Christ died for our sins and we should rejoice not wallow in the misery God is predicted to inflict at the Day of Judgement! There was a moment when, just after Wilson had told us about the trumpet calls that would herald Doomsday, Fareth’s phone suddenly went off and I nearly jumped out of my skin! In spite of the apocalyptic forecasts of their preachers the students seem to be very joyous and upbeat in their faith. We were brought to the front to say a few words as this would be the last communion we would share with the students. We both spoke and were roundly applauded. Fareth in his inimitable style was wearing a shirt that it was hard to look at without dark glasses and at 50 paces.DSC_0770

Although it had been cool to start with, by the end of the service it had warmed up and we filed outside to have a group photograph taken. Chairs were hurriedly assembled and we were sat down. The Bishop’s secretary took the photos and Christine noticed that he was using my old ipad, so at least it is being used! Lots of pictures were taken and then as the group broke up for breakfast, individual students wanted pictures of us on their phones. Eventually we managed to get away and headed to the Bishop’s Office. Thomas had said that he would like to see us at 9.00, but we explained we would be at KCTC and could we stick to the original plan of 10.00? As we had had no reply we thought we’d get there as soon as possible. However he was in a meeting so we went with Thomas to his office.

Thomas showed us the kit that Community Health Visitors can use to teach people about reproductive health. It is provided by MMA (Medical Mission for Africa), an Australian charity. It is excellent with all sorts of useful visual aids including a very realistic looking pelvis, two dolls, a magnetic board with pictures showing the uterus and male penetration, a magnetic menstrual cycle, and a couple of knitted uteri of different sizes! We were fascinated and were still trying to get over what we had seen when we were summoned to Bishop Darlington’s office.

Darlington greeted us warmly. It was lovely to see him again and we had a very useful and constructive meeting with him. The good news is that he will becoming to the U.K. in February for a conference in Canterbury and plans to spend some time in Suffolk afterwards.

We left and Thomas suggested that we set off to Nyamiaga at 12.00. We just had time to pop home, collect the presents we had for Darlington, which we had forgotten, walk down to the dress maker who had let it be known that he needed another measurement from Christine and have a quick cup of coffee. It was positively hot by now and very welcome it was too!

Nyamiaga isn’t far and we remembered that we had been there before five years ago as we drove into the church forecourt. We walked across the grassy area in front of the church towards a line of eucalyptus trees which had been planted about the time we last visited and were now very tall. They provided some welcome shade from the hot sun, but as we came through to the other side, there was the most magnificent view across the valley. At our feet and stretching away down the rocky hillside were eucalyptus saplings, 2,500 in all.

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They have been planted by the church community for a number of reasons:

1. They prevent soil erosion

2. They will provide firewood, as well as timber for building in the future. This will be a source of income for the church as well

3. They act as a windbreak for the church at the top of the hillside

4. They provide a shady area where students from the school and church members can sit quietly

5. They will provide a haven for wildlife.

The trees planted 5 years ago will be ready for cutting in another five years. Coppicing will mean that they will go on producing wood for many years to come. Eucalyptus is the only suitable tree for this location. There is no farming here as the soil is thin and the slopes steep, so there is no rpoblem of the trees taking too much water from the soil.

 

The saplings were planted last Autumn in the wet season. Obviously it is hard to protect them from grazing animals and other problems, but only 200 have been lost which is less than 10% and compares favourably with other tree planting projects. The evangelist, Josias, joined us we stared out over the soon to be forested slope. He is in charge of the project and is clearly doing a good job. Pastor Selestine also arrived wearing a very bright jacket which made him visible from the top of the slope if not from outer space! Crickets averted their eyes as he made his way towards us. There is a long term plan to introduce beehives in the shade of the trees and produce honey which will again provide extra funds for the church.

On our way back to the car Pastor Selestine told us about another project. He had brought back from Bokoba some vanilla plants and these were now growing in pots in Evangelist Josias’ garden. There is a ready market for vanilla pods, particularly in Uganda, so here again was some enterprise that would benefit the church and the local community. As we passed the primary school we noticed a very attractive use for plastic bottles. They were using them as edging for the borders in the school courtyard. One student had fashioned a windmill from a plastic bottle, but was rather reluctant to let me photograph it. Luckily a ‘friend’ grabbed it and held it while I took a picture.

We drove back to Ngara and went in search of honey and sesame seeds, both of which we found. The sesame seeds or ufuta were £1.00 for half a kilo, so if anyone wants some……

Back home we managed a quick lunch (Naomi’s version of pizza – not sure it would be considered as such by an y self-respecting Neapoloitan, but hey!) and a brief sit down, before Thomas arrived to take us to the Murgwanza School of Nursing to meet the Community Health Worker students and see the MMA kit in action. We first met Innocence the Principal of the school, who made us very welcome. He is quite a character and there was a lot of banter between him and Thomas. He explained that there was a real problem amongst young people as regards sexual health in particular and that he wanted his students to go back into their communities and teach others about it. Poverty and ignorance are the basic issues and he was training students to break those cycles and end unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual diseases. The successful students will be employed by the government in their local communities having been trained at this diocesan school. In Tanzania Aids has increased nationally but in Kagera, where it first appeared in the country, it seems to be fairly stable if not declining. However there are 5 NGOs working in the region trying to reduce HIV infection.

Innocent took us into the classroom to meet the students, one of which was Nyamlinda. The room was full of late teenage men and women who all stood up as we entered and bade us welcome. Thomas spoke and then we were invited to speak as always. Then we sat and watched Innocent deliver a lesson using the MMA kit on fistulas. It was both informative and entertaining and clearly he is a natural teacher. He was funny but never failed to deliver the importance and seriousness of the subject. Watching him trying to push an oversized baby into a pelvis held by a young woman is possibly one of the more surreal moments in our trip so far.

We were asked for some final thoughts and I gave a brief case study of the danger of ignorance in these matters from my own teaching experience. Christine mad the point that being entertaining like their tutor would enable them to get the message across in their villages.

We walked home agreeing with Thomas on the way that we would be ready at 8.00 a.m. to leave for Karagwe tomorrow. Once in we took our books out on the porch, but already the wind was getting up, the clouds were gathering and thunder was rolling in the distance. About half an hour later the heavens opened and it poured down. Thunder, lightening, wind and rain. It might not be the apocalypse, but it certainly gave us a taste!

We are planning an early night after dinner, some packing and, of course, a game of scrabble.

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