An early rise as Thomas is due at 8.00 for our trip to Karagwe. We are priviledged to have the bishop’s land cruiser with his driver, Edwin, who also happens to be Absalom’s brother. We load up and are away by about 8.20. We pass Absalom’s wood just after the T junction with the T3 road. It is his pension and judging by the size of it he should live well in his retirement!
We stop at Nyakasanza which is a typical road junction town, all lorries, snack bars and rather dubious shacks which sell a variety of things. We stock up with sodas and then turn onto the laterite road which is ours for the next 3 hours, after which well….you will see. We enter the Nurigi and Kimisi game reserves, one either side of the road. The game do indeed seem to be very reserved as apart from a fleeting glimpse of some antelopes on the road in the distance and the disappearing bottoms of some baboons in the bush we see nothing, not even some Scrabble! Traffic is similarly sparse, although bizarrely the first vehicle we meet has the word ‘bakery emblazoned across its front. Do Zebra and Giraffe have a penchant for bloomers and custard tarts I wonder? Perhaps rhinos enjoy a cream horn? Occasionally we encounter a bus packed tight with sweating bodies and emblazoned with religious and other slogans. We are basically on a ridgeway with occasional saddles we drop down in to. The views are stunning, but hard to photograph, partly because it is very cloudy and misty, even raining at times. Nevertheless I ask poor Edwin to stop on a number of occasions, causing Thomas some alarm as he says that lions have been introduced recently. I speculate on how you introduce lions, “Good morning this is Mr Simba and his good lady Mrs Simba” perhaps. Anyway I see nothing more terrifying than black ants, which are quite frightening actually if you get in their way.
Out the other side we pass some fairly desperate houses belonging to local shambas and cattle herders, but steadily the housing improves as do the shambas and you begin to realise that Karagwe is actually quite prosperous along the road. We plunged down into lush valley bottoms passing large banana shambas and some quite smart houses. At last we reach the town of Omurushaka and a metalled road – hoorah!, our internal organs relax having had the pummelling of their lives. However we travel about 200 yards and then turn off to our left onto a laterite road which struggles to live up to that term. After a while there is a general consensus in the vehicle that we need to contribute to the bounty of the wet season and we all move to different pieces of undergrowth to make our contributions. Shortly after we come across the local rural dean standing by his motorbike, apparently waiting for us. Thomas had arranged a liaison at this apparently not godforsaken spot and duly hands over some letters from the bishop for distribution. We then turn down a track which could vaguely be made out with enough imagination.
We are now mainly on the edge of a valley floor with marshland to our right. There is quite a bit of forestry as well as tree planting has been happening here thanks to CCMP. At last we arrive in the village of Kabalekela which is on the side of the valley with magnificent view across to the hills beyond. We meet with Bosco who has seized CCMP with both hands and run with it. He is a real entrepreneur and is clearly doing well. He is also an evangelist and a CCMP co-ordinator for the parish.
We entered his very smart house and sat in his lounge to talk. He told me that he was born locally and only had a primary education (although he is clearly very bright). He heard about CCMP and became enthused. He set himself some priorities, in other words what he wanted from life and then worked out how to achieve them. He decided that he first wanted a decent house for his family(a wife and 4 children). He has built it himself, making the bricks and buying in floor tiles and metal sheeting for the roof. Secondly he wanted food security which he has now achieved. He produces more than enough to feed his family and to sell. Furthermore he has become a businessman, buying bean from others and the storing them until the price goes up and then selling them at quite a profit. He has 200 sacks of beans in his stores. He uses his mobile to keep track of prices. All the produce is transported to the road by bike or motorbike by 4 people who he now employs to do that. He also employs workers on his shamba. His third priority was to build a house for his mother and this is now well underway. In the future he wants to buy a car and to send his children to secondary school when they are old enough. Recently he has bought 8 acres of land for trees for timber a for fruit and this complements 6 acres of timber woodland that he has already.
Now you may be thinking that this all sounds a bit like exploitative capitalism, but actually his neighbours are proud of him and want to learn from him. Before CCMP came into the village there were only 3 iron sheet roofed houses, now there are very few grass thatched houses at all. CCMP has really changed the mindset of local people and they now know and understand what resources they have and how to exploit them.
Bosco took us down to a neighbour called Nevard who is in the middle of building his house, indeed plasterers were working in the lounge. Nevard has joined a pamoja group in the village. (‘pamoja’ means ‘together’ in Swahili). Pamoja groups are saving and loan groups which have been seed funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s fund. Basically people pay in each week and then take loans agreed by the whole group for specific needs or projects. These loan then have to be paid back with 5% interest. Each group has between 15 and 25 members and they set priorities for community improvements and help each other to achieve them. Nevard has bought himself a motorbike with a loan and then paid it back. He will use the bike to transport his coffee to the road. He grows robusta under his bananas. I noted some signs of the coffee rust fungus, but hopefully his bananas will provide enough shade to prevent its spread. He is also growing avocados and mangoes. Being part of a pamoja group has certainly raised his aspirations as well as his standard of living. He now needs some help to improve his shamba through CCMP.
From there we drove down to the local church which has just been officially opened by Bishop Darlington. The building was begun by the church community collecting stones and bringing them to the site. ‘Tumaini’ (‘Hope’ in Swahili), a Guernesy based charity offered help and now they have a fine new building. Tumaini have also helped to build a new school which was much needed. As with so many schools it has stunning views. However there are 401 pupils and 6 staff, which the mathematically adept amongst you will work out as an average class size of 66.8. Anybody fancy doing the marking for that?! The school is government run and so there is not enough money apparently to pay for more staff.
Finally we drove to Nyihanga village which is in the same parish. We met some of the congregation in the church who are at the start of the mobilisation process. The new church has been built by the community and has about 70 regular attendees, although there are about 200 registered Christians in the village. Bosco introduced us and Thomas gave a motivational speech and then passed the baton to yours truly. I talked about the importance of Christian being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in their communities and that they were very much doing what Jesus commanded in that respect. It seemed to go down well. Christine followed on with some inspirational words. We invited questions and comments. The Pamoja treasurer spoke about the problem of climate change and how it was now so difficult to predict when to plant and how it was affecting farmers’ incomes. Hearing this in a remote village really brings home the reality of climate change and the problems it is causing. How I wish Trump could have been there to hear that farmer! Then Bosco got going and went on at some length giving the CCMP message. He is clearly a very good speaker and people listened attentively. The village co-ordinator, a wonderful woman called Anatolia slipped out to check on something and as I wanted her picture I followed her out. Thomas also went out to answer his phone so poor Christine was left to hear Bosco’s speech in Swahili!
Outside I took pictures of the local wildlife and also of the severe erosion that is taking place in the hillside next to the church. Some serious tree planting is needed there and soon!
As we were about to leave, we discovered that they had prepared food for us, so the altar cloth was stripped away and a new cloth was placed on the table. Rice, beans and mashed banana were offered along with the ubiquitous soda. We were quite hungry so managed a full plate each, only to be shamed when the locals were invited to pitch in and we remembered that a plate is only full in Tanzania when it is built up to a teetering mound of what ever is going. We are lightweights by comparison!
We drove away with their thanks ringing in our ears. Our presence had fulfilled Thomas’ promise that one day he would bring international visitors to them to see what they were doing with CCMP. We felt very honoured and humbled by our reception. We then threaded our way back to the main road and on to Kayanga where we were due to spend the night. Kayanga is a rather attractive town built on the top of the ridge and spilling down the sides. There are some nice houses and open spaces and it feels rather at ease with itself. We drove through it past two coffee processing factories to a modern complex of buildings which is the diocesan guest house and rehabilitation centre. The idea is that the guest house is a source of income for the main work which is with disabled children.
We were shown to our en suite room and decided that before we ventured into town for dinner we should have a shower. What was more a hot shower was on offer in a sort of wet room. It was certainly that since the toilet was pretty much directly under the shower, but hey it was a hot shower – our first in over three weeks! Except it wasn’t. Try as we might we couldn’t get it hot. We tried different variations of knob turning and switch flicking, but the electric water heater was having none of it. I went out to track down another pillow and mentioned our difficulty to the man who seemed to be in charge. Immediately a technician was dispatched and by dint of manipulating the knobs and switches with his magic hands we had hot water! Bliss!
O.K. the shower had the force of a mist, but it was better than nothing and we both managed a shower without turning the apparatus off. Then, feeling a lot better, we headed into town to a Lutheran hotel which offered a buffet dinner. Christine said we would probably be offered a diet of worms, but actually it was a little better. Rice, brown and white, beans, matoke, and some spinach and cabbage mix was what we were offered, while the lads could add beef ribs, chicken bits and what seemed to be fish heads judging by the baleful eyes that greeted us when the lid was lifeted from the dish. It was filling and that was all we could ask.
Back at the guest house we settled down on a surprisingly comfortable mattress and under a mosquito net. The latter was welcome when a particularly large flying beetle tried to gain entry to our bed. We slept.
We had to be up and ready by 8.00 a.m., but the shower remained an enigma. The technician’s legerdemain had been so good, we had no idea how he’d performed the trick. Christine sent me out to find help, but it wasn’t easy. I surprised a young lad who was polishing desks in the office, but clearly showers were above his pay grade so he got on his mobile. However he seemed to lose interest so I wandered away disconsolately towards the prospect of a cold shower. One last try got the hot water going and so Christine dived into the shower and I followed. It just about lasted until I had finished!
So we then had a meeting with Pastor Aggrey Mashanda, the Executive Director of the Karagwe Community Based Rehabilitation Programmes. Children are brought here for physiotherapy and other support services. There is even a prosthesis workshop on site. The government supports with experts but not with finance. The centre has only been open since 2015 but we were impressed with what we saw. Breakfast had been prepared for us in a large conference hall and we enjoyed some cocoa, but unfortunately the samosas were meat based so we went hungry!
Thomas then took us to the Tumaini operation in Kayanga and we met the staff and saw the sewing school and the carpentry workshop.
Then we set off homewards. It is a long journey over some seriously interesting roads. The internal massage that such a journey gives one, had an undesirable on myself, that caused me to abandon the vehicle in the middle of the national park and, lions or no lions, contemplate the wonders of nature at close quarters. Following which, St Immodium of Diarrhoea was invoked, the patron saint of all who travel in distant lands.
We arrived in Nyakasanza absolutely ravenous and found a couple of chapatis and a couple of Mandazi were all that was on offer. We took them and wolfed them down. Frankly if I had been confronted by a lion I suspect that it might have had to look to its laurels if it wasn’t to be eaten by me!
Back home and we have had a steady stream of visitors all keen to welcome us back. Amongst them were John and Rose bearing Tim’s jacket and shirts which he had ordered. They look wonderful, let us hope they fit him! They gave us some surprising news, namely that 2 days ago they learnt that on Monday they have to move to Nyamiaga parish the other side of Ngara. About 30 pastors have been told to move on that day and some may only just have been told! The Ruzabilias were in a bit of a state as Rose works for the diocese as Sunday School cop-ordinator here in Murgwanza and the house they are moving to only has two rooms and they are a big family! If you pray please pray for that situation.
Absalom was our last visitor, just making sure we were back safely. He is still not well, with high blood pressure and what he thought might be malaria. Again prayers please if you do.
We are shattered so I think an early night is in order.