Surf & turf farming

(from Simon) Here’s a short update to share what has happened over February.

Gertrude has been faithfully working on Kome to keep the Island health project going while we have been taking care of admin in Mwanza. We’re excited to share the “Clean Latrine” project on Kome will kick off with a fundraiser at our home church in Leighton Buzzard this week, and I’m working hard to get some latrine improvement products ready to share with the communities on the island.

Since our work is church-centered and relationship driven we believe strongly that the best way to bring development change to an obvious need (like sanitation) is by demonstrating appropriate technologies that can be replicated locally. This way we can encourage households to want to make a change (through our relationships and training seminars) and then give then options of how to change (though the demonstration of the technologies).

Building a Sanplat toilet slab

Now for something completely different!

Two weeks ago six of us from the Mwanza EI team and 2 from Iringa travelled to Arusha to attend the biennial ECHO Agricultural conference. ECHO is a Christian based organization that works to develop appropriate farming methods. Most of the presentations were about Conservation agriculture, or CA (If you know about Farming Gods way this is one approach), CA is a method of farming which is going to be crucial in restoring the poor soils across the world damaged by intensive or poor farming practices. Also attending were hundreds from across East Africa all excited about sharing experiences and technologies. There were some excellent presentation covering everything from Farm Radio, dairy cows, bees (presented by our colleage Rachel) and a new curriculum to facilitate leading discovery bible studies with farmers. I think everybody learned something.

A modified local plough

Learning how to propagate by taking cuttings

My long-lost ancestors

I attended a tour to a residential house where Chris, the owner, (an experimental german engineer) has built a biogas system under his house to turn all of his garden waste, sewage and waste water into cooking gas and nutrient rich water. He had some very honest opinions about biogas in Tanzania, on one hand it is entirely appropriate to turn all your waste into cooking gas, and believes every city house should have one instead of a septic tank. On the other hand making the technology accessible to rural areas is very unreliable and requires great investment. Plastic tanks or sheeting have a very short life span in the African sun, and are easily punctured. Chris was also proud of his compost heap, where he collects urine uses it to infuse charcoal to make ‘biochar’, a slow release nitrogen fertiliser. Again, an appropriate use of a waste product but probably not immedialty attractive to the average Tanzanian farmer! We all had a good week and got back safely to Mwanza with one puncture, timing itself nicely with a torrential downpour!

Digested effluent is completely safe to handle apparently…!)

Here’s where all the waste goes (yes it stinks!)

A week later Elisha and I travelled to a part of Mwanza region to take part in some fish farming training. Another missionary, Brett, living in Geita, about 2 hours away, has some well established demonstration farms. He has invested a lot of time building relationships with farmers, farming alongside them and showing them, through his plot, different styles of CA, and then letting them experiment by themselves. One area he has explored is fish farming and so 3 farmers have already built a pond and this training was to build on their knowledge and introduce others (like us) to the idea.

It was 3 days of intensive practical training instructed by Chrispin, an expert. We learnt how to dig a pond, lay the foundations, stock it with Tilapia (apparently the most suitable for farming) and how to deal with all manners of threats including birds, monitor lizards and turtles! We even attempted harvesting one of the ponds. There was something very special about watching a group of farmers attempting to fish! i’m still trying to find the biblical application for a future sermon!

Digging the pond

Chrispin teaching about fish-farming

Teaching farmers to fish!

Digging the pond by the church

Digging our own pond in Mwanza

Whether a fish farm could work in any of our project villages is another question, but Tim and Rachel, our colleagues have a large garden which has space to experiment. So that is this week’s work, putting into practice our training and seeing if we can keep some fish alive long enough to be worth it! Its quite a boggy patch so digging sand while up to your knees in mud is quite a work out!

Meanwhile in Mwanza, Tabitha and Reuben were inspired by a fantastic swimming gala this weekend where many of their friends entered and beat their own personal records. The youngest entry was 3 years old and the oldest was 47. We hope to get Tabitha in the mini gala in November, and she’s more than ready! I, however, have no plans to enter the “dad’s race”, an 800 meter front crawl!

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