We did it! We pulled up our Montana stakes, and are now pitching camp in Africa for six month. The first two weeks my wife, Connie, and I had the privilege of teaching eight days in the very rural village of Lobi, Malawi. This was the first part of our new lifetime adventure.
First in Malawi on a garden production assignment for a CNFA ( Citizens Network Foreign Affairs) farmer-to-farmer project, next in Rwanda connected with Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church P. E. A. C. E. Plan and then on to Look Development, a new orphanage project in Ethiopia founded by Matt and Amanda DeSarros our good friends in Montana.
When I say teaching, I’m really saying learning how millions of Africa people are living similar to how people lived way back in the biblical days, and then adjusting our modern ways of thinking to become effective teachers.
These people are people of the land. They walk everywhere, most have no transportation and live without — without electricity, no running water, without cars, indoor bathrooms are rare, no flashlights, no stoves, or refrigerators or washing machines, and many other conveniences we take for granted. Clothes are hand washed and usually hung on bushes to dry. Most Africans cook on open fires in small huts even in the nicer homes in the larger cities. We are learning how they live well with what we would call WITHOUT. Like — hot water comes only from an open fire.
For example, we American Newbie’s (new to Africa) stumble down a dirt road, in pitch darkness holding a small flash light, while thousands of very happy African people especially small children, easily navigate these very rutted roads in total darkness. I’m still in awe as how they do that, perhaps because many go barefoot, they somehow see with their feet. I don’t know.
The reason I can say “live well”
everyday life in africa
WITHOUT, we hear no grumbling or complaining but instead laughing and singing fill the air. The Malawian’s are hospitable and proud as they offer us sima (a cooked maze, a white corn dish that some eat three times a day and seem to love it). Another area of adjustment for us and perhaps to teach them, they don’t consume raw vegetables as we do. Change comes hard.
They have large families and often take in orphans besides, where they live in very small brick and/or mud buildings. Daily we see thousands of people packing tons of water from bore holes and muddy streams. Picture this, smiling children, water on each child’s head, happily chatting away or singing, as they make their daily trip to the water hole.
Millions of African farmers work very hard, chopping away at rock, hard clay soils with a large hoe planting corn and beans on small farm plots. Even woman with small babies strapped to their backs, swinging the heavy hoe, which is really their plow. It’s amazing how happy they all are as they smile and wave as we pass by.
My wife asked a young mother to show her how to tie a small child tightly to her back. Immediately the baby just calms down with his stomach pushed flat against Connie’s back. Then my wife goes outside to inspect where this family can plant a kitchen garden and the baby is as happy and quiet as if still in the womb. Connie said it was very comfortable and she even practiced hoeing and she could hardly feel the baby on her back. Also their children can sit through a three hour church service appearing content and happy. There is something we could all learn from this.
Actually we are teaching about new ways to grow food in very small places, both in Malawi and in Rwanda, where we are living now and later in Ethiopia. It appears that African’s agriculture food production is mainly rain dependent. We are learning how to slowly change the rain dependent mind-set (paradigm) which is very hard. As we travel about teaching new gardening techniques such as home kitchen gardens that require very little water or trenched-in compost gardening and portable bucket gardens, we have some success.
We also teach sessions on how to make really good compost, and then we actually go out and build a compost pile. We feel successful as the people become excited and start teaching each other. However, the challenge is, they don’t see the potential on the same scale that we do. Again change comes hard.
We see very important resources going to waste such as burning fields everywhere. Daily the skies are full of smoke sending valuable carbon up in to the atmosphere, instead this life supporting resource could be sent downward into the soil where it, the compost that we call black gold, would greatly improve their soils, crops and gardening practices.
I would like to make a bumper sticker that says: “SAVE AFRICA — DON’T BURN — COMPOST!” With all the international attention on climate change these days, all of us must consider better ways to store carbon in soils. After all if you don’t feed the soils, the soils won’t feed you.
That is part of our small effort while here in Africa, to teach people that they can grow very healthy food right next to their homes with very little effort. Our hearts go out to all these people packing all that water daily from all the bore holes and ponds.
We have a few teaching gardens started using clean recycled wash water placed in five liter water bottles with holes drilled into the lid. The people just squeeze the bottle onto each seed planted in a small dish shaped impression planted in good topsoil. That way, they do not waste their hard earned valuable water. This also slows down weed germination by not watering the whole garden area.
We are starting to accomplish the real purpose we have traveled so far from home. We visited a Prison in Kigali, Rwanda the capital city of 1,000,000 people and presented some of our ideas, they are going to have us come back and assist them with building compost piles and demonstration gardens. Also schools, a widow shelter, a hospital, and several churches have requested these new gardening ideas. It’s rewarding when they say they get it! Ya Baba Wa! Which means WOW!
These ideas are catching on with our focus: WORK LESS GROW MORE — a motivational incentive that we keep talking about. African is teaching us how to live without, as we teach them new ways to grow food. Change comes hard as I said. Please pray for us to be successful in teaching teachers to spread these new ideas to those in need.
Wayne Burleson, a long time range management columnist for Grainews, and his wife Connie normally reside in Absarokee, Montana USA, and will pull stacks again and head back home sometime in March of 2010. He can be reached at: Wayne & Connie Burleson, Humanitarian Food Gardening Project 332 N Stillwater Rd, Absarokee, Montana 59001, Home 406-328-6808 Cell 406-794-9464, or visit his web site www.pasture-management.comor blog http://newwaysto-