Bees and tanks and gardens, oh my!

20 January 2012

I went with the guy from MVIWATA today to go see one of their projects. It’s one village that has a lot of projects going because the donor already was working with them through the Lutheran church and wanted MVIWATA to continue working in this village. So they have goats, bees, storage tanks, and community gardening, and possibly others I’m not aware of. As we drove out there in his friend’s borrowed car, going through the lower elevations that just grow corn, he talked about how when the country liberalized its economy, seed distribution switched from being done through the state to being done on the open market. When the government did it, they experimented with seeds to see which grew best in the that climate. But then the economy opened and the international companies came in and started selling hybrid seeds cheap, without testing them for local suitability and people adopted them. But these seeds required a lot of fertilizer, and while they had good returns at first, the returns declined and are now worse than the harvests the traditional seeds used to get, and of course the land has been damaged by heavy fertilizer use. He also mentioned that the influx of cheap Chinese-made goods has undermined local industries. Interesting stuff.

On the way there is an amazing view of Kilimanjaro. The summit was just peeking out from over the clouds. It’s pretty amazing the way it just rises up – I never look high enough at first.

The village we visited is way up in elevation. Very beautiful. The group leaders showed us around to the different projects. The storage tanks are a special design made of concrete, so cheaper than buying pre-made plastic ones.  And they can be used for storing grain or water; the only difference is in the spigot/tap. And a village technician is trained to build them, so people can order them if and when they want and he makes them. There is also a village technician trained in building the beehives, so they don’t have to buy them pre-made either.

The other project I found particularly interesting was the community farming. They have plots scattered through the village, depending on where they’re able to get land from an absentee landowner or a member that has extra land. Their land may change from year to year or even season to season as it’s available. Each patch is farmed by 10-20 people who do work equally, according to a work schedule. They then sell the harvest as a group, thereby getting better prices, and divide the profits evenly. Some of the profits are kept for the group. They also maintain a seed bed and an experiment area, where they have several beds prepared where they can try different plants/seeds and see what grows best before planting a whole field of them.

They have access to irrigation water that is shared by three wards. There is a schedule for water usage between the wards, and maybe within the villages.

The group gave me a bottle of honey! It’s not like any honey I’ve ever tasted. Much sweeter, and with a very distinct flavor. Just extraordinary.

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