Friday, August 25, 2017

ZAMBIA CHRONICLES 2.0 - Farming Cooperative

I was disappointed to see that the 7 members of the original co-op hadn’t fully utilized the resources of land, seeds, water, fertilizer, pesticides, compost, etc. that were provided for them to create a prosperous garden. As a result, I decided to transition the men from farming into the enterprise of bee keeping. I challenged the men to take the initiative and do some research on their own before I committed any financial resources to this new project. It will be great to see how they fare. When I return next August, I’ll look forward to my first taste of honey!
We started a new co-op with 9 women, and they have really taken the bull by the horns! In one day, these women organized themselves and cleared more than 1000 square meters of our property with simple garden hoes. They worked quickly and efficiently. Through the generosity of several stateside donors, I was able to provide a brand new pair of gloves for each woman. I could only smile with delight as I watched them attempt to insert their hands while determining which glove fit the left hand and which fit the right. This was the FIRST time any of them had every donned a pair of gloves as evidenced by the fact that they didn’t know to do with their fingers. What a gift!
Every time I walked down to the farm to check their progress I was amazed! Zambian women are some of the hardest working women that I know personally. They have incredible supernatural strength and ability. Beginning at sun up, I worked with these women as each of them dug out three, 60 cubic centimeter holes in which we intended to plant the new trees for our orchard. If you have trouble converting metrics like me, the holes were approximately 2 feet deep, 2 feet long, and 2 feet wide. I wish you could have seen them really putting their backs into breaking up that ground. The work was so exhausting! We were going to plant papaya, lemon, orange, mango, and neem trees. After digging 27 of these holes, we moved to the original garden plot, and dug out 50 planting holes for the new strawberry plants. What I would have given for some automated digging equipment! I have the bruises on my knees and legs to remind me of the experience of hours of shovelling. By the time we finished our work for the day, the sun had set on the horizon, the sky was turning pale shades of orange and pink and dusk was upon us. We were all so tired, but the satisfaction of looking at those glorious plants in the ground made our hearts feel lighter. We gathered in a circle, held hands, and prayed for God’s blessing on our efforts. What I wouldn’t give to capture the expression on their faces when they get their first taste of a fresh strawberry!
Digging 50 planting holes for the strawberries. Notice the mom with a baby in one arm and a hoe in the other? That's how they's inspiring!
The beginning of our new strawberry patch
One of the 27 holes the ladies dug for the trees
The ground was rocky, hard, and disagreeable but PERFECT for growing citrus, mango, and papaya trees
Satisfaction! One orange tree planted. Only 26 to go!

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