Josh Amend, Peace Corps Tanzania. -.
Josh was both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at http://peacecorps.mtu.edu/ .
October 27, 1998
"So far training hasn't been bad at all. I think it is partly because we've had 3 weeks of fluff cut out, but mostly because the training staff is great.
"The technical training is really good. The guy in charge really knows his stuff and he tries to minimize the time spent in the classroom and maximize the time spent outside actually seeing and doing things. We spent one week at a teaching farm in Babeti district where all we did was hands-on technical training (coppicing trees, nursery stuff, etc.) and language. During the time here in Arusha most of our technical training has been off site. We're making contact with a lot of good organizations that could be helpful down the line.
Peace Corps Trainees at the base of Mt. Kilamanjaro.
"I really like what I've seen of Tanzania so far. Bacho - the training farm we went to - is right at the base of the rift, so we climbed that one day. It's quite a view. Today we went east of Arusha a ways and could see Kilamanjaro for the first time. Mt. Meru is beautiful and always visible from Arusha. The family I stay with here farms a little ways up from the city - bananas, sweet potatoes, and maize, plus some fruit trees. We also saw a really nice farm farther up. Partly on his own initiative and partly with the help of the Heifer Project International the farmer has a very good system of leguminous trees, 2 milk cows, and a really slick biogas system that he says has cut his fuelwood use by 85 or 90%."
Peace Corps Trainees in a Chagga garden.
Another view of a Chagga garden.
[Editor's note: "Mountain Farmers" by Thomas Spear, University of California Press, is a wonderful book on the history of farming in the Arusha and Meru Districts of Tanzania.]
From the First Quarterly report, December, 1998.
First of all, I'm going to apologize for my handwriting and say that it's legible to me now, but I can't guarantee that anyone else can read it, including myself 6 months from now. I could borrow a typewriter from the primary school, but it weighs about 90 pounds, and if I ask for it, they'll make some 10 year old girl carry it to my house on her head.
My site is Mjahi village, Njombe district. It's roughly 30 km north at Mjombe town, mostly on the main Dar-Sonsea road (see map). It's an hour by bus (a bus with no starter, limited brakes, 2 shattered windshields and tires that blow periodically without slowing it down, which carries a spare engine block and sometimes picks up and even drops off passengers without coming to a complete or even incomplete stop). I haven't gone by bike yet, but there is a back way that I suspect is faster, at least going from Mhaji to Njombe (that way is mostly downhill). My nearest Peace Corps neighbor is in Mdandu, another hour by bus, but only 1-½ hours by foot on the back way. The next closest is in Imelinyi, about the same distance by foot or bike path, quite a bit farther by road, especially since there is no bus and other transport only by previous arrangement or extremely good luck. There are 9 other environment Peace Corps volunteers in the district (plus one teacher), but they are all at least a day's travel away. Actually, anything (including Mjombe) that I don't bike to or get a lift to is practically an overnight trip given the bus schedules.
Mjahi is one of the higher points in the area, but it's mostly on top of a very flat ridge (if you're in the middle of town, you could be in North Dakota). Most people live on the flat ridge-top. Houses are widely spaced with fields in between. Many (maybe most or all) farmers also have fields in the valleys on the edge of town. The slopes and some drier valley are still (I'm told) native vegetation that I think is classified as miombo woodland. The major crops are maize (mostly sold for cash but also eaten locally)_, potatoes (almost all sold for cash), and beans (I think common kidney, Phaseolus vulgaris, also mostly sold but some eaten locally). There are some greens and vegetables grown in the valley fields. The main, flat fields are largely plowed with oxen and monocropped-chemical fertilizers and DDT are used. There is apparently a relatively recent move to grow vegetables (mostly tomatoes) as a cash crop. There are quite a few peach trees. I'm told there are two or three varieties, some native and some "improved," but some look like they might turn out to be plums. I'll have to see if someone can verify what farmers have told me-in Swahili they just call them metoula which means fruits and my dictionary doesn't have "peach" in it. The only other trees that appear in significant numbers are Australian pine (Casuarina cunninghamiana -spp? Locals just call it pine), one or maybe two species of Eucalyptus, and what the locals call cypress (it might be Mexican cypress, Cupressus lusitanica). I've seen a few trees that look like true pines and have had 3 native species pointed out: mhaji, mdandu, and mjombe. Somehow I forgot to mention black wattle (Acacia mearnsii); there's a little grown in the village for fuelwood and charcoal, grown by the Tanganyika Wattle Company (Tanwat). I don't know much about Tanwat, but I hope to visit their office before long. The pine and cypress are grown mostly for timber that's mostly used for furniture. Eucalyptus is used for timber and hedges (this is why I think there might be two species). Many (if not most or all) boundaries between farms are marked with lines of trees. All of the observations in this paragraph are my own guesses or come from one or two other people, so they might change before the next report. One more thing I almost forgot is bamboo. It grows in the wetter areas (some small clumps near houses, the same with bananas). Almost all the fences here are made from it, as are most tool handles. It's also used for one of the local alcohols.
There isn't much in the way of livestock. There are lots of oxen, but I don't know that any is used for beef. There's virtually no diary cattle - I haven't seen any milk at all. There's a few goats, most of which are owned by the school. Everyone seems to have chickens. Quite a few people have a pig or two. I haven't seen anything penned up except the pigs which are always penned.
I have 3 projects that I think I can work on to make progress that will keep everyone happy without too much danger of dramatic failure while I work on other things.
First, just outside my house I have a big (huge, really) area that is mine to do with as I please. I guess it's only big because it's main purpose is as my vegetable garden. There are quite a few fruit trees in one section (peaches mostly, but some other stuff - I was told something about apples and parasitic plants that made no sense at all, even though it was in English) and I'm planning to include them in an agroforestry/permaculture plot. I'm working on what to plant - essentially what seeds are available and what will grow. In the next few days I'm going to begin preparing it, and trying to round up a fence that will keep out the goats and chickens.
Second, one teacher is going to work with me on a small field of his (maybe the school's). I'm not sure what I want to do there, but it's on a bit of a slope, so I'm thinking of including fodder grasses and/or trees in some erosion control. It's too late this year, but eventually I might get him to try something other than raking all the crop residue into a pile and burning it, which is the first step in preparing a field here.
Third, the same teacher (Kidenya) is in charge at the school's tree nursery. They've got a nice site and a pretty good start, but there are some easy improvements, like adding something other than pine, eucalyptus, and black wattle.
In addition to these projects, my main focus will be assessing the environment/systems here and identifying resources, both in the village and in the surrounding area. A big part of this will be working on Swahili so I can talk with farmers. It will also include visits to Tanwat, the Natural Resources office in Mdandu, maybe HIMA, the Tanganyika Farmer's Association, and some other offices that have development-sounding names.
December 4, 1998
"Swearing in was yesterday, and our picture made it on the front page of two papers this morning. Tomorrow we head to our sites, but I probably won't get to my village until Mon.--if I go all the way on Sun. I'll be sleeping on the concrete floor and returning to Njombe on Monday to buy something to eat. My first priorities are to get the house set up and to get a garden/demonstration plot organized, and of course finish my quarterly report.
February 23, 1999
So far, things are going well. I have settled in to my house and have resolved the few minor problems with it. I have decided that for now I will concentrate on helping individuals begin and improve vegetable gardens and small coffee and fruit orchards. There are many farmers who are growing fruits and vegetables for the market, a few who have begun to grow coffee, and many more who wish to begin. I can see areas for improvement in the methods they use, particularly the integration of multiple use trees. I see this an opportunity to get farmers to start small tree nurseries and the diversify the species they plant; currently this is almost exclusively pines, eucalypts, and black wattle, with a few cypress and fruit trees.
3 March 1999
Michael Sidandavike is one of the farmers near me with whom I think I'll be able to work. I can probably learn as much from him as he can from me. His situation is a little different from most, as he doesn't have much land, so he's already had to shift some from just growing maize. He's already growing coffee that looks good to me, and he has a couple of small wood lots, one for timber and one for fuel. He also has three donkeys and earns money by hauling things for people. He's got a bunch of chickens and goats. Plus he's got a little shop where he repairs bikes, sharpens tools, etc.
Beets could have written his description of the upland cereal-based system without leaving Mjahi. Pretty much everything is centered around maize. The only other field crop that gets eaten much here is beans. There are 3 or 4 types that I've seen here (many more in the Njombe market). Sometimes the maize and beans are intercropped - some alternating rows, some mixing within rows - sometimes they aren't. I don't know which is more common. There are three types of pumpkin/squash, usually mixed in with other crops, but scattered enough that I'm not sure what's planted and what's volunteer. The only other thing grown mostly for local consumption is mchicha (leafy greens) which includes a few types of cabbages, pumpkin leaves, several wild/semi-wild things (mostly Amarnath spp. I think), and who knows what else. Everything else is used a little bit locally, but probably falls into the category of "most interesting cash crop." The biggest of these are potatoes, tomatoes, coffee, and (I think) peaches. Cabbage and Chinese cabbage are also big cash crops. I'm not sure about peaches - there's lots of them here and lots of them in the market, but I don't know if any of those are the same peaches. There's so many of them around that you don't have to buy them in Mhaji, so I suspect that maybe no one even tries to sell them. Coffee is a relatively new one. The Ministry of Agriculture is pushing it as a cash crop for the S. Highlands.
Farming on the hillside.
A lot of the initial cultivation is done with oxen, but people with big families, small fields, or littlemoney do it by hand. Weeding is done by hand, and like Beets says, it's often late. I've seen some fields with weeds quite a bit taller than the corn. I'm pretty sure this is a labor thing. Small families with big fields make it hard to keep ahead of the weeds. It's also a cultural or labor mismanagement thing, depending on how you look at it. In a lot of families, most of the fieldwork, especially weeding is done by wives and daughters. For some, this allows the father and sons to work off-farm. But for others it allows them to have more leisure time. My counterpart is a good example. He has three daughters - one married and one in primary school, which leaves one to work in the fields with her mother. I'm not sure how many sons he has, at least 5, but they all either go to school or work elsewhere. Consequently his wife and daughter are always working and always behind. Another factor is the weeds themselves. The main ones are a handful of grasses and sedges that grow fast, spread fast, and are hard to get rid of. I know I could weed my garden every day and it would still have weeds in it.
Late May, 1999.
"I made the switch from mefloquine to dioxycycline a couple of weeks ago and it has made a world of difference. One day during the first week I woke up in the morning and felt kind of strange. I laid there a minute before I realized it was because I'd slept all night without waking up. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to get out of bed and not be tired.
After seeing some clips of on TV in Njombe, we decided that Nairobi wouldn't be so far to go to see the new Star Wars movie if its not coming to Dar or Arusha. If it's not coming to East Africa I think I'll make a personal appeal to George Lucas. If you can make LucasFilm do things as fast as you can get PC and MTU to do them, we'd appreciate the help.
"I've decided it isn't just the Tanzanian perception when people say it gets cold here in June and July. Right now I'm wearing four shirts and a stocking cap. Of course, it's not the U.P. or Wyoming cold, more like Ireland in December. If I didn't have my door open it wouldn't be so bad in the house. It's supposed to be coldest in July, maybe some frost, so I might break down and bring the charcoal inside yet. I don't mind it at all, except for the days that start like this and end up feeling like it's really equatorial Africa. That always seems to happen when I have to go somewhere in the morning and I end up either sweating off several pounds or trying to keep track of all the extra shirts or usually both.
"The day I sat down to write a note to the district coffee guy asking for some help I got a message that he and a guy from Iringa (from an organization called IFCD -- no one ever said what that stood for) were coming the next day. I went to the meeting and learned quite a bit about coffee. I had to leave immediately after the meeting, so the next day I was going to talk to my counterpart (who was also there) about the possibility of organizing a group of people interested in growing coffee. When he showed up at my house he already had a list of people. We've had one meeting. There are 15 members, including the school; all but one already have coffee, and he (Wikunge) has a place and will plant some next rainy season. So far all they've done is choose officers, set an entrance fee (Tsh 1,500/=), and set a date for the next meeting (30 May) which is also the deadline for paying. They want to start a nursery for shade trees and I'm hoping to use this as a way to introduce some new species, but so far seeds are a problem. We have plenty of Leucaena diversifolia here, but others are harder to come by. Grevillea robusta is what everybody wants because that is what the government promotes, but I didn't find the few we have until after the seeds were gone. I might be able to get some from another PCV, but I'm not sure. I've had some adventures trying to get them elsewhere (along with other spp.). I've finally got some coming (I think), but I'm not entirely happy with the source. I'm not terribly excited about giving the group the seeds, but I'm afraid if I wait until next year to start they never will. I'm going to attach strings to the gift, though. Either they'll pay me back (they're expensive -- Tsh 40,000/= per kg), or they'll find a site where they can plant some to use as a future seed source. I'll be interested to see how things go at the next meeting. I'm not 100% convinced this will get off the ground. One interesting piece of information that came out of this first meeting is that last year the farm price for coffee was Tsh 500/= per kilo. Given the overhead needed for pesticides and fungicides, this is very close to nothing."
16 August 1999
"I ended up taking a work related trip that someone else was supposed to take, so I had another report to write and other various paperwork - for PC, Njombe District, and USAID since that is where the money for the fund that paid for the trip. I can't wait for the day that I work for only one bureaucracy.
"The 7th & 8th was a birthday party for another PCV at my house. We played a game of 3 on 3 softball that ended when we had to give up the field for soccer practice (Njombe North/East beat Njombe West with George Escobar striking out with the tieing run on 3rd). Yesterday two kids came to my house to use my glove and ball to play catch. Maybe by the time I leave there will be one more team that plays better than the Cubs and Rockies. I've already got one kid that throws better than any of the Rockies' pitchers.
Baseball in Njombe.
"The PO just got back from their 2 hour lunch so I'll mail this."
Josh working on his new water tank.
The Falls on the Ruhadji River near Njombe Town.
Sunset in Mhaji.
Late August 1999.
World Map (Again). First of all, we finished the map in Mhaji, almost. It's as close to right as it ever will be, and we added a Tanzanian flag and an almost-round PC symbol. All that's left is to add a boundary and clean it up. The kids were harvesting corn the last day I had planned to work with them. The next day I was starting over again in another village, so the teacher in charge said if I left the paint and brushes they'd finish on their own. That was three weeks ago today, and its just like I left it. I don't know why - the teacher got arrested, but was back after three school days. I'll be interested to see if there's any paint left. I hope so, since there was a brand new can of black and I was hoping to use some for something in my office.
A few weeks before we "finished" in Mhaji, my counterpart mentioned that a teacher from Igima, the next village south, had asked about me helping them with a map. I thought I'd be able to put it off: Amy Henry, one of the PCV's near me, has been doing maps with only photo copies of the back, and I told her I'd give her my book as soon as I was done. I thought I'd give her the back and have an excuse to wait until she was done. But, the teacher came to my house and said, "When do we start?" before we could finish here. I almost started crying.
Once I got there and started, I thought it would be pretty painless. The Igima school has some money, so I don't have to buy anything. The question of having kids help, so I decided I wouldn't bother to fight that battle. This time I decided I'd explain the process and let them do it however they wanted. The first day, four teachers drew the grid, and I thought I might finish quickly and painlessly. Over the next two days, we drew almost all of the map. They kept giving me the complex areas, but I didn't care since it was going very fast. Then, our schedule got interrupted as I had to take a trip. I sent a note saying I couldn't come, but they should continue without me, at least finish drawing and start painting if they wanted. It ended up being a week before I got back, and they hadn't done a thing. To make things worse, that day (2 days ago) it was just me and one teacher. We finished drawing (I did actually) and started painting. I think I told you about the kid in Mhaji who never quite got the whole drawing and painting thing. After working with this teacher I know what that kid will be like if he suffers head injury and loses all his map drawing skills before he grows up. He's a nice guy and I like him a fair amount, but by the end of the day at doing the map with him, I wanted to strangle him or myself. I also hope to God he doesn't teach math: he's one of two teachers who decided it was easier to make extra marks on a ruler then to remember their multiplication tables beyond 7x1. One very valuable use I see for this project is to make everyone in the IMF who decided paying interest is more important than funding education (that's what I've hear anyway) do it and see what the real effects at microeconomic theories are. I wrote an article for our environmental program newsletter giving my view of this project.
The Notorious World Map.
Fuelwood Stuff. This just reminded me that I forgot to tell about my water tank last time, so that's next. The relevant thing here is I have a ton of bricks just sitting around my house. I didn't want to just give them away, so I decided to build a BBQ. Then I decided since I'd still have a ton of bricks I'd play around with building fuel-efficient stoves. Three of the books I brought from Dar are on this topic and I've decided on the model. I'm going to build in my kitchen (it's called the type II Napali - hub). I'm doing this mostly out of my own interest and for my own convenience. If it works out it will be a pretty cool stove, but it might develop into some actual projects, since I've been learning quite a bit about fuel wood between reading and trying it out and then just paying more attention to the subject.
First, I'm going to consolidate some information and write it up for dissemination to other PCV's. We got a little information in training, namely a how-to session on one stove design that's promoted by an NGO in Kilimanjaro Region. It was presented as if it is the design and the only construction method, but maybe not the best (especially for Njombi), and the attitude is a good one for ending up with a bunch at unused stoves. After reading some, I can see that it's a good design and a good construction method.
Second, I'm going to include fuelwood more completely in my evaluations of the farming systems, and I might do some stuff specifically, with the subject but first I thought there wasn't much need for doing fuelwood stuff. Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is more than abundant, it's good fuelwood, and lots of people plant it and have told me they plant it for firewood. In addition, lots of the native spp are good fuelwood, as is Eucalyptus globulus, are the spp. frequently planted for timber and pruned to produce clear wood and fire wood. More recently I've heard that people feel some shortage of fuelwood, especially for brick making. Also, I've heard that while I was in Dar, someone from Tanwat came to Mhaji to teach people to plant trees, and it sounds like he came because Tanwat is tired of people stealing trees. (I wish I'd been here to tell him if I lived here, I'd probably steal trees from them too.) I've also recently heard complaints about people stealing or over-pruning trees that belong to the village and the school. Apparently fuelwood is a bigger problem than I first thought.
I've also been learning some of the practicalities of using fuelwood. I had a big pile of wood that had been laying around my house plus the dead stuff I'd cut off my peach trees. I decided to cut it up and get it inside my store room and split the few big pieces. The first thing I found out was that its very hard work cut firewood with a machete, and that splitting it is downright dangerous - your hands are to the close to the wood. My hands were pretty torn up for awhile, and I'm probably lucky I didn't break my thumb. After that, I borrowed my neighbors axe. I certainly hope it's the dullest one in use anywhere in the world, but I'd guess its representative at a lot of the axes around. I also think that most people just use machetes since they're cheaper and have more uses. Aside from the dull axe, I gave up splitting pretty quickly because at the very twisted grain of every piece, I have I'm not sure how much this is a species thing and how much is a wind thing (most of the trees here in Mhaji all lean the same direction and there aren't many places with straight trees). In short, I'm not going to waste my time encouraging people to split wood no matter what the books say.
Finally, I might try to get a few people to build stoves if mine works out. I've found out that HIMA does some of this (Amy has seen them do it) but I've only heard them described. When I borrowed my neighbors axe he said "Oh, a stove like mine" and showed me a stove in his kitchen, that I'd guess is the HIMA design and looks like its more or less the same idea as the one I want to try. I asked if he used it and he said yes and that it saves lots of wood, but I could hardly see it because his wife was boiling water on three stoves and the room was full of smoke. The first thing here is to find out about the HIMA stove. Then I'll build mine - I'm not sure yet if I'm going to use the clay holding my house together or the stuff they make pots from - and maybe try a few other designs. Then, if I decide to try a stove project, I'll need to find out who has such things, do they use them, why they do or don't , etc. Before I start stove building seminars or whatever. As far as tree planting, I'm not sure what I'd do. People know wattle is good firewood and lots of them know how to go about raising them in a nursery and planting them. Seeds are available, if not free then very cheap from Tanwat, and in great numbers on any of the thousands of trees around. There might be some value in promoting indigenous spp., but there doesn't seem to be much interest. The only real possibilities for improvement that I see are either encouraging a village fuelwood lot (they only have a timber lot) or telling people that they can sell firewood, but anyone who hasn't figured that out is either very dumb or not really a Tanzanian - they are very aware of anything anyone is growing for cash.
Water Tank. This all happened last quarter and suddenly I'm not so sure I forgot it last time, so I'll give the short version. I had a very rusty 55 gallon drum for water and three 5 gallon buckets for holding water clean enough to cook with and boil for drinking. So when PC said they'd pay 65,000l/= for us to build water tanks I started. Like a lot of things it turned into an ordeal. First not long after the masons started (its brick and concrete), I found out that when they said they could build it, they meant they know how to build things with bricks; by reading a chapter in a book or rain harvesting I knew more about how to build a tank. This really wasn't a problem except once they discovered how hard it is to build round things with flat tools, they price went up. They other big thing was they estimated I'd need 2-3,000 bricks. I got 3,000 because transport was the same price for up to 3,000 bricks and I thought it would be better to pay for extra bricks than pay for transport twice. As it turned out, I needed about 1,500 bricks, counting those that broke during transport. Thus my BBQ and stove building ideas. The whole thing ended up being a little too expensive to be really appropriate technology ( and I haven't gotten gutters yet). I'm not 100% sure at the total price (for a week or so I was more worried about a sick dog and lost track of how much concrete I bought), but its in the neighborhood of 100,000/=. I think it was worthwhile though (outside of making my life easier). For one thing, now Mhaji has 2 masons who can build a tank. For another thing all the teachers and the village have seen it and lots of other people have heard about it. And several teachers, myself and both masons say they'll build another one when they have the money. Once that happens, I think there's a chance tanks might spread on their own. If my office gets it going, pictures and maybe plans are one thing I'll hang on the walls. Price is the big problem, but I'm sure it could be built more cheaply. I need to ask the masons for sure, but I think it could be built with bricks and mud as long as its lined with cement. One more thing; never pick a fight with a 3rd world mason. I saw one mix a full bag of cement, 50 kg, three 5 gallon buckets of gravel and three buckets of sand and the appropriate amount of water, all by hand.
Farmer Groups. This is the big thing right now. The coffee group has really taken off. I really haven't done much, but they give me lots of credit and it looks good on PC and district reports, so I'll claim some credit. There have been some pretty big changes already. At first it was the Mhaji Coffee growers Association, but since then they changed it to the Mtilafu CGA - that's the river just west of here. The name change came with opening the group up to people from all the villages in the area - so far they've got people from Lusisi and Igima as well as Mhaji. This isn't too surprising since M and Igima especially, and Lusisi to a slightly lesser extent, might as well be one village. People own fields in one and live in another, and lots of people who live near the boundaries are closer to shops and bars on the other side. At one point they set a limit of 25 members, but on the advice of the local ag officer, they lifted that and now there are 30. They have another requirement that I'm not sure is a good idea: every member has to have ½ acre - I'm not sure , but I think this might be a minimum to plant each year of the first two years. Anyone who falls too far behind digging holes or getting manure or planting seedlings, has to drop out. This worries me a bit for two reasons. First, it's a lot of trees (540/ac) and digging holes is a lot of work and I can see that some good farms might be eliminated by labor constraints. Second, I can see the possibility of people setting the minimum 270 trees planted, but not being able to maintain them properly and producing poor quality coffee. Apparently, it doesn't take much bad coffee to lower the grade of a fairly large quantity, eliminating some of the benefits of having a group.
We established a shade tree nursery - I gave them seeds, Grevilla robusta and Moringa oleifera. So far, hopefully, we'll plant Lucaena diversifolia and some Acacias next week. I don't like giving them seeds, but I was afraid they wouldn't get any decent shade species this year if I didn't, and that they might not last through a year at waiting to start. I've been trying to get seeds of Cardia africana and some Albizia sp., but the British and/or Germans did a pretty good job at convincing people native spp. grows too slow or are just generally inferior. NTSP says they have them, but C. aftrican isn't available this year - I think because their policy that any batch of seeds with less than 60% germination can't be sold or given away. They still store them for some reason. I'm going to try again next year and also try the national forestry research place in Lashato and a coffee research place in Moshi. I'm still waiting to hear about Albizia, so even if I get them, we might have to wait until next year to plant them.
Coffee is getting started in several villages. It's been going for quite a while in Ninga, PCV Marc Kaake's village. The ag office in Mhaji has some connections there, plus he's Chaaga and knows about and is interested in coffee, so he suggested the group travel there to see it growing and learn from the co-op there. They organized, raised the money for transport, and made the trip the same day as our second IST, so neither Marc or I were there. I would have liked to go along, but I think its good they did it without us. Afterward, I found out I'd "promised" to return the cost with PC money. That's not a financial problem since I have enough work allowance left to cover it, but I don't like it. I wish I knew if I'd accidently said that or if they just heard what they wanted. I think it's the latter since I've been irritated by listening problems, not listening and selective listening, really - quite a bit, most of the time I've know my Swahili was right or it was English so I don't think its always a language problem.
Marc and I've both doing a lot with coffee and Dana and Amy are doing some, we're working on getting help with this. My ag officer, L, (the Dist. Coffee Aid and "site supervisor" which doesn't seem to mean anything) and some farmers in Ninga are the only people around who seem to know anything about coffee, and I get the impression that they say the basic stuff - that's the way people do things because they've always done them that way. I don't know enough to say if that's good or bad, but I do know that research into different ways has been going on for a while and there is a tendency to make the normal way into the true and proper way, especially when it comes to agriculture. So, we're planning a couple trips to get the up-to-date views on coffee.
First, Marc and I are hoping to go to Moshi next month. The national coffee board is there, plus there's a research station. That's been there since the German days. We hope to come back knowing some technical stuff and with some resources (i.e. books) for other PCV's to use. Second, we're planning (me, Mark, Dana, and Amy) a trip to Mbinga with some farmers. Mbinga district is actually the biggest coffee producing region and one of the 3 places where coffee is sent to be graded and sold. There is also a research/training place called Ugano. L suggested this would be a good place for farmers to go both to get training and especially, to see good established coffee fields and the economic benefits that can come from coffee. We tried to arrange this by phone, but for some reason, coffee production hasn't led to good phone lines (or roads). So, we had to do it in person, this was my unexpected trip last week - I was the third person to be chosen to go, and I found out two days in advance. They have nice facility and I think good stuff, both at Ugano and the district office, although they're trying to take us for as much money as they can, even with L doing what he can to get us the real prices.
A couple of anecdotes. The first one probably goes in the site description. Doing the World Map in Igima, I have seen that one time impressions is true - there's more money there than here, which makes no sense, since spatially, they might as well be one village. At least you could draw the line between them about anywhere without making much difference. But it has by far the nicest school and village office at any village I've seen, and they are (or have recently) adding on to both. I asked my CP why. He said he didn't know, but made what sounds like a pretty insightful guess. He said that most of the people in Igima have moved from other nearby villages, so there is more of a "mixture" as he put it. What he meant was unlike Mhaji, there aren't any big families. Here, its hard to find a group of people, including the village gov't that doesn't have a majority of people name Kilasi, Makueta, or Mag'ong'o. He seems to think that this promotes a bit of social mafia and (I think) some corruption, at least nepotism.
I guess that one fits in the site description as well. My three most recent purchases in Njombe are a blanket, a sweat shirt, and a flannel shirt. It's definitely sub-tropical up here.
Finally, a suggestion for field camp: Third-world tree felling: I almost dropped a sisal stalk on my head. I don't know if it was because of the difference between sisal and wood or a machete and a chainsaw. Then, when I was limbing it, I almost did a bad think to myself with a machete. So get Denny a machete and tell him to learn how to use it and teach the next group not to hurt themselves.
2 December 1999
The big thing with this group (really the whole quarter) was a farmer study tour to the Ugano Coffee Research Institute just outside at Mbinga, Rnunma region. First, a review of the background to this trip. There are four of us in Niombe who are doing a fair amount of work with coffee farmers. Unfortunately, we received no training with coffee, other than seeing coffee trees in Moshi. In discussing this at our second ISI with Muasha (APCD) and Lwendo (Dist Coffee Officer and PC Site Supervisor [a pb with apparently no duties]), we were told of Ugano and the Lyamungu CRI near Moshi and the possibility of taking farmers to Ugano (from the beginning I kind of worried how good of an idea this was since it was not only not coming from the farmers, it was not even coming from volunteers, but since none of us knew about it and we were all interested in coffee training, I thought we might as well try it). For some reason, even though Mbigna district produces more coffee than any other area (and therefore a big chunk of Tanzania's foreign exchange) there is a big infrastructure deficiency there, most notably electricity (none), telephone services and roads (both there, but almost in name only). In any case this made communication difficult, especially since we had to come to town even to mail or receive a letter - we sent three, incidentally, and they got one. To make things more complicated, there were four PCV's involved, one 1 1/2 hours (by bike) west of me, one 2 hours east of me, and the third an hour beyond from that, so unless all of us come to town at once, even the communication among ourselves is difficult. By now we're all used to this, but some of the other hassles involved accentuated communication problems.
The biggest hassle outside of organizing transport and the seminar itself came from PC. We are funding the trip with PASA money, a fund from USAID. I don't know what the letters stand for, but the money is for supporting the CBNRM project- everything from PCV projects to buying a Land Rover (PC has 10 now, with 5 drivers- and 3 people authorized if necessary. I'm not sure who's doing the math). We'd been told twice that we didn't have to worry about this money running out, but when we had everything figured out and submitted a proposal, they said "Ask for less money, It's going to run out." We talked with 2 CDs and reduced the budget by 2 PCVs cutting the number of farmers from their villages (they'd both already done some PASA-funded training), but also buy eliminating money to feed the PCVs during travel. We agreed on a final budget. Then we got the money and had to call Dan to find out what the hell they'd done. It turns out that they had just cut half of the money in half, assuming that all costs were dependent on the number of farmers. Eventually we got that figured out and we were ready to go. Then, two days before we were supposed to leave Nyerere died. Our seminar was planned for Mon-Thurs, but the two days of national mourning were set for Mon and Thurs, so we had to postpone it for a week. Unfortunately this was announced the night before we were to leave, and we didn't get postponement figured out until the next morning, after we'd gathered all the farmers in Njombe.
The trip from Njombe to Ugano was torture. The bus we arranged to carry the 35 of us only had 30 seats, even though we'd been told it had enough. (I don't know if this was a lie, or just different definitions of what is "enough seats".)
The problem was made worse by two things. Ugano is far enough away and transport difficult enough that we had to spend a night in Mbinga. Second, when we got to Mbinga, it turned out that the people there (from UCRI and the district Ag and Livestock and Development Office- DALDO) hadn't done any of the planning they said they had. Fortunately we planed on the possibility of needing a full day to arrange transport and didn't need it for that. In any case, while we were redoing most of the work we'd already done the farmers were waiting around doing nothing. Apparently the few (or several?) who'd come just for the money realized that were not only getting less than they had hoped, they also had more time in town to spend it than they had thought. When we sat with them to tell them we'd been delayed and would be eating lunch in town instead of at Ugano, we had to put down a mutiny. Now, in addition to complaining about not enough "pocket money" (that's a Swahili word), several were suggesting we reduce the seminar to two days and (we think) still give them money for 4 days. In any case we got this settled, replanned the seminar and got everyone out to the site.
Once we were there things went pretty well. We had issues with the trainers being late every day and prices of some things going up, and the 4 of pretty much hid from everyone as much as we could, but the training itself went well. The first two days were spent in the classroom. At times this was irritating because one of the instructors could have been replaced by any of the farmers who could read the book she read to them. But for the most part it was good on both sides- good instruction and farmers paying attention, taking notes and asking good questions. A couple of times I thought I caught some sort of comedy routine- like when were discussing how to measure fertilizer we were told to use X handfuls, and they spent a good 10 minutes discussing how everyone has different sized hands until the one sane man in the room stood up and, essentially, that farming isn't nuclear physics and that close is good enough.
The second two days were spent visiting various places, mostly farmers. I wondered a lot about the first four since everyone we took is at least ready to plant his/her seedlings this year and the visits included from the nursery to field preparation on. But they all seemed interested and acted like they were learning things at each site. I was particularly surprised at how interested they were in the nursery. I guess even the people who are supplying seedlings to other villages aren't happy with the number and quality they're producing and were impressed with what they saw there.
One stop was probably a waste of time. We visited a large "central pulpery". It was interesting, but not too relevant. Afterwards I heard farmers figuring out that it could have pulped all of Njombe's production in three hours. We did stop at a smaller pulpery, which was very relevant, as one about the same size was being built in one of the village here. Our last stop was probably not that valuable- the curing plant where all the coffee is sent after it's pulped and dried. It was interesting (and might have been valuable) for farmers to see what happens once their coffee leaves the farm- especially the grading process and its effect on price, but mostly it was just a nice, fun way to 4 days studying (a couple people were still taking notes though).
Two of the farmer visits made all the hassle worth it. The first was a man who was growing coffee since 1951. Aside from knowing all kinds of things you can only learn from 50 years of farming, he really got all the farmers interested and excited. The way he worked with people, I'd say he'd make an excellent extension agent- I didn't understand everything (mostly due to fast-talking and missing teeth), but apparently his explanations were complete, clear and absolutely hilarious.
The other great stop was a younger farmer. By the time he was done I was almost ready to kiss him. He was great for two reasons. First he showed them all what could be accomplished with good management of a small area- he's got less than an acre, but just started sending his oldest kid to primary school in Malawi for more money than most of our farmers see in a year- this news got him a round of applause. Second, and even better, he did a lot of our job for us. When we got in his field, he didn't just show us the coffee (like the gov't ext. agents would have). He also showed his other crops, including Lucaena diversifolia which, he explained, not only provides shade, but also mulch, nitrogen fixation, and food for his cows and goats, which then provide milk, manure and income. When we went to see the livestock he explained that it wasn't good to separate the livestock from everything else and only depend on it. This was something they definitely needed to hear since here people, whether they're raising coffee, corn or chickens, think the best way to maximize profit is to put all their eggs in one basket and just keep piling on more eggs and hope that the basket never falls- i.e. they fixate on one crop and think the best way to maximize production is to expand the area of cultivation, usually to the point where they can't manage it effectively, due to lack of capitol, labor or both.
In the end, despite all the hassles I think the trip was worth it, particularly with these two farmer visits. The farmers seemed to learn a lot- both technically and conceptually. They learned the nuts and bolts of raising good coffee, and they learned some new ideas about how to integrate coffee into their personal farming system if they do this well.
My next worry was if any of this would get beyond the 10 farmers I took along. Just like any other time when 2 or more Tanzanians get together, they elected a chairman and a secretary, who was responsible for writing a report. He wrote the report, but wanted to re-write it before we photocopied it and gave a copy to each village, and that hasn't happened yet. One of my farmers was the secretary of the group in Mhigi and said he was writing a report, but the only meeting since the trip coincided with a PC meeting, so I don't know how much the intro got passed around.
Not knowing this worried me. But a couple of weeks later Lwando and a guy from the Irish Foundation (Fund?) for Co-operative Development (IFCD) came to Mhagi and Lusis (the next village north) to do a little seminar. We met at the Mhagi school's field and talked with how to deal with a field that's too old or (like the school's) too badly managed to get any production (i.e. cut the trees and start over from stump sprouts) and how to mix manure into the soil and how to fill holes prior to planting seedlings. There were a few farmers who'd gone to Ugano, some who hadn't (bot groups members and non-members) and a bunch of students. (The next day in Lusisi was a similar but smaller group). Most of the actual teaching was done by the farmers who had gone to Ugno. Lwendo added some things and provided classifications and correctness, but he didn't have to say much. By the time we were done, I was really proud of the farmers and glad we'd done the trip even though by the time it was done I (and the other three) needed a vacation very badly.
Fuel Wood- Fuel wood and stoves/ovens is still a topic
that interests me a lot, but I haven't found an opportunity to
work with it yet. So, in order to do something with it (and kill
time when I need to), I've been playing around some with doing
stoves at my house (a couple planned but not yet built)' and I've
been working up a basic guide/collection of info for PCV's to
use. We got training in one stove design (promoted by or APCD's
NGO) and nothing else. I also think that fuel wood is a great
place for teachers to do secondary projects (assuming they do
one) since they're mostly in urban areas where the shortage is
most acute (and noticeable). So I've been gathering and reading
sources and filtering and condensing the info and have started
writing something up. If I never get the chance to do any work
in the area in my village, at least I'll be able to do something
and (hopefully) someone else can use it or something concrete.
I have in the neighborhood of an acre near my house, and this year I had the whole thing cultivated. I intended to drastically increase the number of tress in the field, add a little coffee, plant some grains other than maize, and do a lot of mixing with legumes. I also would like to try some pesticides derived from local plants. I guess that, in general principal, the demonstration has been successful: it definitely shows an alternative to the standard maize-only field, and several people have asked me about what I'm doing and why. However, much of what I wanted to do didn't work out.
The big thing this month was our seminar for secondary school
geography teachers. This was planned by one environment volunteer
and one education volunteer. In addition to those two, there were
5 environmental volunteers (including me). It was attended by
9 teachers (plus one who stayed long enough to get his per diam
money then didn't come back). This was out of 14 (I think) schools
in the district, all of which were invited.
The seminar was developed because the 2 organizers were both approached by geography teachers asking for help with teaching environmental ed. There is a new syllabus which included a lot of EE and I guess a lot of the teachers don't feel comfortable teaching it. The idea behind the seminar was to give the teachers some ideas on how to teach various topics (chosen from a list created by the teachers). The assumption was that they know the information, but not how to present it other than by writing it on the black board. After doing the seminar, I'm not sure this is true; I think the Ministry of Education added stuff to the syllabus without worrying about whether or not any teaches ever studied the topics.
The topic I covered was alternative fuels and fuel conservation. I worked with another PCV, Michelle Diaz. We tried a few simple solar demonstrations for the alternative fuel part, but it was cloudy and was raining, so they didn't work so well. We had better luck with our fuel conservation demonstrations. The first was a simple wind screen/heat reflector (for a charcoal or kerosene stove) made from scrap roofing tin. The other was a "hay box" made from a local basket, sawdust, and PCissue bedsheets. We cooked some beans with this and really impressed the teachers (this is at my house and I've already got a couple people interested here).
The second day at the seminar, each teacher presented a synopsis of a lesson plan using some of the new ideas. We save their critiques and suggestions. Sometime next quarter, I'll go to the school nearest Mhaji and observe a class as a form of follow up.
The Hills around Mhaji (1).
The hills around Mhaji (2).
9 October 2000 - A visit from parents.
"We spent two weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar, about4 days of which we spent in Njombe and Josh's village. It was a tremendous experience which left us tremendously proud of Josh and what the Peace Corps is doing. We met several other volunteers and can't say enough about these people.
"It also left us wondering what more we could do for the people. The needs of the village for medical care, water supply, and education are rather overwhelming, mostly because of the logistics of getting anything there. The Baptist/Lutheran influence in the village is strong, but doesn't seem to to much for the worldly needs of the people. Josh has made an impact on the people--he has made a lot of friends--but I think he's a little frustrated that he hasn't done more.
"This has been a tremendous experience for Josh, and through him has made an impact on us. Thanks for developing this program."
My parents came to visit for 2 weeks and that plus the several days spent getting ready for them and their recovering from the trip (I'm not cut out to be a tour guide), and then being sick for a week, the month was wasted. Oh yes, I almost forgot my one activity for July, working towards one of those non-development goals at PC. I had a 4th of July barbecue and had a few locals come along with a bunch of PC people. My favorite part was when I explained to one guy that it was our Independence Day: He asked whose colony we were and when I said England his reply was more or less, "Those English sure were troublemakers."
School Tree Nursery: I mentioned this in the letter I sent last month. After a year and a half at trying to get involved with this and pretty much giving up on it, the head teacher asked me to help them. I didn't do much (they do a pretty good job on their own), but I helped them figure out what some of the tree seeds they'd gotten somewhere were. I also gave them some seeds I had (Leuceana diversifolia, Strychnos cocculoides, and Albizia schimperiana). Since then, they've transplanted them to tubes. I haven't checked on them for awhile, but I'm told they're still doing well. They've got a ton of trees, mostly Eucalyptus and black wattle, assuming not too many die, and I'm not sure what they're planning to do with them. I hope I'll be able to get involved with that too, even if they won't be planted out until after I'm done (by the way, I didn't have to go to Dar for the dog bite. I did have to go back to town 10 days later to tell them I wasn't dead. When I got to town that day, I discovered it was Labor Day, so I had to go back the next day).
This has gone very well, so far. One of the farmers I've worked with quite a bit has a teashop and sells bread. He was using a very primitive and inefficient oven - essentially 2 platforms so he could build a fire above and below the bread. I showed him the oven in the booklet you sent me, and he was pretty excited about it. It's kind of expensive (mostly because of two 55 gallon drums and some welding), so I told him we could maybe get some money from PC. I wrote a proposal for money for the drums, sheet metal, wire mesh, metal work, and transport. He said he'd come up with bricks, sand, cement, a mason, and various hardware (hinges and whatnot). I also said we'd put together a Swahili booklet that included our modifications and that the construction and first-few batches of bread would be treated as demonstrations.
The construction went pretty well. In the end, we had problems getting the door to close tightly, the top wasn't insulated enough and the chimney pipe was too small. Luckily, none of those have become too big of problems. The oven works well and bakes very nice bread, and it would have to be a complete failure not be an improvement. The biggest problem was the frustration I sometimes had getting it built. It seemed like every 5 minutes I'd be re-explaining and being told, "Now I understand". After talking with a few other people, I've decided it might be at least partly cultural - if you don't grow up with the ideas of diagrams and pictures corresponding to a real three-dimensional thing, apparently it can be a hard idea to grasp. Anyway, before long, I should have the best bread in Niombi District delivered to my door whenever I want it.
23 January 2001
The last quarter wasn't terribly productive work-wise. A good chunk of October was taken up with the COS conference, and the rains came a little early, so at the end of November almost everyone was rushing around trying to get their crops planted before the weeds got too far ahead of them (I had a hard time finding a few people to say goodbye to them).
The main work project I had was finishing up the fuel-efficient bread oven I'd started with one villager. Aside from a few problems explaining exactly how it works and is built, the whole process went well. The chimney isn't really big enough, and the top isn't insulated as much as it should be, but it works well and anything better than not working at all would have been an improvement over how he was baking before. He's baking and selling a lot of bread, and both he and his customers are happy with the amount and quality of bread he's producing. We (mostly me) translated the instructions into English, adapted them to fit what's available in Njombe, and tried to make them a little simpler to follow. I've typed this up and added some diagrams, and now I just need to make a few copies and then give it to PC to hand out to who ever is interested. (Later this month I'm going to Mwasha's new house to help him build one).
I also continued doing some stuff with the primary school's tree nursery. I got them to plant some Albizia schimperana and to use some containers made from bamboo. They seem to be taking pretty good care of it and should get quite a few trees. I wish I were going to be around to see how they turn out.
One last work thing. I hope a may have finally undone one of the bad things the government coffee extensionists have done. I was going somewhere with several people just before I left. Several of them were coffee farmers, so when we passes a large Albizia gummifera I pointed it out as a good shade tree. One of them said that another guy had had several of them in the field where he planted coffee, but because he'd been told Grevillea robusta was the tree to use for shade, he'd cut them down. Now I think the word will get around and that won't happen again.
I think that the basic principle of individuals living with the community they're trying to help is very strong. I doubt that anything very big will ever come of it, but at the very least volunteers are able to help a few families live better lives, a few farmers take better care of their land, or a few kids get something extra out of school. Over the years all of this will add up(and must have already). Even if the development part of it never amounts to much, the cultural exchange and good press for the U.S. will. I know that I have learned a lot about Tanzania (and the U.S.), and I'm pretty sure that most of the other volunteers here have as well. I also think that the people I know here have learned something about home from me, although I do know that some have just heard what they wanted to and some haven't believed everything I've told them. (On this last note, I discovered recently that the word my dictionary has for snow has another, more common meaning. Now I understand why no one seemed to believe me when I told them that it gets colder at home than in Njombe--"It gets so cold it rains cement."). I've run into so many old men who remember fondly the PC teacher they had in standard one that I'm sure that PC must be making the US government more popular over seas, at least with the little people.
Josh is also working with the Tanzanian National Tree Seed Program.
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