March 20, 2009

The banana plantation at Heart of Africa Mission is a wonderful place for a stroll when the sun burns hot. It looks much better than when we came six weeks ago. There are some beautiful bunches of bananas hanging there now. Zhita, the plantation manager, maintains it’s the fertilizer, but it’s hardly been a week since they applied it.

A beautiful bunch of bananas at Heart of Africa Mission. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

A beautiful bunch of bananas at Heart of Africa Mission. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

They’re clearing another hectare of land beside the bananas. Originally the plan was to extend the banana plantation. Zhita would like to plant soybeans there. I like his idea.

We took Zhita to the conservation farming field day at Kapiri Mposhi.

“That mami, she’s doing very well!” he says. He’s decided he will use chicken manure too, next time he plants corn, instead of basal fertilizer, and will only use urea to top dress. So he learned something there. That makes me feel good.

Zhita asked me if, when he harvests his corn and pays back the fertilizer loan of 400,000 kwacha, he can have it back to start another project with 100 broiler chickens. It’s great to see him look beyond the corn profit and think of reinvesting.

I explained that we try to do two things with a loan: help people financially and teach them how to run a business. He was happy to take me up on the offer to teach him to keep a simple set of books.

Johanna suggested we give Mama Phiri a loan for supplies to make fritters. Along with the loan, we would also help her develop business skills. She sometimes makes fritters to sell but always runs out of money.

Mama Phiri carries home her fritter supplies. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Mama Phiri carries home her fritter supplies. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

We used a simple system. First, we worked out together what it costs her to make a batch of fritters, then how much she will sell them for. After each batch of fritters is made and sold, the income goes into three jars. One jar is to buy the next supplies. That jar is not to be touched. The next jar is to repay the loan in increments. The third jar is her profit to do with as she wishes.

She came up with the idea to put some aside so she can buy a bigger bag of flour, which is cheaper.

Mama Phiri was smiling broadly when she left. We look forward to seeing if the system works for her.

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