A list of things I need before we leave for Africa on January 28 – Artemisia tea leaves for malaria prophylaxis for us; Artemisia seed to bring to Zambians so they can grow their own; moringa seed for trees that are packed with nutrition. I need decaffeinated coffee for me as they never have any there, and two more skirts so I’ll be properly dressed in rural Kenya where we are going first. I can get away with longer Capri trousers in the more urban Kitwe area of Zambia but in rural Kenya there are still very few women wearing trousers of any kind. (I almost said pants – which Africans usually understand as underpants!) Skirts must definitely cover the knees.
If we want to be taken seriously we must be culturally sensitive. When in Rome be like the Romans, when in Africa be like the Africans. Our picture of Africans is often of poverty, and so we imagine they dress poorly. Fact is, I am more likely to feel under-dressed among them. They take great pride in wearing clean pressed shirts and shiny dress shoes – taking a cloth along to dust their shoes after walking dirt roads. The younger urban generation though, now considers jeans and t-shirts to be dress clothing, going the opposite direction again.
We’re looking forward to seeing how our farmers in Mpongwe are doing with their crops this year. From what we’ve heard, the rains have been sufficient so far. They are also building a new church and community center, which friends in Canada and Switzerland have helped fund. The building will house a preschool and youth center. The church there recognizes the importance of better education for their children and also the need for a place for youth and adults to gather. They are planning literacy classes for adult, too many of whom cannot read or write. Literacy is an important step towards reduction of poverty.
I sent an email to farmer friends some months ago encouraging them to use their cooking ashes on their fields and gardens. Vivienne Mate wrote back a few days ago, excited at what ashes have done for her produce. “It really works. So much more on pumpkins and beans.” That’s the best pay someone involved in development work can get.