The good and the bad of it

“There’s no hunger in our people anymore since we started the farming projects with the churches,” Pastor Jessy tells us. I can’t quite comprehend that – the plots are too small to feed any amount of people. He explains: as the people get together to work in the church field, they learn to plant, apply fertilizer, and weed timely and properly. They attend the workshops where we talk together about better methods of farming. Then they go home and apply that knowledge on their own fields – and grow better crops.

A Mpongwe family prepares the evening meal of leafy green vegetables and Nshima (white cornmeal). (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

A Mpongwe family prepares the evening meal of leafy green vegetables and Nshima (white cornmeal). (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Pastor Jessy says that in their church they used to help about ten families during the hunger period (January – February, before the new corn crop is ready). Now they only have one old man. The nine other churches are experiencing the same thing.

It appears the Mpongwe farm project is doing what development projects are supposed to do – it’s changing mindsets, affecting poverty in a positive way and it’s being done by the African people on the ground. We’re only there on the sidelines. We seem to be doing something right in spite of ourselves!

So we’re discussing how to expand the program. Other districts are clamouring to become part of the project.Thankfully Pastor Jessy is good at working out the needed structures and controls for growth. We’ve done well so far, we don’t want to fail now.

Last night we met with Bukuumo Cooperative. Together with Robert and me, we were seven. The treasurer never bothered to turn up or send an apology. It’s difficult to make good decisions without adequate financial information, which hasn’t been forthcoming for some time. What does he have to hide, people wonder? A new treasurer was appointed, finally! The chairman, Mr. Mate, got the job of trying to get the books and records from Tito. I still clearly feel the frustration of trying to do the same last year…

Village children watch the Mzungu (white) carefully. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Village children watch the Mzungu (white) carefully. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

We agree the old and decrepit trucks need to be sold. Robert and I insist the debt to the Canadian investors be repaid – a bank would have demanded it back long ago. How to handle loans is part of learning to do business.

They still believe in the cooperative. Some major adjustments need to be made but it’s probably good to keep it alive. Much can change in the future, and if they find a viable project and someone to do it, the structures will be in place. Hopefully they can keep at least one piece of land. Their biggest problem continues to be time – everyone is busy. They want the coop – but are they committed enough to ever making it really work?

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