April Fool’s Day – right. “What’s the table and chairs for?” Robert asks, as he helps Stanley unload his truck. “That’s for Marianne, when she teaches about Moringa and Artemisia.” Whoa. Can you clarify that?? He did ask me if I would say a few words about Artemisia, but he didn’t specify what. Or that I would be manning my own station at this field day on his farm!
Actually, I have a great time. We set the table up in the scanty shade of a young tree at the edge of the Moringa field. Stanley started planting Moringa in 2007 and now has over 700 of the ‘miracle trees’. He produces Moringa leaf powder for sale, a food supplement. I’ve studied quite a bit about Moringa myself, especially in preparation for a Natural Medicine workshop. So I’m not totally unprepared.
Stanley is very prepared. He has Moringa powder with him, Moringa seeds, pounded seeds to show how to purify water, an Artemisia branch, dried Artemisia, and the best pruning shears I’ve ever used. Behind me are the Moringa trees – some of them freshly pruned, some older. I just need to start the sessions off and the questions take care of the rest. It’s easy to facilitate learning when people are so keen.
Rainy season is malaria season, so interest is high in the Artemisia plant, which has the ability to cure malaria in most cases. (I’ve written about that before.) It’s also a powerful immune system booster, so important for people who are HIV positive. Everyone in this country knows someone with AIDS. In Canada we would be more interested in its cancer fighting abilities. If you want to learn more about Artemisia, check out www.anamed.net.
The old man swings the chaka hoe again, bringing it down to make another permanent planting basin in the maize field. His village neighbours look on. They know the conservation farming system works – they’ve seen it on his field. He’d laughed at his boss, Stanley, when Stanley first told him to prepare the field like this – digging only planting holes, evenly spaced – instead of digging up the whole field. But when he saw the maize that matured in those basins, he stopped laughing. This last season he tried the system in his own field. Now he’s teaching his neighbours who are full of questions.
The participants are getting back on the bus, I’m sitting back in my lawn chair, sighing a breath of relief, when a village woman comes towards me fiercely shaking her finger, and pouring out a torrent of loud words. Oh Oh. What did I say wrong?? Nothing. She just wants to know the name of the Mzungus who have come to this field day near their village. “What’s your name?” I ask her then. “Audrey,” she says happily. We shake hands and she’s off.
This is the best field day I’ve attended – and we’ve attended a few now. Here people are learning from each other. Those who two years ago had hardly heard of conservation farming are now teaching others. It’s great to see progress!