Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Signs of understanding

We arrived at the Pygmy village, looking forward to working all day with the women until all the raised beds were ready, as Chizungu had assured us. There was nobody to be found except the youngest children and one woman taking care of them. With Jeph's help translating, we talked with her to understand why nobody was around and explain that we will not work alone. She told us that, as presidential elections are coming up in a few weeks, Chizungu had gone to Tshivanga to a meeting and all the women had been called to take part in a gathering.  The men had all left town for the day but nobody knew where.

Disappointed, we considered our options:
  • Working alone was out of the question as it would be equivalent to giving them hand-outs. We are here to work beside them, so they learn that only through work can they provide food for themselves. 
  • We looked around and realized there were some older children (above the age of 7). We asked if we could take them to the field to show them how to plant the seedlings into the soil. The woman said there were only 3 children around that age, as the rest had gone to school.
  • Leaving for the day to make a point would only be a waste of our time here and would to the Pygmies no good.
  • Chizungu has a cel phone so we tried to call him but our line was not working, so we walked 2km uphill to find him. 

When we finally did, we told him we had come to an agreement and he hadn't done his part. He could have told the men to stay and work if the women had to leave, or told a few women to stay behind, or at least called to let us know there would be nobody around, but he hadn't. He appologized and asked us not to go. He sent for a team of men to return to the village to work.

Before going to the field, we sat down with Chizungu, Jeph and the men. Once again, we explained all the goals we had for the 10 days we have left and they were very excited and started clapping. Chizungu proposed that each day end with a similar meeting, explaining the work we would be doing the next day and the amount of people we will need to get it done. We were very happy to hear his suggestion, as it came from THEM, and it sounds like a good way to make them OWN the project. 

We went down to the field and divided tasks. 12 men had gathered during our meeting and we now had a large team of men for the tasks at hand, including Chizungu. A few men would help us start planting seedlings while the rest would prepare the remaining beds. They worked happily, laughing and chatting, and the job that took Jeph and us 5 hours yesterday was accomplished in little over an hour. The hole field was ready with 27 raised beds. 

With time left over, Chizungu asked if we could show all the other men how to plant the seedlings. We demonstrated the bio-intensive method, planting the seedlings as close together as possible given the size they will grow to, and explained the benefits of this method. We also demonstrated intercropping and its benefits as opposed to monoculture. 

Chizungu's daughter was around, watching her father and the rest of the men plant vegetables. Hopefully the more children see these activities, the more natural it will be for them to grow up living a more sustainable life.

About one hour later, half the raised beds were fully planted with 500 cabbages and 600 onions! And we only used one seedling flat of each crop (there are 5 seedling flats of each crop ready to be planted, so the same method will be implemented on a nearby field that Dom found for the project a few days ago). 

To show our satisfaction with their amazing work, we invited a round of refreshments and they let out a loud cheer... and then something wonderful happened: they asked us what the plan for tomorrow is. It seems like we're making progress : )   We explained the goals for tomorrow and they responded with smiles and raised thumbs. They said they'd see us tomorrow for work and when we congratulated them for a great day they clapped and cheered, waving goodbye to us with smiles on their faces. 

Today, climbing up the mountain back to the car was easy as 1, 2, 3.   :)

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