Kijiji means Village

Nov. 23

Masai compound from road

It took hours to get out of Arusha; picking things up , shopping, waiting for people and traffic.
Finally, around 1 we left town towards Kondoa region. Along a new paved road it was easy driving at first. We were crossing Masai land, where round houses in clusters dot the landscape and herds of cattle move about. Occasionally we got dangerously close to a goat or a cow crossing the road as we sped along in the Land Rover. Donkeys are plentiful too: Masai 4×4 Seppo said.
Then the pavement ends and we drove alongside road construction for what seems like hours. Rough, bouncy, dusty- I was glad for the 4×4 vehicle and Seppo’s knowledge of the road.
The houses we drove past changed:  square little brick houses with small fenced yards lined the streets in the villages. In the distance the edge of Ngorongoro park.
On fresh pavement again: We reached the town of Babati. “No Mzungus here”said Seppo. There’s a lake and a hotel on the edge of it- green grass, tables, a bar. Feels like an oasis after the drive. We ordered two beers and stretched our legs. There are hippos in this lake , about 300 or so. Local fishermen will take tourists to see them by canoe.

 

We didn’t have time for that- another couple of hours to go before we would reach camp. But before  leaving town we went to the market for some fresh vegetables. Not much to pick from: Onions, potatoes, tomatoes and Mangoes. Dried goods in little shops surrounding the stands.
Leaving Babati the road becomes dirt road- good solid red earth. The rich color makes my heart sing. The road winding its way up through small settlements and rich treed landscape offering views in the distance of valleys and finally to the North the evening light on the Masai Plains. Breathtaking. Not much further ahead lies the camp also overlooking the plains and the Village we now are part of: Mnenia.
My excitement kept growing with every move. Seppo pointed to the tents and set me up in the big Safari tent- with a bed!
Soon it got dark and we sat with a few Kerosene lamps and a couple of solar lights. Costa, the builder who is here, made some food and then another surprise: Full Moon rising over the Eastern horizon. The beauty of the moment brought tears to my eyes.
Early to bed, the night was cool and in the morning I was looking for some warmer clothes. A few hours into the day the heat comes back and we look for shade again.
Morning visit to the village. Seppo has been working with a group of women on a project that will have them produce briquettes made from plant waste. They will also make paper and be able to generate some income from these.When we drove up there was great excitement.  And much laughter as we struggled with languages. We have a young interpreter with us who patiently relates what we have to say.
The building that the women are using is located next to a water tap. Village water taps are where women gather- carrying water in buckets on their heads.
Later yesterday we met again with the group and presented our idea for a small store next to the tap to have as selling point for anything they produce: paper, briquettes, pottery etc.
They loved the idea and got really excited when we suggested that we build it together without the fundi- the tradesman we always seem to be waiting for. It will be us and the women starting next week after two volunteers arrive.

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Something completed and another soon to start

Usambara Mountains
changing landscape
roadside offerings

Nov 22
Hot pink and blue are the roadside colors of Tanzania. They represent  three large cellular providers Vodacom, TIGO,  and Zain. The presence of their advertising shows up on tiny roadside stores to large block buildings painted in these colors that everyone knows.
The busride from Dar to Arusha takes 9 hours on “kilimanjaro express”. The landscape changes from the coastal flat land to red earth from which people make bricks, past vast areas of sisal plantation leaving the Usambara Mountains to the East. Looking West and North the view is wide open, small hills dotting the landscape.
We only stopped once for a 15 min food break at Kerogwe – a rest stop with restaurant, toilets and vendors selling fruit and newspapers.
Eventually towering clouds in front of us : Kilimanjaro is hiding. We drop passengers in Moshi and carry on to Arusha, another 70 km, now through green areas with rivers, small gorges and the everpresent mountains.  Mount Mehru to the West is visible – it anchors Arusha into place.
Seppo picked me up and we drove to his studio and gallery adjoining the Masai Cafe that his wife Julia runs. On display in the gallery are masks from different areas (not just Tanzania) and some prints of rock art on handmade paper by Seppo. The Rock Art is of course why this next project is happening- so I take this first impression as an invitation to awaken my curiosity.
Arusha is busy- and yesterday (Sunday) many churches held large celebrations for confirmation. The sound of their music and amplified voices reached everywhere.
Evening came with a full moon in the sky- first full moon in Africa this time. We went to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Yes this is truly a tourist town: you can eat greek, italian,lebanese,  ethiopian and probably a few other flavors. “too many mzungus” sais Julia, although she knows that this is what brings money to town, but also makes everything more expensive.
Today a little internet session and then off to Kondoa- another 4 hours in the Jeep. Away from the fancy food and busy streets.

Elke in the foundation trench

Before we start looking at the next location I want to just tell a little more about the Baobab site.
The builders went to work and quickly built the earthbag foundation. We topped it with a gradebeam to strengthen the structure and  provide good base for the blocks. Making a level form is easier said than done because the boards that are rented are not straight at all. So we did our best.

foundation done

By the end of Friday it’s all done and the lead builder Mohamed , Caito and I went around and marked doors, windows and special features into the fresh concrete. Hopefully this will reduce errors when they look at the plan. When I return in a month the site will be transformed and I expect to see the walls up and perhaps even the top floor slab poured.
A lesson for me: Thinking about saving money I thought using rubble would be better than good gravel. Turns out that rubble is hard to get, involves more transport and costs almost as much! So ask questions before making assumptions- and understand that what may be waste elsewhere is not necessarily seen that way here.

planting with Sally

Sally an I spent a couple of late afternoons last week planting the shrubs and trees she brought to the farm. David and Gabriel worked with us as we chose good spots for each. In a few years the garden will be tall and shady with all the beautiful trees.

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Water: sweet and salty

November 13

It only took a couple of days for our seeds to sprout . I planted some cowpeas earlier this week and now they are up and growing on the “fence”. The Mchicha greens also show and now I’m watching for the Zucchini.
It’s the presence of water that creates the magic of course. We use a lot of it at the Shamba:

  • Everything that’s planted needs to be watered daily.
  • The animals need drinking water
  • The builders use it for making bricks and mortar.
  • The kitchen needs water for cooking and washing.
  • People need water for washing.
  • We wash our clothes.
  • And the neighbors come to get water from us.
shower platform in banana circle

Part of what we’re trying to do is get more use out of the water by setting up greywater systems from every building so that used water from sinks and showers gets distributed for irrigation.
Our “Banana Shower”is the first step. We all enjoy the beautiful set up in the middle of the garden and the plants will love it too.

building the shower

The kitchen building will be sending its waste water to the garden as well. I am looking  for a simple solution for distribution of water without small parts (as we use in drip irrigation). Send me ideas! I look forward to having the books from Oasis Design to help us make decisions. Thank you Art!

Back in the garden: we are now preparing beds for more planting: layering seaweed and manure under mulch, and letting this sit for while before we plant.
Gabriel split a cluster of lemongrass and now we have several new starts which will provide us with lovely flavored tea. It’s pretty exciting to be part of all this!

The design for the kitchen is finalized and we will break ground on Monday- first by digging up a banana cluster and transplanting it.
The building will have a core storage room, a dishwashing area, cooking area, watchman’s station, shower, and upstairs a sleeping place for one of the staff. It will be located at the entrance to the “compound” with a fence connecting to it in the future.

the building site before starting

Making the trip to Bagamoyo town is not a big deal- the hardest part is making up my mind!
Today we all went in for a birthday pool party at the Millennium resort. A great excuse to lay on a lounge chair and read a book while the children were playing in the water with the current volunteers from Baobab. I slipped away for a dip in the ocean: it was warmer than the pool, salty and pretty choppy water. Yes its the Indian Ocean- you gotta love it.
Good timing for a day in town: this morning we found that we had no water at the site- and there’s that topic again….

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Permaculture and stories

November 10…doesn’t feel like November
A downpour woke me up this morning – I zipped up the tent fly and rolled over noticing  the slight cooling that came with it. It happens quite often that we get a short rain at that time and I can only hope that this brings some water to all the plants in the garden.
The farm was a hub of activity yesterday. Samson started making bricks (fired from our own clay), two others are producing blocks, two more are digging the sand for the blocks. We had a guy building a pidgeon house, and Gabriel and Kenneth made a gate for the fence.  Amy and I worked on the preparation for the porch floor and fixed the edge of the bench at the office.
Shelves were set up for the dishes, and in the house Terri was sorting things from the move and discussing plans with Katie. And, of course, the woman who cooks for us was doing just that.
I notice that Caito being here draws the guys in to working and being around.

After lunch I presented the kitchen plans to the group to decide on the final  location. We all agreed to keep the location that was layed out in the plan a couple of years ago. Now we can prepare the site and get ready to build.
We had a storyteller here for the afternoon and the children from Baobab came out for this special occasion.
A team of young film makers fro the college of performing arts in Bagamoyo  filmed the event.

We started planting a few things in the garden. In the morning Gabriel , Kenneth and  I started to make a garden layout in the Mandala Garden . We looked at the trees that have been planted and the layout of the beds. There is a lot of room for vegetables and we were deciding what to plant where. It’s a little ironic that I should be doing this with them- I don’t have much experience in the garden, but I have been watching the ecovillage gardeners do things and have picked up a bit from that. We returned in the late afternoon, when the sun was low, for the actual planting.
One big rule that I do know is:” Cover the soil “. So when we planted a bed of zucchini and mchicha (a fast growing spinach like green) I covered everything with rice hulls .

CM calls using gmail these days. I so appreciate his way of staying connected.

Here on the farm email and writing take a lesser place. With plenty of other things to do and a lack of electricity what would you choose?
Speaking of electricity: We had some success with the generator charging a battery and allowing things to get charged and lights for a night. But then the inverter overheated- I don’t know why – and we haven’t charged the battery since. Running the generator is terribly noisy and I struggle with the value of having the lights on or having the quiet.

I’m thinking about making a series of short sessions on permaculture to educate everybody who works here and have them all understand why things are the way they are. Perhaps once or twice a week  after lunch would be a good time for this- its too hot to do anything else then and the cook is free as well.

November 11
Painfully slow internet as I’m posting this. Looks like we will build a big earthen cookstove with the help of my friend from Germany….
Hoping to get better connection on Saturday.

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Landing at the Shamba

The breeze/ wind here is reliable- starting mid morning and ebbing in the evening after sunset. There is no electricity yet so nothing can be charged, which in this time of electronics can be a challenge. I brought a small solar charger (mission1) and found out that the cell phones that I have use a different voltage than this one provides.
And the laptop of course needs charging as well, so we will be making trips to Bagamoyo regularly.
Aside from these small struggles I’m enjoying being back here.
Things have changed/ developed a bit since last year.
The house we started last October is nearing completion. Terri and Caito have moved in, even though there’s still work to be done. It will be easier to make progress when they can be on site to move things along.
Things to be done on the house:

  • install ceilings and insulate them
  • finish window installation (security bars are in, and windows are being built)
  • build compost toilet
  • build shower and wash station (there is an existing shower house with toilet away from this house that we use now)
  • install/connect plumbing fixtures
ceiling wanted…

I took a couple of walks since I arrived  and am trying to observe what is happening with the land.
This is a large plot  that has been farmed in the past.  There are two orchard areas: one grows oranges the other limes. Part of the area of the lime orchard has been identified as the best location for the cowshed/ biogas production, and has been cleared for that purpose. A couple of years of non-management of the trees allowed a noxious climbing weed to choke many of the trees. It must have been a big job to free the remaining ones.
The intention here is to apply permaculture principles in the farming and planning. I am talking with Gabriel who has worked with a visiting permaculturist and is now the resident manager of the farm. He is eager to learn more and it helps me a lot that his English is good.
Gabriel showed me a mandala garden that has been started : with banana circles, planted palm, Avocado, Guava and Passionfruit. He talked about his crop of sweet potatoes last season and is now preparing to plant summer crops.
Baobab has now started a new project that brings groups of HIV positive children and youth out to the farm for some education, play and a meal. The people meet monthly at the treatment center where the government gives them medication. The intention with this program is to create a peer network of people in the community that will help infected youth not to feel isolated or marginalized and  also give them a place to speak about their issues with each other as they grow up.   Terri tells me that in her observation medicine is provided but not enough social/ psychological support is given.

a bus arrives for a program

A great need related to this program and other groups that come, as well as to serve residents and workers on the farm is the central kitchen. We had made a plan for it last year and I am working on a simpler design, somewhat reduced in scale. This, I believe will be our building project this year.

Also much needed is additional accommodation so a first “dorm” room may also be built.
You can see there’s much to do….is there anything you can do to help?