Work in the Garden Part 2: Parched Earth

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, another problem facing our gardens is reliable access to water. The entire village has a water problem, and to be honest I’m not quite sure why.

In the main village of Kijungumoto and several surrounding sub-villages, there are water taps at several points around town. These communal taps are either owned by individuals or the village itself, and they are how most people get all the water they use. The taps are great because when they are on, water is mere yards away– when they are on. For some reason I do not fully understand, none of the taps in Kijungumoto are consistently available. The water gets cut frequently and the whole village will go for days without water, and when they are on the water is only available for about 2 hours a day. Since these taps are how the entire village gets water for cooking, cleaning, drinking, everything, the lines to get water are always incredibly long. People will line up with their buckets and wait, just hoping to get some water before the taps shut off. Oddly enough, the taps are more reliably on at night. For this reason, many people (myself included) will wake up at 4:00 AM to get water, and by 4:30 there is usually a line. As you can see, water is a huge problem for the village as a whole, not to mention home gardens.

With this unreliable water access in town and the unreliable rains, we knew we needed a water management plan to keep the gardens healthy and well-watered, even when water is not available. The main way we are addressing the issue is through water storage tanks. I went around to each garden and took measurements, and using that information determined the size of tank needed for each garden. For the majority of gardens, 500 and 1,000 liter tanks were sufficient. There are 3 exceptions: Mama Eliza, Bakari, and Rajabu. Mama Eliza has the largest garden in our group, and it is directly adjacent to Bakari’s garden. Due to the size and proximity of these two gardens, they are sharing a 2,000 liter water tank. Rajabu’s garden is the smallest, and his water situation is kind of unique.

Rajabu technically lives in Pida, a much smaller sub-village so close to Kmoto I still don’t know where one stops and the other ends. In Pida, the water is surprisingly more reliable. The one tap for the sub-village is on most hours of the day, and when the Kmoto taps are off this tap is sometimes still flowing. When Kmoto is out of water for several days at a time this tap is an emergency source, but it is not really feasible for people in Kmoto to access at other times due to the fact that it is just one water tap. But for Rajabu, this is great. Due to his small garden and more reliable water, he did not get a tank. Instead, he is using ten 20 liter water jugs and a bicycle. Although he lives pretty close to the tap, his house is up a hill—hence, the bicycle.

With this water management plan in place, the Partners are able to store water pretty easily. The general idea is that the tanks sit in the garden (on brick and cement tank stands we built specifically for them) and there is a spout at the bottom. The tank stands are tall enough to fit a watering can under the spout, and the Partners use the watering can to water their gardens. The large size of the tanks is great, but it also makes them hard to fill with water. The majority of my Partners are older adults, and it can be difficult for them to step up onto the stand with a heavy bucket of water to fill the tank. To make them easier to fill, we also purchased 2 long hoses to share amongst the group. These hoses can connect to a tap directly, and then all that’s left to do is put the other end of the hose inside the tank—this will fill them in no time!

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One of the 1000 L tanks in its new home!

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Hadija carrying the tank to her garden

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Me and Sauda’s son, Abdi once Sauda’s tank was put in the garden

Now that each garden has a strong perimeter and plentiful water, the next step is making the soil ready for planting. Tune in to the next blog to learn about our planting plans!

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Work in the Garden Part 1: Unwelcome Guests

Blogging is hard! And part of it is that I have limited access to electricity/internet, but a bigger part is that there is just so much going on! In the months since the last blog post, we have had some amazing things happen, many of which have been in our home gardens.

As you may recall, the 2Seeds Kijungumoto Project/Business is a combination of honey and vegetable sales. For the whole time I have been here, our gardens have lain fallow. This is for several reasons, the main one being we wanted to create an optimal environment for our gardens before planting seeds. There are two major environmental challenges facing our gardens: the obvious one is reliable access to water, and the less obvious is termites. Let’s talk about the less obvious one first.

So termites are a huge shida (problem) in Kijungumoto. You may think that all termites in Africa live in large mounds like you see on the Discovery Channel, but in my village it is just like the United States: they live in anything wood. Each of our gardens is contained by a mesh fence, and this fence is held up by wooden posts. Naturally (and unfortunately), the termites LOVE these posts. The very first month I got here we began removing all the termite-eaten posts from each garden, and it has been a constant battle ever since.

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This fence post looks dirty, but that’s just a sign that it is infested with termites.

For the first few months of my time here, Bakari and I went around to each garden, making sure it was in tip top shape. As previously mentioned a large part of that involved removing termite-eaten posts, but it was also spent fixing and strengthening the fences. Almost all the gardens had sagging fences, and some had even fallen over! We added fence posts, replaced rusted wire bindings, and constantly checked each garden for termites. Although it was merely maintenance work, it was crucial to creating quality crops later down the road.

In addition to fences that needed some TLC, the garden structures had another something lacking: a door. None of the gardens had actual doors or gates, the Partners would simply enter through a slit cut in the fencing. This slit was held together with wire when not in use, but even so it was pretty easy for chickens and other critters to get inside. To solve this problem, my Partner Rajabu built a door for each garden. Yep, you heard that right. He, by himself, built 15 doors. These doors have a wooden frame and the door itself is made from the same material as tin roofs. Each door even comes with a latch and padlock to keep unwanted human visitors out too. It took about 3 months for him to completely finish, but the doors look great and make our gardens stronger. That is, until we noticed some visitors that were not deterred by metal locks…

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Kidura installing his new garden door!

Termites. In a recent garden inspection we found that termites had ALREADY found their way into some of the wooden door frames. In Mzee Melenge’s garden, the entire bottom post has been completely eaten through! These doors are much harder than fence posts to replace, so we are in the process of obtaining termite repellant. We are going to coat each frame with this repellant, and hopefully this will help keep the problem contained. If it works we will try putting it on all the fence posts too, to cut down fence maintenance frequency.

So that is our ongoing struggle with termites. While they do not eat the crops themselves, they destabilize our gardens and cause all sorts of problems. Tune in to the next blog post to hear about the problem with water!

Thirsty Bees

Before becoming involved with the Kijungumoto Project and Business, I did not know much about bees. One thing that surprised me was that bees are very thirsty creatures, and will travel several miles to find water if necessary. To help keep our thirsty bees happy in their homes, we decided to set up water feeders next to each hive. With water sources close, the idea is that the bees will be able to spend more time in the hive making honey. Also, we are working to attract bee colonies to our 4 empty hives, and having water close by will make them more appealing to prospective inhabitants.

The water feeders we are using are actually manufactured for chickens, and look a lot like giant hummingbird feeders. The water is held in a 3 liter, translucent receptacle and a little bit trickles out at a time; this sits in the red tray at the bottom. Below is a photograph of a few Partners with one of the feeders: 113.JPG

We are in the process of hanging up 15 of these water feeders, one by each hive. We started out hanging them right next to the beehives (see picture below) but after hanging a few in this fashion we decided to put the water 15-20 feet away from the hive. This way, the water is very close to the bees but Partners will be able to refill the water feeders with a smaller risk of being stung. We are still not sure how often these feeders will need to be refilled, but they are going to be monitored carefully over the next month to determine a refilling schedule and if they are working as we intended. Here’s hoping for happy bees!

Mid-Year Investor Report

To Investors and Stakeholders in the Kijungumoto Project,

Since arrival in August, Jill and Project Partners have been working ceaselessly across the network to go full steam ahead towards Maisha Bora, the good life. There are not enough words to express our gratitude for your support along this journey.

Jill has prepared a Mid-Year Investor Report to capture the progress  made so far in the first half of her time working on the Kijungumoto Project this year. The report includes highlights, challenges, status updates towards project goals, and a financial report. We hope that this report will provide good insight into the work here on the ground, and show you what we have been able to accomplish thanks to your support.

Kijungumoto Project 2015-2016 Mid-Year Investor Report

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Project Coordinators also filmed a video focusing on what they are most grateful for in their daily life and work here with 2Seeds.

Please support us in our ongoing journey to Maisha Bora by donating to the 2Seeds Network!

Asanteni sana from the 2Seeds Ground Team,

Ana, Jen, and Hailey

The Process of Processing

Date: 9/18/15

As you saw from our most recent posts, the honey harvest is complete! The next step is processing to get Grade A honey ready for sale. Two of our Partners and Leadership Team members, Rajabu and Kidura, went to training seminars regarding bee keeping and honey processing earlier this year, and their knowledge has been instrumental in creating a quality product. The honey must be processed in a completely clean space to keep out dirt, which can make it spoil. To start the processing Mzee Melenge, Kidura, and Rajabu opened the 10 liter containers where the honeycomb was stored after being harvested. The combs still have some bees on them, so the first step is to remove all the bees using a paint brush. Once the bees were off, Kidura and Rajabu washed their hands and donned latex gloves. Next, they each took a piece of honeycomb in their hands and squeezed it over a bucket with a colander over the top. As you can imagine, this process is pretty time consuming. Once the honey comb is squeezed out it is essentially a ball of wax, which is then put inside the colander so any extra drops of honey are not wasted. This honey is then strained a second time, using a very large tea strainer that is about a foot in diameter. When we were on the second straining the weight of the honey actually broke the tea strainer! The mesh was fine, but it had ripped out of its plastic frame. The Partners put the mesh inside the colander and restrained it to make sure we had the cleanest possible honey. Once this process is complete, the honey is strained for a third time using a special wire mesh. Once the third straining step takes place, the honey is ready to be tested.

Mzee Melenge showing me the honeycomb before we begin!

Mzee Melenge showing me the honeycomb before we begin!

You may be wondering what kind of tests we are able to perform to ensure quality. Actually, it is pretty simple. Honey that is of a lower quality has more dirt in it and higher water content. Looking at the honey through glass bottles is a quick way to determine if all the dirt is gone, but a sight test is not sufficient for determining the amount of water in the honey. This is done using some surprising tools: a lighter and a match. First, the match-head is dipped in honey. Next, the lighter is used to set the match on fire. If the match does not light, it means there is too much water in the honey and it should be strained again. If the match does light, the honey is Grade A! Our honey was tested several times, and Kidura delared it “Nzuuuuuuuurrrisana”, which means very very good. After all the processing was completed, we had 23 kilograms of honey ready to be sold, meaning we exceeded our goal of 15-20 kilograms! Next the honey will be bottled and sent to Dar es Salaam to be sold in small batches.

Partner Profile: Mzee Rashidi

Mzee Rashidi

As fun as it is to write blogs about all the cool stuff happening in Kijungumoto, I am even more excited to introduce you to the partners here! Every few weeks I will upload a profile of one of our partners so you can get to know the Kmoto branch of the 2Seeds Network a bit better. To kick off partner profiles, I am honored and excited to introduce Mzee Rashidi! In Swahili, Mzee (pronounced em-zay) is a title meaning respected elder, and Mzee Rashidi wears the title well.

When I first met Mzee Rashidi, I was intimidated since I knew he was a highly respected member of the community. Though the respect is well deserved, he is also one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Every time I see him around the village we stop to chat and he is always so excited to see me. He has the best smile, which is made all the better by his incredibly kind eyes. Mzee Rashidi is kind to everyone, and one of the few people I’ve met here who genuinely enjoys playing with small children. For example, we were recently in a meeting when another partner’s toddler would not stop crying. Instead of getting upset or frustrated, he took some string out of his pocket and started quietly playing with the boy; the crying stopped and our meeting was able to proceed without distraction.

In addition to being incredibly kind, Mzee Rashidi is also an extremely hard worker. Though he is the oldest Kmoto Partner, he is still a very active member. He has regularly attended meetings and partner workdays, and is almost always one of the first to arrive. His garden is one of the most well-tended in our group, and I will often see him in it with his watering can, carefully ensuring each plant is cared for. Also, we have had a few work days where physical labor is necessary, and he completes tasks like breaking rocks with a sledgehammer as if it were nothing.

In addition to working hard and well physically, he very much enjoys kazi ya akili, or work of the mind. He has a love of math and numbers, and I have seen him working out math problems in the margins of his notebook while we are waiting to begin a meeting. As we are moving towards making the Kijungumoto Project even more business focused (stay tuned to hear more about that in a later post!), his enjoyment and aptitude for math is a boon to the group.

Basically, Mzee Rashidi is a kind, hard-working man with a sweet disposition an incredibly generous spirit. I am so glad I get to work with him and get to know him better over these next few months!

Snazzy Suits!

Date: 9/10/15

Kijungumoto partners are now the proud owners of three new beekeeping suits! They arrived right before the final harvest day of the season, giving us a great opportunity to test them out right away. I was with Mama Eliza and Kidura when the suits arrived, and they were absolutely ecstatic. They tried them on right away in Mama Eliza’s living room, make they both knew how to properly wear them so they can show the other partners. These are full beekeeping suits, complete with long pants, a jacket, and a protective headpiece (new gloves were purchased separately).

Prior to the arrival of the suits, our partners have been harvesting honey with nothing to protect themselves save some plastic gloves. Additionally, these gloves were very thick and did not provide much mobility, so using them whilst harvesting was incredibly difficult. As you can imagine, there have been many painful stings at each harvest session, including some on a person’s neck and lips! Fortunately, no one has had an allergic reaction. These new suits plus supple new gloves will make harvesting so much safer and easier. As I mentioned earlier, we were able to put the suits in action on the final day of harvesting; no one suffered a single sting.

Mama Eliza and Kidura making sure everything fits! (And it does!)

Mama Eliza and Kidura making sure everything fits! (And it does!)