When Development Falters…
Baba Eugene is a pioneer – from his own initiative. Together with his wife and his six year old son have moved to Mtua Longa in the Lindi Region, having completed a one year course in conservational agriculture and entrepreneurship. They have come to start their own small agribusiness and to teach conservational farming methods to the small holders in the village.
Mama Eugine has opened a small store by the market place. There she sells fabric and second hand clothes. She is also tailoring but business is running well because the people in the village can only afford the most necessary things, especially in the month of January when school begins and the parents have to buy school uniforms and writing materials. For many families this is hard to shoulder. It is a vicious circle.
Baba Eugene has leased two fields. For going to one he has to walk for one hour. It is faster to go there by motor bike, but he cannot afford one. We reach the other field in a five minute walk. It is not large, about 60 by 30 meters.
He has shaped the soil in long wave like rows because the field is on a slope and the rain would else wash away topsoil and the sprouting plants. But now the rainwater can collect in the grooves and even after the rain keep the soil moist.
Among others crops he has planted sweet potatoes and eggplants, and it looks promising, because the soil is much better than where we come from, Mchinga.
The financial support by the training institution was comparatively small. Around 850 EUR. From this he had to pay the move, basic things for household and farm, rent for the Room, the lease for the fields and the rent for the little store, and living expenses. But it is not sufficient. And there are still two months to the first harvest. Their home church helps them best as they can, but they cannot supply sufficiently.
We are invited for lunch and are served rice with a vegetable mix including sweet potatoes. It is delicious!
We talk about the village, the neighbours, Eugenes school. We hear that the only fruits cultivated in the village are mango and a few Bananas. Other fruits have to be bought and they are expensive. Baba Eugene asks us if we could help him. He was told that if he needed money he should ask his home church or us. And he begins to number the things that he needs: manure for the fields, seeds, and so on. But I have to explain him that we neither have the mission nor the budget to be of assistence to that extend. We have come here to train people in public relations and to write about the progress of the agricultural projects.
His disappointment is clearly visible.
Most people here do not see that giving money does not help in the long run. The Western nations have made this mistake over dekades and people here have gotten used to it.
Sure, help must be extended. But we need a wholistic approach. Training people in sustainable conservation agriculture, which yields better crops is one thing. Also, markets have to be developed, where there is a need for products, products have to be adapted to the demand, and new secondary products have to be developed. Thirdly, infrastructure and transport have to be improved. In the beginning this needs investments, but by the end of the day this is selfsustaining and enables people to supply their own living. Help is needed!
It does not sound substantial, if you tell the people here, “Trust in the Lord God, he will help you.”
Sad on one hand, annoyed about the situation on the other, we travel back to Lindi.
We hope that this young family has enough perseverence to make it through the obstacles and challenges, that their church will find a way to support them, and that the endeavour in the end is successfull.
Photography: ©2023, Alexander and Evelyn Breitenbach