Monday, November 05, 2018

A new savings group in a new watershed in Congo. This new watershed is next to a watershed where farmers have already been forming savings groups, planting trees, practicing more environmentally friendly ways of farming for 3 years now. People in the new watershed (where photo is taken) have been watching and waiting and are now doing what they have seen their neighbouring watershed doing (with a little training help). In fact there is a chant that savings groups say at the beginning of every meeting and some people in the new watershed had already tried to memorize it before they had received training.
No hippos this morning but tiny jumping fish that you obviously can't see in the photo. I don't know exactly how coffee is made here but it is so strong that I ask for hot water to dilute. This morning I did one part coffee, 3 parts water and it is still too strong. The quality of coffee beans here is generally very good though.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Finally after 6 days of hiding

I'm at one of the more touristy restaurants in Moshi, and I decided to order their coco ndizi, a traditional dish with boiled bananas. The menu caters to the tourist palette, having mostly things like burgers, pizza, pasta etc, so local food is not that much on the menu. Generally when travelling I try to eat local. Partly because if I want pizza, I can eat all the pizza I want (and often do) when I'm home. Partly because my experience has been that local food is more likely to be better prepared 4 to 5 times out of 10 when I'm on the road. Partly because I'd rather try new or less familiar things (see the first point). When I made my order, the waitress cautioned me that it would take 30 to 45 minutes, which made me think two things:
1. "how is that different than so many meals I've ordered in so many different places?"
2. "it's Saturday, and I have time to kill, and sitting on this pleasant shaded patio in the nice garden sounds ok"

This farmer is running his own native tree nursery in a very dry part of the Sanya River watershed. He showed us probably a dozen species that he is propagating, planting on his own land, and sharing with his neighbours. He told us he is doing this to preserve species that are important and are disappearing. I think it also seemed clear that he is doing it because he has a passion for trees. Shown below is a species that according to tradition, brings rain and peace.

This savings group has an agreement with the nearby national park to collect seed of native trees from the park, raise seedlings, and then plant those seedlings within park boundaries to restore native species. The group started in 2014, and had their own tree nursery for their own tree planting project, which just happened to be right outside the park gate. Park authorities took notice and offered to fund the group to do a native tree planting campaign. This is a win-win because the group is now generating income, and the park is getting native tree restoration at a much lower cost. In addition to this collaboration with the park, the group is establishing their own community forest just outside the park boundaries. This is a real breakthrough, because for many years, it has been difficult or impossible to have any kind of community based activities in collaboration with the park authority. Our experience in Thailand tells us that CFM (community forest management) can be a huge success, and it is exciting to think about the possibilities that may now open up for this group and perhaps others. The best part? The name of this group is 'Planet'.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

These photos show an association of savings groups that have come together to form a larger association. There are about 20 groups in total involved and they combine the savings to form a larger fund allowing them access to larger loans. There is a lot of discussion these days about the merit or lack thereof of this type of umbrella organization, but this group has been operating successfully now for 10 years. In fact, this is their celebration of those 10 years. I am guessing there were about 300 people in attendance. There were displays of various projects of groups or individuals and shown below are some teas and spices made and sold by two women who are part of the association. Also a video to give you a taste of electric slide--Tanzania style.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A group of farmers getting training on more sustainable, more productive farming.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

So my concerns about hurricane Michael affecting my flight home were misplaced. Everything looks calm and in order here in Atlanta

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I am sitting here in sunny, calm Port au Prince watching the weather channel coverage of Hurricane Michael as it makes landfall in Florida. Really remarkable. No affect on me, but I am supposed to fly through Atlanta tomorrow. Hopefully Georgia will survive unscathed and I will make it home.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

On this spot, Christopher Columbus and his soldiers fought a battle against the Taino, the original inhabitants of this island where the DR and Haiti now are. Columbus and his men were outnumbered and were forced to retreat up this hill, but then, as the account goes, they had a vision of Mary, and the Taino were unable to defeat Columbus. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that what ensued was decades of carnage, enslavement, and disease resulting in the destruction of hundreds of cultures, and a complete upheaval/transformation of the Americas. How would things have been if the Taino had won that battle? We'll never know of course, but for me there is something really profound about being able to stand on the exact spot where such an important event took place, and reflect on history, and our place in it.