Madison, Wisconsin

I prefer raspberries, but there’s something exciting about strawberries. Perhaps because here in the north it is the first fruit of the season. Perhaps because there is nothing like strawberry ice cream. Perhaps because it signals summer has truly arrived and raspberries are just around the corner. Perhaps because, like flower bouquets, no one ever complains about the price of strawberries. What ever the case every year I get little-kid excited when strawberries come into season. And after a cool if not downright cold spring in Wisconsin the strawberries have finally arrived. Although I’ve been harvesting about two quarts a week from my community garden plot and sampling strawberries from Harmony Valley Farm at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, where I work once a week, local pick your owns and most farmers’ market vendors have gotten off to a very late start.

On Sunday June 26, about two weeks later than usual, two friends and I drove  JenEhr Family Farm in Sun Prairie, which runs the only organic strawberry pick-your-own in southern Wisconsin. In 2011 Strawberries were #3 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The EWG Shopper’s Guide is published to help consumers who are concerned about pesticide exposure choose which fruits and vegetables to purchase organically. The Environmental Working Group also publishes a Clean 15 list. Children especially are at high risk to pesticide exposure when consuming fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list. On Sunday JenEhr Family Farm was packed with families with children under the age of seven.

Our instructions included the command “to eat as much as possible while you pick”. Our initial assigned a row yielded less than a quart each and we wondered if we should have gotten an earlier start. However the day was absolutely gorgeous, not too hot, sunny and breezy and we chatted with other pickers and a family we knew from Madison while we waited to be assigned new rows. The new rows were fabulous and we bent or squatted and picked. I, of course, despite being the most experienced squatter, nevertheless ended up with strawberry strains on my knees.

Now the madness begins. What to do with all the strawberries?

I used to make strawberry jam, strawberry bread or muffins, strawberry shortcake, dried strawberries and strawberry fruit leather when I lived in New Hampshire. These days I keep things simple. Eat as much fresh as possible and freeze as much as can fit in my Euro-sized fridge. Last week I made homemade vanilla ice cream and served it with strawberries to my neighbors across the street.

This week I invited friends over for strawberry batidas, an alcoholic drink made with cachaça, in an attempt to use as many very ripe strawberries as quickly as possible. Out of necessity this summer I’ve begun a return to a barter-based economy and I’m hoping my neighbor across the street will fix my bike in exchange for a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

While preparing to write this blog post I learned that strawberries are botanically not considered berries. They are actually an accessory fruit or false fruit. Figs and mulberries also fall into this category.

Wikipedia helped me to sort this technicality out by stating “…that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the “receptacle” that holds the ovaries. Each apparent ‘seed’ (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. In both culinary and botanical terms, the entire structure is called a ‘fruit’”.

I checked my dirt-stained copy of Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and they do not mention it. Since that book, trial and error and interning on an organic farm were my main sources of information about strawberries I guess that’s how I only came to learn of it from the internet. My botanical education continues. Or maybe I knew this instinctively all along and perhaps this is the reason strawberries are so exciting- they aren’t really berries.

Wisco-Brazilian Strawberry Batida (bah-chee-da)

Makes two large servings

1 pint very ripe (i.e. need to be used now) strawberries, stems removed



Crushed Ice

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Place the strawberries in a blender with a couple of tablespoons of water and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick for your taste add more water. For a true Wisco-Brazilian Batida for each drink place 2 ounces cachaça, 4-5 ounces strawberry puree, 2 tablespoons of sugar in a glass pint jar 2/3 full of crushed ice. Cover and shake to blend. If desired add more crushed ice. Drink directly from the pint jar on your front or back porch with friends. Talk until sunset.

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Driving through a Baobab Forest

On the road between Huambo and Luanda November 6, 2010

Somewhere between Huambo and Luanda we drove through a baobab forest. I am certain it was after Dondo and the modern busy rest stop.

Rest stop soon to open

Perhaps it was during the sixth hour of the drive. I was mesmerized. Many were scared by termites, all were old. Some had fallen and were being burned for charcoal. All were giants. Once again I forgot to take photos as I was busy just looking.

The scene by this time had changed from the mountains and valleys closer to Huambo.

More people were moving along the road. More cars were heading to Luanda. Sometime we could see the train tracks, or Caminhos de Ferro de Luanda (CFL), built in 1885 that run towards the Democratic Republic of Congo. Only a couple of freight trains a week make the journey between Lunada and Dondo, but the Angolan government is planning to open a weekly passenger service between Luanda and Malange, a town beyond Dondo, in 2011. Dondo was a bit of a shock as everything appeared covered in black soot. The drive through Dondo to reach the other side of town and the Chinese built highway completed in 2005 was slow and I had time to wonder if the soot was from the train, just the dirt of rough living or if there was actually a coal mine somewhere nearby. As far as I know no coal is mined in Dondo much less anywhere in Angola and I have been unable to find out if another type of mine exists in the town. Perhaps the black soot was simply from charcoal production and use. On the other side of town, the highway with its four unmarked lanes, construction barriers, and roadside markets were a clear signal we were heading towards madness in Luanda.

Until this point I had been having a lovely day watching the scenery change, sharing the Portuguese bakery items I had purchased with my fellow travelers, joking, and taking photos from the bouncing front passenger seat of the CNFA truck.

I imagined what Fazenda Marcos must look like, which important MPLA members got to stay in the beautiful guest house located in the mountains before Quibala, and if there were any undeveloped hot springs near Alta Hama as the roadside development that looked soon to open was not so appealing- at least not yet. I wondered out loud if the Ekelelo Association farmers could be brought to the agricultural valleys to visit some of the large scale vegetable farms in the valleys to see what a well-organized rotation and succession plan looked like. I thought about the black soil on Ekelelo Associations land and the red soil just across the way.

I thought about how lucky they were and how I hoped they would be able to protect that soil and keep it fertile as that was by far their greatest assert and gave them a comparative advantage to others growers in the region.

Ekelelo Association's black soil

As we crossed the Kwanza River I spotted a beach and longed to stop and swim.

I wondered what the young men in Quibala who sold us gas would do for money once the new rest stop opened up outside of town. All I knew for sure was that they would never again have a problem writing a receipt. The guy in charge was sharp and a refreshing change from those who will unwilling to take risks and too often said “I can’t”.

I cheered when we passed the Cuca truck as the Huambo-made beer had made many a meal more appetizing. How I wished the large mushrooms for sale along the road had been served in the restaurants in Huambo.  I did not like canned mushrooms before this trip and I still have nothing positive to say about them whatsoever.

After questioning several people about the healthy good-looking dogs I came to the conclusion that while the dogs may slim down by December they are generally well treated and well loved. They are working animals guarding houses and animals, and as I witnessed on the drive, used for hunting when two teenage boys suddenly appeared on an isolated stretch of the road with long sticks, a game sack and their dogs.

At some point during the drive I asked about landmines, but much to my surprise everyone seemed to think they were no longer much of a problem. I made a mental note, however, to follow the advice I was given years ago in Mozambique. If the car breaks down do not step off the road. If you need to pee do it next to the vehicle instead of walking around behind the abandoned house in the nearby field. Since returning home I found a photo on the internet taken in the past few years of landmines recovered along the road between Quibala and Dondo and found an ex-pat group offering training in what to do if caught in a land mine field. According to the Angola Mine Impact Survey from May 2007 eight percent of communities in Angola are still affected by mines and anywhere from 500,000 to 20 million mines were laid during the war. Land mines are quite clearly still a problem.

Before reaching Luanda we stopped in Catete, the birthplace of Agostinho Neto independent Angola’s first president, to stretch. A small town outside of Luanda, there wasn’t much to see except roadside trash and a small statue of Neto. It wasn’t much compared to Neto’s massive Soviet-style mausoleum in Luanda, but I was happy to get out of the car and move around, kick a can and jump and down. It gave me time to reflect on the days drive, and honor the green mountains, the black soil and full rivers, and to wonder just how much those baobab trees had witnessed in their lifetimes; elephants, village life, Portuguese colonialists, horses and the conscripts from West Africa and India brought to build the railroad, war, Cuban soldiers, landmines manufactured in every part of the world, peace, war again, Chinese road workers and now me speeding by in a white Ford pickup hoping to be able to buy Angolan National Team football jersey’s for her niece and nephew somewhere in Luanda.

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No Words. Only Photos from Angola

Huambo and Bailundo Angola October 31- November 3

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So Little Time, So Much to Learn

Bailundo October 26 and 28, 2010

I’ve decided to take it slow and only conduct four training sessions with the Ekelelo or Hope Association. Besides the fact that it is the beginning of the planting season and everyone is busy, there is only so much new information that can be absorbed. I’m hoping that by focusing on less more is remembered and thus used and passed on to others.

working hard with only one hand

I’ll probably never find out if my strategy has worked, but at least I will get to check during the second practical training if the Ekelelo Association has completed their homework and finished the compost pit system and filled the first hole.

I’m also going to do my best to make sure they know their vegetable familes and understand the concept of crop rotation especially for the important Solanaceae Family that includes some of their major crops: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.

Mulching eggplant

As in Mozambique I’ve heard some complaints about how they don’t have enough money to buy chemical fertilizer and there is no possible way they can grow good vegetables without it. Since they have no money to buy these chemicals anyway it seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce organic growing methods. Some are skeptical but most appear to be enthused. Some already know about compost and manure, but I’ve been unable to determine why they aren’t using these techniques if they know about them.

I’m hoping that by giving them options that only require hard work and organization rather than cash they will adopt them.

the president of the association also works hard

Although the complaints and the “we can’t do that” comments are far less than in Mozambique I know they are there and I’ve tried my best to keep things positive. I’m wishing I had spent some time to locate and scan old photographs of my farm in New Hampshire so I could show them how I spread manure by hand over one hectare using only a wheelbarrow . I can tell them this again and again, but I am sure some have doubts. A picture would be remembered.

So far we’ve had one classroom session and one hands-on training covering topics such as using manure as fertilizer, compost, green manure, mulching, crop rotation, and succession planting.

We’ve pretended to be different vegetable plants and sorted ourselves into families.

We’ve discussed how to estimate distances and measured our hands and feet and found where one meter is on our body so that there are no excuses for why the crop spacing is irregular or completely inaccurate.

Estimating depth

Tomorrow I will present specific crop information on four of the crops they are currently growing- tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and kale and attempt to introduce new ideas such as small scale machinery options such as rototillers as opposed to tractors, including animals such as chicken or goats in a field rotation (for example pastured poultry),

creating fencing with a nitrogen fixing tree such as Leucaena, and show them pictures of a bamboo bicycle cart they could build as a first step to solve their market transportation issues. As they are only 3.5 kilometers from a main paved road and only 9 kilometers in total to the Bailundo market they should easily be able to get their produce to the customer. Last week we did not have electricity during the classroom session. For tomorrow’s session it will be crucial as I have many pictures to show which I am simply not talented enough to draw. At this point all I can do is keep my fingers crossed for electricity and hope that the things I show them give them new hope and energy.

Collecting compost material


Filed under Angola 2010

Something Different…

Huambo October 24, 2010

There is something different happening here in Angola, but I’m not sure exactly what it is. Is it the fat and happy dogs? Is it the multitude of new cars, plethora of motorcycles and lack of overloaded bicycles?

Motorcycle Advertisement

Is it that I haven’t yet been hassled to buy anything and everything? Is it the lack of beggars? Am I crazy for thinking that in general people are better off here? Am I observant or just extremely tired? I’ve had a long trip to get here and this is the first morning I’ve woken up completely refreshed. Is it simply that Angolans drive on the right? Is it that I did not hear any complaints during my first meeting with the agricultural association members in Bailundo?

Is it that during my first trip to the largest regional market on Saturday my simple “Bom Dia” response to stares resulted in the largest smiles ever? Is it that people actually talk about and remember the war, but don’t dwell on it? Is it that there are so many trees left standing in the city?

View of Humabo

close up of bullet holes

Is it that my Portuguese language skills are actually improving and I am feeling more comfortable with my verb tenses and am learning to use some calão (slang)? Whatever it is I’m not exactly sure, but something different is happening here.

Saturday at the Kutatu Market in Chinguary I took no photographs. This market is about one and a half hours from Huambo and located in a region that has traditionally supplied the country with vegetables. Trucks come from as far away as Luanda to buy produce on Fridays and Saturdays. At the time I thought my lack of interests in photographs was because it looked like any other market I had seen in Mozambique and that I simply did not feel like drawing even more attention to myself than I was already receiving. This morning I am certain that it was because I was completely absorbed in observing the differences. If I had the chance to go back and take photos I would take one each of the fat dogs lying in the shade under the ox cart, the small Toyota pickup truck already overloaded with 50 kilo sacks of potatoes with more being loaded on, the black pig being tied up for sale, the wild fruit called Losha

that I purchased and the woman who sold it to me for 10 kz (about $0.10), the young boys pushing wheelbarrows full of items for sale with a mini-mega phone on top of the pile that was playing an advertisement for the products, the Obama T-shirts, and the boy in the superman t-shirt staring at me who grinned and gave me the thumbs-up when I called out “Oi, Superman!”


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On my way to Huambo, Angola

Tonight I’m on may way to Angola for another assignment with CNFA and USAID’s Farmer to Farmer Program. This time I’ll be training farmers in vegetable production techniques. I’m looking forward to actually demonstrating tomato trellising, mulching and crop rotation and teaching about soil health and organic production. Emilio, from CNFA-Mozambique has provided me with some wonderful materials that include plenty of photos and text in Portuguese. These materials will make my job so much easier! I’ll be based in Huambo, to the south west of the capital, Luanda. Huambo, the second largest city in Angola, is over 5,000 feet high so the days will be quite hot and the nights cool.

For those of you who don’t know Angola, like Mozambique, is a former Portuguese colony, gained independence in 1975 and suffered through a civil war. Unlike Mozambique the war lasted ten more years, until 2002. Like Mozambique, Angola was a net exporter of agricultural products prior to independence and civil war. However, these days an entire generation has lost significant knowledge of agricultural production due to the war and the inability to produce during this time.  Yet nearly a third of the population depends on subsistence agricultural for survival. Unlike Mozambique, Angola is the second largest producer of petroleum on the African continent. Diamond mining also plays a significant role in the economy. In fact, these two industries account for nearly all Angolan exports and more than 50 percent of GNP. These industries tend to significantly skew the economy and I’ve been warned not to be shocked by outrageous hotel and restaurant meal pricing.


Angolan Flag


I’m looking forward to seeing a new part of the world, yet being able to build on all I’ve learned in Mozambique over the years. Many people have asked me if Angolan Portuguese is like Mozambican Portuguese and well the answer is “I’ll find out”. While in Mozambique in September I listened to quite of a bit of popular Angolan music while driving along bumpy dusty roads. Hopefully, I’ll get to hear some more in what appears to be a thriving music scene. Look for my next post from Luanda late on Wednesday or early on Thursday.

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Erasmo’s Shrimp and Eggplant Stew Saves the Day

September 15-26

In Nametil it took me two weeks to be better able to meet my daily living needs. I finally secured a table, a chair and mosquito net although I was never able to get the net hung properly so in the end it was useless. It did however provide a nice bit of color for the empty room. After a few days I was able to get hot water for instant coffee every morning. I would have boiled the water myself except the kitchen cooking heat came from a small coal fire in a grill. At night the coal and grill are locked away so I have to wait for Virgilio, the cook of another government worker who lives in a different government house which is not equipped with a kitchen, to arrive and boil some water for me. Yes I should have prepared as if I were camping. At some point early in the first week I learned that the driver for my host organization is staying in the same government guest house I am. The place is much larger than it appears from the outside and many people, actually all men, are staying here. The driver, Erasmo, began talking about how he was going to prepare Shrimp and Coconut for dinner. I of course said I love that and as a result was invited me to eat it with him. In return I supplied the beer for the meal. As he was unable to find any coconut we ended up eating a Shrimp and Eggplant Stew with rice which was absolutely delicious and restored me to myself. This best meal yet included good conversation in my crazy Portuguese, which now includes occasional Brazilian pronunciation and a Spanish word here and there.

As the days passed Eramso and I formalized our arrangement. I supplied the money for the food, after consulting with me about my likes and dislikes he decided what we would eat and gave instructions to Virgilio about what to buy and any necessary prep work. Finally Erasmo would finish the cooking when we returned from the field. Due to a severe lack of variety in the local food market I ate shrimp at least three times, grilled fish once or twice and either a cabbage salad or green pepper salad with every meal. The seafood was brought to our door frozen every morning likely from a shop like the one pictured here.

Once Virgilio and Erasmo prepared Matapa made with cabbage rather than pumpkin leaves. I prefer the pumpkin leaf version. My second favorite meal of the week was another shrimp stew in a light tomato sauce heavy on the garlic and onions served with fried manioc. We often bought vegetables from the farmers we visited and if we were lucky were given vegetables as a thank you.

Buying onions for dinner

Even here the selection was limited and my diet was primarily cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes and carrots. My one contribution to cooking was to make Cowboy Coffee for Virgilio, Erasmo and myself on afternoons when we were hanging around with nothing to do.

On the weekends I was left to my own devices as the grill was locked away and Erasmo returned to Nampula city for the weekends. My choice was to eat in the one restaurant in town where I usually had an omelet with French Fries. I’ve eaten more potatoes and eggs in the past two weeks than I usually do in two months back home! Now that I am back in Nampula City my food choices have expanded somewhat to delicious vegetable soups and expensive grilled meats and seafood, but mainly I am thrilled to be eating fresh pineapple and papaya every morning for breakfast. I can honestly say that I have never eaten a pineapple anywhere in the world better than the ones I have consumed in Mozambique. And this alone makes me happy.


Filed under Mozambique 2010, Recipes, Uncategorized

Knowing Where You Are and Planning for the Future

Mogovolas District, Nampula Province

September 16-22, 2010

Bit by bit I am starting to learn about the system of government organization and am now better able to pinpoint exactly where I am at any given time. Of course I often get quite mixed up as there is always a shorthand way to refer to these places or nicknames that I don’t quite catch. I am also easily confused when a few names of Agricultural Associations are thrown into the mix. Last week for example I was in Localiadade Muvuruta, Posto Muatua, Mogovolas District, Nampula Province, Mozambique. Today we stayed in the Posto de Nametil,

but we could have been almost anywhere in the Mogovolas District as far as I could tell. Sometimes we come upon a surprise such as this abandonned mission.

One day we drove at least 60 kilometers to reach an agricultural association, the final 18 kilometers of which were quite rough and included several washed out bridges. We do most of our driving on what my map says are secondary roads, but some are nearly impassable.

Today we had to walk a kilometer or more after the road, or track, became impassable.

During this assignment I’ve tried my best to frame my questions to the farmers in a positive manner in an attempt to avoid the endless string of complaints which I spent a month listening to last year in Manica Province. After I am given a tour of the vegetable production area and explanations for what they are doing in the fields which often include details about the spacing of their neatly laid out rows we retreat to the shade to talk. At this point I try to steer the conversation by asking “what kinds of things would you like to learn about that you think would help you to become better farmers” and “what are your plans for the future”. Sometimes the response is complete silence, and I need to keep asking questions, other times they are far ahead of me. Today as soon as we reached the shade Jose Mario, the president of the association, began explaining how he would like someone to come and teach him how to build a proper dam.

During the rainy season his dam often collapses and needs to be rebuilt. With Jose Mario and the other members of Ndowe Naphavele, or Let’s See Association, we discussed how to transport their produce to market in Nametil nearly 20 kilometers away. I asked them to describe what they are doing now and they described the typical overloaded bike seen on every Mozambican road. I asked if they had ever considered building a cart for their bicycles and this began a animated conversation among the members, some needed to know what a cart was, others thought there would be no materials to build it, others thought they needed to know what it looked like and then Jose Mario spoke up once again and said something that surprised everyone “I saw those types of carts in Macao and in India when I was in the military. I think we could build them”.

So if anyone reading this knows of plans to build a simple bicycle trailer please post a link in the comment section and I’ll see they get to Jose Mario and the Let’s See Agricultural Association of Localiadade Mecutamala, Posto de Nametil. This conversation was encouraging as many farmers tell me they could grow more and would like to grow more, but they have a difficult time getting their produce to market. This might be one simple solution.

Mainly farmer’s ideas for the future have included expanding production areas and creating and improving irrigation systems.

Things they’d like to learn more about include crop rotation, insect and disease identification, how to use a plow and care for oxen, seedling production, and specific crop production information.

Often they seem skeptical when I talk about organic soil improvement techniques, “The plants need food in order to grow well” I’ve begun to exclaim in Portuguese, but they do listen carefully and seem willing to soak up any knowledge and ideas that are offered. My impression is that in general the farmers and extension agents in Mogovolas District would take off if given training in basic organic production methods as they all recognize that something needs to be done in order to improve and that they simply can not afford chemical fertilizers and pesticides much less travel to Nampula City to o\purchase them.  Because of the cost of fertilizers and lack of knowledge about other methods many simply choose to not use any regular or systematic soil improvement methods. Overall my impression is that these farmers are much more open and less jaded than the majority of the farmers I met last year in Manica Province. At times I wonder if this is due to less contact with NGO’s or if it is simply how Macua people are. Right now there is no way for me to know. One farmer when I commented that 20 kilometers on a bike hauling vegetables to market was a lot of work he said well I get it there “poco a poco”, little by little or bit by bit. Later in our conversation when we were talking about compost, he exclaimed “how could I possibly do that on 6 hectares of land!” and I replied well you already told me the answer, “poco a poco”, and he cracked up.

I’m not sure if this more positive attitude is actually true or if it may partially be attributed to my new method of asking questions and the slightly different nature of this evaluation. However, my gut says yes the people here are still excited by farming. They see the opportunity to increase their income since vegetables are not readily available in the markets and are expensive. They haven’t forgotten how to work hard, don’t expect handouts and want to learn as much as they can as market vegetable production is not a traditional income earning activity. This positive vibe is having a good effect on me as well so that when hearing a complaint such as “the pigs around here keep getting into my land and eating everything what should I do?” I am able reply easily and naturally, “I think you should go to those people and tell them ‘if you keep letting your pigs get fat on my vegetables I have the right to eat your pig!’”  Don’t worry. The local extension agent gave the proper answer before mine “go to the chefe de posto and tell him what is happening and make him tell the people to keep their pigs in a corral”. Anyway the chuckles all around made my day as we laughed about little pigs growing so rapidly in the vegetable fields that they could not make it home.


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Coming Full Circle, Nametil and Iuluti, Mogovolas District

September 14-15

I’ve been laughing to myself a lot lately about how my life is turning in circles. Yesterday I was taken to visit an ADPP Horticultural School just outside of Nametil where the government guest house is located. As soon as I arrived I was transported back in time; the well organized school buildings, the cleanliness, students in uniform, the pleasant receptionist, the explanation of how the school and vegetable sales work were all so classic ADPP.

I could have gone there without knowing what it was and easily guessed this is an ADPP place. The school has only existed for two years and already has 122 students with plans to expand to 180 next year. The have a total of 473 hectares with only a few hectares currently under vegetable cultivation. At some point in the future they plan to use much of the acreage for a cashew plantation. I was surprised to find that an ADPP project had a lack of irrigation, but I’m sure this won’t last for long. After our tour I began to ask our guide a few more questions and I let him know that I worked for ADPP in Matola Rio in 1990. This led to questions about “do you know…” and sure enough I may have located a great friend and colleague from those days. He apparently is only two to three hours from Nampula and running an ADPP Banana Plantation. A message has been sent to him. I’m hoping we can meet before the end of my trip.

On Wednesday after several delays we finally made it outside town today to begin our farmer visits. After a bumpy forty-two kilometer drive we arrived in Iuluti and began searching for the local agricultural agent. After some discussion we discovered that one of the agricultural associations that we wanted to visit was 23 kilometers further along the road. A long discussion ensued and then it was determined we did not have enough gas to get there. Instead we went to visit with a man who was farming alone and lived in the center of Iuluti.

Mario Joseph

His fields were small, but very nearly weed free and he grew a variety of crop close to a small river which still had water in it. His cabbage was absolutely beautiful and free of holes.

I had to ask “do you use any chemicals on your crops?” A bottled was pulled out of its hiding place in the corn.

I began to recall just why my life took the path it did. In 1990 many times I observed pesticides being used and I would ask “what are you doing” because I was interested in learning about agriculture.  From these discussions I learned that quite often people did not know proper application procedures and often could not even read the directions. This was either because the directions were in English or the person applying the pesticide was illiterate in Portuguese. This experience led me directly to interning on an organic vegetable farm upon returning to the United States. I sometimes joke that we were farms slaves but I did learn a lot and was able to use that knowledge to begin my own organic vegetable farm. Twenty years later here I am standing looking at and taking a photos of the pesticide instructions that in some ways led me here in the first place. Although the farmer follows the instructions quite well the pesticide he is using is supposed to be used for cotton, not edible produce.

The next farmer we visited was the president of an Agricultural Association called, Okalihery de Mucue, or Helping Each Other. This farmer’s passion reminded me why I strive so hard to do what I do. Anastacio had only been growing vegetables for two years and moved around the country a bit previously living in Beira and Quelimane. When he moved to this area he contacted the local agricultural extension agent for advice and has been working closely with him ever since. He spoke rapidly and was full of enthusiasm when describing his operation and his plans for the future. Before we could even introduce ourselves he began to show us his wonderful and simple irrigation system.

He plans to move his irrigation system to a lower point in his fields and expand his production area next season. His success has become known and as a result he has received a loan from the local government of 50,000 MT which he plans to use to buy better seeds, a pump, chemicals, and hire some workers to clear more land and expand his irrigation system.

He wants to learn about crop rotation in a mixed vegetable system and about insect and disease identification. I wish I could go back and thank Anastacio for his enthusiasm as he restored some of my enthusiasm. I hope another Farmer to Farmer Volunteer is able to thank him for me.

Anatacio cutting Mandioc which I later ate for dinner


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Mogovolas District, Nampula

SEPTEMBER 13, 2010

I was warned there would be dust. And yes, there is no question about it my first impressions are of dust. At times during the drive from Nampula a passing vehicle created blizzard conditions, with smoky red dust blocking our view. I held my breath as we drove on and braced myself in case we needed to swerve to avoid a cow, a bicycle, or another car. I was thankful for the drivers’ skill and patience and the light traffic. No crazy swerving roller coaster ride this time!  I congratulated myself on refilling and remembering to bring my new asthma inhaler which I usually only need in polluted cities. The cashew trees are close to fruiting, but every river we crossed was dry. No houses in sight, I caught a glimpse of women with buckets clustered around a deep hole in the ground. Without irrigation can vegetables grow here? For a moment I unreasonably pout, and think “does anything grow here?” I know the rains will begin in November, but what happens over the next two months? It is clear why farmers don’t grow tomatoes at this time. Without irrigation I wouldn’t either. If the seeds even managed to sprout in August, the seedlings would shrivel by September. My host would like me to train farmers on the increased profits to be gained by growing tomatoes out of season. As I learned in 2009, in December, January and February very few tomatoes are available on the market. But I wonder if the profit would simply be lost due to the necessary increased costs of production and if irrigation is feasible at all. I remember the dry season in Maputo, but in my twenty year old memories there is just not this much dust. Perhaps this is because back then I was lucky enough to swim in the ocean nearly everyday after work. I’m already dreaming of a trip to the beach at Angoche next weekend and a dip in the salt water to clean the blackness from my nose.

Inside the government guest house I can escape the dust,

Entrance to government guest house

but the over head light bulb does not give my 40 something eyes enough light to read. I can’t figure out how to flush the toilet much less turn on the light in the bathroom. Perhaps both are impossible. There is no one to ask. Two other people are staying here but their rooms are dark. A small motor cycle is parked in the hallway. The smell of oil drifts into my room. At least my empty room wasn’t as empty as the room in Mexico. Upon arrival there were curtains on the window and a bed with a mattress.

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In the few hours since then I have received a plastic chair, some sheets and a towel. I’m glad I packed my own little green travel pillow which I had taken in and out of the suitcase several times before allowing it to stay. If I had known that I was coming here I could have been and absolutely would have been much more prepared substituting my nice, proper city meeting clothes for my sleep sack and other camping gear. I would have at the very least brought a roll of toilet paper. I wonder if I will be able to grit my teeth and stick this out. I wonder if I can make my vague assignment clear and useful for the people here. I wonder if I have lost my sense of adventure and simply gotten old. Music is playing somewhere outside. I’m thankful it isn’t too loud, seems to be mostly soft African Reggae, and at the moment not too many people are singing along.

Morning view from my window

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