Compost and Community

Compost and Community

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Welcome back everyone. We are excited to update you all on what has been going on in Goi Goi this winter. If you’re a farmer in Mozambique, winter is the most important time of the year for making preparations. Normally there are cover crops like beans or sunflower to tend, as well as fields to prepare for the following season. July is the last month in which you can start to make compost if you’re planning to use it for the following crop. Up here in Goi Goi we have been doing just that. With all the left over material from cleaning and clearing up the new community garden, we were able to make a compost mound that will feed not only the new community garden, but the training garden as well. This is material that is commonly burned, such as grass, weeds, and small branches. Last year when we were visiting the farm, the air was so full of smoke from all the fires burning near the church that it was hard to see and breath. By not burning, two very important things happen. First, by cutting and clearing the plants grow back less dense making it easier to clear the same garden with each passing season. Secondly, it provides the farmer with the ingredients they need to make compost, helping them to have larger yields while saving them money on fertilizer. Nobody in our first class had ever made compost before and they were skeptical and had many questions. “Will this big pile attract flies?”, “will snakes and rats be living in this pile?”, “ won’t this start to stink if I put rotted food and animal poop in it?”. We assured them it wouldn’t stink, or attract any unwanted animals. They were also wondering how this whole mess was supposed to cook itself into something we were calling black gold. The pile was made on a Sunday afternoon and by Thursday it was ready for its first turn. An iron rod was placed into the pile to test for the correct temp, and when the rod was removed a wisp of steam followed and the ladies close to the rod started to whisper. I invited them to touch the rod and feel how warm it was getting as the pile cooked. They were shy at first (either they suspected it was too hot, or they knew that it had come into contact with cow poop) but eventually one or two gave it a poke and eventually the whole group was holding onto the rod testing its heat. As we all helped in turning the pile the group was astonished how different the material already looked. For one, it was all turning white as fungus was working it way through the warmest areas. Palm fronds that had dried stiff in the sun were now sagging limp on the pitchfork tines. And the smell, it was not offensive but instead gave off a slightly sweet odor.

The pile was turned every week while the community garden got its finishing touches. A new fence is being made to help keep the local cows from helping themselves and 6 new trees were planted in hopes that they will provide shade and nourishment for the mission in the future. (1 baobab tree, 3 Moreinga trees, 2 Mango trees)

Sadly, there has been an increase in violence in this area stemming from the armed conflict between two political powers in Mozambique. Many people have had to leave this area, schools and clinics are closed, and shops have been burnt down. A refugee camp has been opened in Espungabera, a city close to Goi Goi near the Zimbabwe boarder. More than 1500 people have already escaped to the camp and the two other camps of slightly smaller size open in the same province. Many people, including our church leaders in Goi Goi sleep in the forest and fields at night as it is deemed safer than sleeping in ones home. During this time we are staying nearer to Beira, and are starting to work with local churches while we wait to see if things get better. We ask that you continue to pray that people and the country of Mozambique will find peace and be able to recover from all the tragedy around them.

Blessings

Kim and Erik

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Goi Goi going on.

Goi Goi going on.

It has been a busy month getting new things started in Goi Goi. Here is a few pictures sharing what has been going on so far. More to come soon!

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~Kim F.

Easter in Goi Goi

Easter in Goi Goi

It has been quite a while since our last blog and we have some exciting things to share about Goi Goi as well as some requests for prayer as Mozambicans continue to struggle. We are now living full time on the Goi Goi mission and were able to move in to the new mission house this March. We also hosted the Easter service for the region this year and welcomed people from all six of the Goi Goi churches in services that started on Good Friday and lasted until midday on Easter Sunday. A fast that was started on Friday was broken with a feast on Saturday night. This feast was especially important for some as malnutrition and hunger is a daily struggle for people who are living in this drought affected region. The local people of Goi Goi have been relying on hunting and buying what is offered at the local markets, which for the last month has been only tomatoes and onions. The price of rice has also gone up in the shops as demand has increased, making it more difficult for them to afford it. When people in these rural areas go to buy items at the store they usually end up paying a premium for them because they buy in such small quantities. This means that the people in Goi Goi end up spending double the amount per kg of food they buy than what is payed in larger towns or when one buys in bulk. Church members in Goi Goi have tried to ease this burden by pooling their money and buying in bulk from the local shop when supplies come in, then dividing it later for each household.

The crops this year in Goi Goi were severely affected by drought and the late season corn is just now getting ready to harvest. We are continuing to train rural farmers in methods that will make their fields more drought resistant and recently we began to include growing vegetables in a home garden as a way to introduce more vitamins into the families diet into the agriculture program.

Living in Goi Goi had also made it possible to start small study groups in the church. Kim has started a literacy club for women attended by church ladies, teenage girls, and a couple of orphans twice a week. Most of then have not ever learned how to write with a pen. The women especially, who work in the field with heavy hoes, have a hard time gripping the small pen in their hands, let alone writing with it. They begin class by learning to exercise their hands and draw different shapes on paper, learning how to copy what is written on the board. Once they master that, they move onto writing letters and learning the sounds each one makes. Kim is teaching Shona/Ndau literacy, a language the women already speak. It is exciting to hear them sound out the new letters forming a word, then excitedly recognizing the word realizing they have just read something for the first time in their lives. One of the first words they learned was good morning, mangwanani in Shona. It went something like this:

Kim- (pointing to phonics on the board) ma

Group- ma

Kim- ngwa

Group- ngwa

Kim- na

Group- na

Kim- ni

Group- ni

Group- (little faster) ma……ngwa……na…..ni (faster) ma..ngwa..na..ni..(even faster) ma.ngwa.na.ni. (Really very fast) mangwanani….mangwanani…mangwanani…

Lady- (suddenly) Ehhh! Mangwanani! Good Morning!

Because we are so close to Zimbabwe, many people speak greetings in English so part of the women’s literacy class is teaching English as well. The end of class is finished by practicing reading a short phrase or bible verse and a prayer. After class the group enjoys looking through books in English and Shona, pointing to pictures and practicing recognizing the letters they have just learned. For many of them, these are the first books they have ever had access to.

Erik has also started a mens English class and has been preaching in Portuguese in the Goi Goi church on Sunday with one of the other church members translating into Shona. Besides Goi Goi, there are 5 other Goi Goi mission churches and in the next few months we will be visiting each one to preach and to meet with development committees.

Even thought the daily struggle to meet the basic needs of ones family takes most of ones time and energy in Goi Goi, church members have committed what precious time they have left to participate in church and community development. We ask that you keep the people of Goi Goi, and the rest of Mozambique in your prayers. We have also had complications due the different struggles in Mozambique. Because of the political conflict here, traveling on the parts of the main roads has become dangerous. We praise God that the path through the center of the country that we have to drive to get to Goi Goi and to Beira has continued to stay calm. We were also able to renew our residential documents without any complications or delays, which is becoming more common as the conflict has caused tighten security around immigration. We thank you for your support and for your continued prayers as we serve here in Mozambique.

 

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Faithfully,

Erik and Kim Free

 

 

Happy Holidays

Wow, October and November have come and gone too quickly. The transportation difficulties we were having have been reconciled, and we were able to replace our old 2002 model with a 2010 that is much more reliable out in the rural mountains of Mozambique. A new training field was created in Goi-Goi with the help of the local church. The Goi-Goi development council is planning on growing their sesame this year using the farming methods taught at the seminar. We returned to Beria in time to celebrate the National Synod and the re-election of the church President to office. We shared the progress of the Goi-Goi agriculture project at this years synod, and many of the delegates showed an interest in starting similar programs at their churches. The rains are late again this year, so the Goi-Goi field was not seeded right away, but 3 weeks later. There had still not been sufficient rain when the seeds were planted so Erik and I hauled 500 liters of water from the well to the garden. We were happy to hear that a week after planting, Goi-Goi got their first rain of the season. A church here in Beira is also working on agriculture projects and, after hearing about the new training garden in Goi-Goi, asked if their church could also build one. Many of the church members are farmers themselves, mostly farming small plots of 1 hectare or less. We spent this week clearing out the ground in front of the church, digging holes, and planting seeds, just in time to meet the planting deadline of November 25. The gardens will continue to grow while we are gone this Christmas, visiting family in the USA. When we return in January the corn plants should be a meter tall and ready for their top dressing of uria. The church in Beira is working their garden organically, and fertilized it with manure from local cows. They plan on making their own urea from chicken manure.

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We would like to wish everyone Merry Christmas, and we will be posting updates about the new projects when we return from visiting family.

Pouco Pouco

One of the phrases that Erik and I learned when we moved to Mozambique was “Pouco Pouco”. You have to say it fast and in a singsong voice to get the meaning across. When we are asked how work is going here in Mozambique, I really want to say “pouco pouco” or slowly and steadily we are progressing. The end of September brought about the start of the new agriculture program and as we wait to implement phase two, we are back in Beira working on our transportation issues and a few other church projects. Erik is hoping to continue his work fixing some of the pastor’s motorcycles and in the process, teaching them basic motorcycle maintenance and repair. 20150929860I have been visiting a group of widows from our community who were able to begin a sewing program that is providing them with supplementary income for their families. In the past, many churches have tried to start similar sewing programs and for many different reasons, they broke down before reaching their goals of sustainability. This group is different and their plan to start small and reach for sustainable goals has made their project successful, even in these early stages. Their first project was making journal covers and then selling them. As their sewing skills improve, they will start making more complicated projects, keeping in mind where there market is. 20150929845Doing their research paid off and right away the women were getting offers for their journal covers. In fact, they received so many orders that their first project will create enough profit that the women will be able to buy their own sewing machines when it is completed. Soon they will begin sewing tote/grocery bags as they graduate to the next level and a new group of widows can be added. Right now the group is small as the church only has 2 hand-crank sewing machines. The women are very excited because soon they will buy more machines, and more women will be able to join their group. Our supporting church partners in the Oregon/Idaho region have purchased some of these journal covers in order sell them and raise money for the Goi Goi agriculture project.20150929848

We ask you to continue to pray for the political climate to return to normal here in Mozambique as the two main parties are still in conflict with each other and further discussions between them have halted. Goi Goi is in an area that is greatly divided along political lines and violence can escalate quickly.

Faithfully,

Kim

(photos courtesy of Caileigh Smith)

Measuring Success

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The first agriculture-training seminar on the Goi-Goi mission was a success. There were 10 participants, 9 men and 1 woman, from the local community and they were part of the team who built the first community garden in Goi-Goi. The first garden will be planted with maize and sugar beans in the beginning of November.

The national average yield for a field of maize in Mozambique is 3 tones per hectare, however in Goi-Goi the local farmers bring in 250-300 kg per hectare. Compare this with the US where it is normal to get a minimum of 10-12 tones per hectare regularly. The farming method we are teaching will help them learn how to start small farms using high standards and how that can improve their yields and profits. Each year their fields can increase in size, while they maintain their high quality. Because Goi-Goi is situated in the mountains we also teach how to combat erosion while farming on steep slopes. The other part of our program includes an infusion of biblical principles into their daily life. Many of the lessons on the first day of training are focused on changing the heart and mind of the participants. In order to reap the blessings from God we must live by Gods standards. These include being good and responsible stewards of the land, not wasting resources, and caring for your family and community.

Many of the people who farm in the area around Goi-Goi have been doing so for generations. Even so, many of them have minimal to no training on how to farm or how to manage a farm. The participants in the recent training were surprised that it is possible to do so much more with what they already have.

I asked them at the end of the training, what was the best part of the class. It was unanimously agreed that the Ndau film we showed, that demonstrated the process on a real farm was the best part. They also agreed that the second best part was how the gospel teachings can be used in everyday life, and how important they become to success. The church influence in Goi-Goi is weak, so when I heard this coming from people who were not members of a church, I knew our seminar had been a success.

One of the lessons I have learned as a missionary is that it is sometimes hard to measure your success. With how often things fail or how long it takes to get things done, it can feel like you’re not succeeding at all. Seeing this training end successfully, not only teaching local farmers, but also spreading Gods love, gave me a huge boost in energy. It was a much-needed boost too, as Erik and I still needed to build a fence around the new garden to keep the goats out.

The rain is supposed to come a little late this year, so we are planning to finish planting the garden in early November. We are also making plans to take the training on the road to visit the other nearby parishes to train and plant new community gardens at each one.

We are coming into our wet season and prayers are always welcome that where flooding occurs there will be help for the people in those places. A prayer request we ask of our friends and supporters is that the increased conflict between the government and an opposition party does not turn into a new war. The conflict has started to get serious as both groups have returned to using violence and innocent civilians have been killed in the crossfire.

Kim and Erik