economic ladder to evidence of more struggle even amidst the best efforts. However, a sense of hopelessness was not felt or observed; rather, it was a sense of determination in spite of less than desirable situations.
Laura and Jake loaded up in back of a pickup truck to meet more beekeepers in a local chiefdom. Today was the monthly extension meeting that was aimed at refreshing the farmers’ knowledge of successfully producing honey. All 30 of the meeting attendees were group leaders, meaning that they are responsible for bringing the knowledge that the extension agent gave them today back to the other farmers in the villages. The group gathered around a flip chart threaded through a tree vine and was attentive and engaged for the entire three-and-a-half hour meeting–both with listening and exchanging knowledge gained through their personal experiences in keeping bees. At lunchtime, they were also privileged to dine with the participants who shared some of their local stable, nshima.
Caleb and Wyatt went around the area of Nsefu interviewing COMACO members about the impact of the program on their lives and possible areas for growth or improvement. They spoke via translator to five different farmers. The common theme that was easily identified was that the work that COMACO has done has established a market for the people that have enabled them to make a profit and thus have a real, reliable source of income. Because of this income that they now have, however, budgeting seems to be an issue since formal education in this area has not been done. Overall, the farming practices that COMACO has introduced has changed not only how people farm but also their quality of life. Families are becoming more food secure and the nutritional value of their foods have improved along with it. It was eye-opening that families are now able to have more sources of protein and even small amounts such as consuming one to six chickens per month and only a limited amount of eggs.
Austin and Catharine traveled to a more remote section of the Mkhanya Chiefdom to confer with vegetable growers who were involved in the production of tomatoes, eggplants, and sweet potatoes, just to name a few, along with maize. They have all encountered difficulties with the invasion of animals such as elephants and monkeys who trample and/or eat their produce. They are doing their best to repel them by non-lethal means. We were also privileged to get a deeper view into the personal life of one of the producers who, besides raising his own four children, is caring for a number of young relatives and non-relatives who have been orphaned.