Visiting George's Rice Farm
Visiting our partners is often akin to being welcomed like visiting royalty. Our hosts greet us with songs, waving palm branches. We take turns introducing ourselves and speaking ceremonial words of greeting. We recognize fully that we are there as ambassadors on behalf of our congregation. It's humbling, and can be oh so formal.
These welcomes are amazing experiences that show the strength of the bond between our two congregations. But for many of our travelers, a highlight of the journey happens when we step away from the formal greetings and planned itinerary and are invited to do something spontaneous. It might happen when the bus breaks down and we end up walking to the next village with our friends, having unplanned conversations along the way. Or you receive an invitation to come to someone's home for tea, and meet the extended family of a dozen who live in that home.
This year, three of our travelers had the wonderful experience of receiving a tour of George Kioniani's home and farm. Dean described it as "quite unlike any farm in the Midwest."
There are some similarities. George and his family raise chickens and pigs, and grow corn, watermelons, and some vegetables. That's about where the similarities stop.
He also grows bananas, papaya, and rice. Rice is a significant staple food in the Tanzanian diet, along with ugali, a corn based porridge. Rice is more of a holiday meal in the rural areas, and a cash crop for many families in this area.
Our visit was timed perfectly, toward the end of the harvest. As we traveled around the parish, we would see large bags full of rice stacked near homes.
George showed us the final step in threshing rice. It's a very labor intensive undertaking.
During the days while George was with us, hosting our visit from village to village, he had relatives working all day in the field. In the evening, when we went back to camp, George would join his workers at the shamba, continuing the work well past dark.
This year had excellent conditions for growing rice, with plenty of rain early in the growing season. Rice seedlings are grown in a "nursery" field, then replanted in a flooded paddy field. The paddy is then left to dry until cracks become visible in the soil. The plant dries in the months of June and July when there is no rain in this part of the country.
Every step of the harvesting process is done by hand. Cutting...
Rice is harvested by using a sickle to cut the stalk at the base of the plant. A handful of stalks are then bundled and threshed. A blanket or tarp is spread on the ground to catch the rice. Threshing separates the rice from the plant by beating the bundle of stalks against the ground.
The rice is separated from the chaff by tossing it into the air and letting it fall back to the ground. The wind blows the chaff away and the valuable rice collects on the tarp.
Nothing goes to waste on this farm. The stalks are saved to feed the animals.
Ken took a turn at the back breaking labor.
Dean observed, "Many hours (actually woman hours) go into producing a single 100 kilogram bag of rice. Each bag is worth 75,000 Tanzanian Shillings this year at the market price, roughly 34 US Dollars. No automation is used at any step in rice production in Tanzania. Everything is done by hand."
Dean spoke for the trio of Americans when he said, "All in all, the visit was very informative and a fun hands on experience at George's farm. We learned a lot and we are very thankful for George and his family's generous hospitality."
Thanks to Dean Kremer, Ken Loher, and Judy Anderson for sharing their memories and photos of this experience.
Thanks to George Kioniani, evangelist and treasurer of Makifu Parish, for offering our travelers this experience.
At the end of our visit, Shepherd of the Valley purchased two bags of rice from Makifu Parish and delivered them to the children at Huruma Center Orphanage. George donated a third bag, and others in the parish collected a fourth. Asante sana!