Saturday, 26 February 2011

Eating locally

For several years, reading about living off grid, or spending money on nothing but food and transport for a year, or aiming for a zero carbon lifestyle, and watching films along similar lines, I've been wondering if I should try something. I can't give up flying while I'm working in Rwanda twice a year; I'm not even ready to sell my car, though I do use it only two or three times a week now. I do, however, have a reasonably productive allotment and an interest in food miles, food security and good nutrition.

For the last week – mostly in bed by the light of a remarkable solar torch that recharges itself even inside the house - I've been reading Animal, vegetable, miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's account of her family's year in Appalachian Virginia, eating only local produce and raising much of it themselves, both animal and vegetable. At home in suburban London I've been cutting down my supermarket visits, though some items – some cleaning cloths, luxury biscuits for my singing group hosts, interesting spices – are impossible to find in the reducing number of smaller local shops. Ealing has a farmers' market on Saturdays. Is it time to get beyond fantasising and try an experiment?

A year is too much for me. I'm too peripatetic, quite apart from probable failures of will. Could I manage a month, to start with, buying no fruit or veg and only locally raised free-range meat? (No, I'm not a vegetarian. I have spent many years wondering whether the call would come but it doesn't. I try to eat only ethically produced meat, fish and poultry; many of my friends would consider that an oxymoron but I am as I am)

Thinking through my calendar, I can identify four weeks from late June, and/or probably another four from early August, where my chance of success would be greatest. Would anybody like to join me? It would be for each individual to identify your own parameters. Mine would be buying no fruit or veg or prepared meals, but allowing bread from the farmers' market and the cooking ingredients already in my store cupboard – and fairtrade coffee! Yours might be no plastic packaging, or no supermarkets, or only foods identifiable as coming from your own country or region or locality, to give some examples.

Barbara Kingsolver writes at the end of her book, which I hadn't yet reached when I started writing this proposal, about the growing popularity in the USA of a hundred-mile challenge – to consume only food produced within that radius. She also deals robustly with the objection that whatever one does won't be enough. If your sedentary friend had been diagnosed with a heart condition, would you criticise them, she asks, for starting to exercise only three days a week instead of all seven?

Here in the Friends compound in Kagarama, four of us have enjoyed a delicious meal comprising two cooked dishes prepared using a combination of passive and conventional heating methods, three salads and one of the best pineapples I have ever eaten. On the other side of the room where I am sitting at my netbook, Rachel and Gaudance, leaders in women's and children's work in the Rwandan Friends Church, are starting to write a project proposal for spreading the information and experience they are getting from the Growing Together in Rwanda project. Country people live surrounded by plenty of vegetables, they say, but they don't know how to use them. In town there is little cultivable land but much could be done with sacks and other containers, once the benefits of eating the produce are understood.

I am fortunate enough to have both the land and the information. Integrity requires that I keep finding things to do, however modest, to help the world move in the right direction.

Friday, 25 February 2011

A missing skill

I often have cause to be grateful for the breadth and depth of my education. But I didn't get any training in project management. I could have done with it today.

After supper last night I packed my bag quite carefully. At breakfast I reminded Rachel of the need for rags. On the way out of the house we collected the basket for the slow cooker and a few more old garments were found to supplement the one old sheet. Too late I thought of explaining that we needed enough rags to fill the basket. On arrival at Kagarama I would give Antoine the flash drive with four files to print, collect the sewing machine from Cassie and set myself up in good time.

Antoine was in his office and I wrote down the name of the file where I had put the documents I wanted printed. The sewing machine from the teachers' house needed a voltage converter too heavy for me to carry. I promised to send somebody.

I found Danzile, the yearly meeting bursar who is one of my students for today, and she sent the cleaner to ask a young man to run the errand. I took the opportunity to post last night's blog and check my email. (Four messages from yesterday have disappeared after I failed to open them. If you wrote to me and haven't had a reply by tomorrow, please re-send.) Fifteen minutes later nothing had appeared so I set off back to the house, scooping up Eduard, who appeared opportunely, and completed that task.

Antoine came with his own flash drive, unable to open mine. The virus it had acquired since last night – presumably from Antoine's computer – vanquished by McAffee, we opened everything, copied across and double checked.

Last year I had several times used the pad of flip chart paper from Jean Baptiste's office. Could I use some today, please? Searching for the one remaining sheet, he found the used remains of many sessions of brainstorming stuffedd into a cupboard. In a moment of inspiration I snaffled them up to supplement the rags.

A board for the tyre cooker was produced and set in a sunny spot. Levelled with broken bricks, it supported the tyre and the sheet of glass. This was the moment I realised that both Rachel and I had forgotten the black cooking pot borrowed from her father and needed to complete the ensemble. She found somebody to fetch it for a payment of 2,000 francs – three times the bus fares and well worth it.

By now it was nearing 10 o'clock, the usual 9am start for this group. Rachel, Gaudance and Danzile were waiting in the shade. For once I wasn't impatient to begin but I was now ready. They came in. The other two were prevented, Marie Rose by a sick child and Josiane by a head teacher who couldn't release her until later. As we started, Antoine brought three of the hoped for print outs. I introduced the idea of the tyre cooker and left them studying the information sheet while I took the pages for photocopying to Jean Baptiste. He was in a meeting but would try to do them before lunch. We set some water in the pot inside the tyre under the sheet of glass.

Settling down to conversation about cooking methods, fuel saving and good nutrition was a relief. By the end of the morning we had also made two insulating cushions for the basket – filled with a mixture of small squares of fabric and screwed up balls of paper.
Gaudance and Danzile struggle to thread the sewing machine needle

Gaudance and Josiane stuffing a cushion

Lunch had been the subject of many inconclusive conversations with Rachel. The group decided they'd be happy with snacks, so a budget was made to send somebody out for a samosa and a chapatti each, a bunch of bananas, two boxes of fruit juice, and a moto ride up the hill with the provisions: about £5 for 5 people. We ate under the trees and reviewed the arrangements for tomorrow morning.

Josine and Gaudance will start the two cooking processes; Rachel and I will be available by phone for any queries before we arrive around 11.30 to start making salads; Danzile is matron of honour at wedding and can't come. Perhaps Marie Rose will be able to leave her child.

At 1.30 we took the basket outside to fill the gaps around the cushions with hay or similar. The grass was thronged with secondary school pupils having a mock election but we managed to scavenge what we needed and ignore the curious stares. We stitched a final cushion and stuffed it with hay to fit closely over the space for the cooking pot. A shopping list was reviewed and finalised. Gaudance will bring basil: she still has some left after trying out the recipes from Wednesday and inviting her neighbours to come and taste. Josiane, who is to shop with me, revealed that she won't be free till 5. (Shopping has to be completed today because the market will be closed by umuganda in the morning.)

'What are you going to do with the hot water?' Gaudance asked, referring to the product of the trial of the tyre cooker. 'Why don't we put it in the hay box to see how warm it is in the morning?' Ah, a true scientist.

It is now 4pm. The photocopies didn't materialise and Jean Baptiste has locked up and gone to take choir practice for Sunday. I don't know if he will be here tomorrow but probably not. I am grateful for the easy hospitality of the teachers, where, having commandeered a young man to carry the converter and sewing machine, I can sit on a sofa with a glass of drinking water and type this piece. I've more or less caught up on the emails after Wednesday's busyness and yesterday's poor internet service. Perhaps I should be looking for project management by distance learning.

At 5pm Therese was back in the office and did the photocopying. At 6.15 - presumably after choir practice - Baptiste rang full of apopogies for forgetting the photocopying. By then the shopping was completed and I was on my way home, squashed in a taxi-bus that seemed smaller than ever but really perfectly OK.


Written Thurs 24th, posted Friday 25th

Yesterday was a very busy day. After teaching I shopped for supper for 9, then worked in the American teachers' kitchen with Cassie and Ruth and Gaudance, using Gaudance's bountiful harvest of the basil planted during my last visit. When I admired it in her garden last week she admitted not knowing how to use it. So last night's event took shape – drawing on Ruth and Krystan from Canada and Cassie from Texas, for recipes from countries where the basil grows much bigger and better than it does for me. We had spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, pasta with two kinds of basil pesto (one including rocket), salad with basil vinaigrette and poached white fish with a different basil vinaigrette – the last from the internet. It made a surprisingly varied plateful.

Today has been set aside for preparation for tomorrow and Saturday, when a group of six of the women I know best and have worked with three times already will do some experimental cooking. I've been keeping my eyes open for the equipment I need. Today will be make or break.

Rachel and I set off after a leisurely breakfast. She has a new computer from one of her employers and needs to get internet access and virus protection. Nearby I want to buy some coffee for breakfasts and scrutinise the nut and seed section of the biggest supermarket, hoping to find evidence that sesame seeds and macadamia nuts are not unknown, working up to researching whether the trees are being introduced here, as rumour suggests. But Nakumatt has a power cut and from the Indian shop round the corner I buy only turmeric.

It is becoming clear that we won't have time to do all the jobs on our lists in town before going to Kicukiro, the market area near the Friends Church compound at Kagarama. So after Rachel's modem has been activated we do no more than buy an inner tube for tomorrow's solar cooking. For that I need Rachel's Kinyarwanda, as I do for finding a glass supplier in Kicukiro and getting a sheet cut to fit over the inner tube. Asking at a petrol station and being directed to the maintenance workshop for the moto riders, we get the inner tube inflated. Just in time, we phone Antoine to give us a lift up the hill with glass and rubber ring before his appointment elsewhere.

Next is further discussion of the arrangements for the next two days with Monique, who runs the part of the church buildings at Kagarama known as 'the centre', separately from the church and its offices, and the domain of David Bucura, Jean Baptiste and Therese which includes the newly extended children's peace library and its programme of peer mediation. Yes, it's very complex and I keep learning more of how much I don't know. As I take more responsibility for arrangements, accounting and scheduling for my work with each visit I'm continually trying to anticipate problems. Today it emerges that if Monique is not providing food for our group we'll be expected to pay to use her crockery, cutlery and cooking pots, in addition to the room rental I was expecting.

A quick phone call to Ruth and Krystan, whose house is next to the church, results in the promised loan of cups, plates and a cooking pot. If David is driving in on Saturday it won't be difficult to take extra items from Rachel's kitchen. I have knives, peelers and graters for making salads. The teachers' house and its well stocked kitchen will also be within easy reach.

I pay the room rental and collect the receipt with obligatory rubber stamp. Monique says she knows where to look for a board to go under the tyre cooker. Rachel has further business here and we separate.

Now for the kind of detail I am always afraid will trip me up. I know Jean Baptiste has printing and photocopying in his office. I check that he will be there in the morning. He will, and photocopying will be fine but the printer is out of ink. I return to Nicodeme, whose new office adjoins tomorrow's work room, to ask if he could print a couple of pages for me on the new printer we have just been admiring. He won't be in tomorrow but would be happy to do it now. I didn't think far enough ahead to put the necessary flash drive in my bag this morning. He suggests the yearly meeting office so I go round the back of the church but it's all locked up. Happily Antoine is returning from his appointment; there is a printer in his office; it is working; he will be there between 8 30 and 9.30 tomorrow. Phew!

I think everything is now in place for the tyre cooker, including a black cooking pot borrowed from Rachel's father's solar cooker. The second project is to make an insulated nest for the slow cooking of ingredients heated by wood or charcoal. Practical Action (the charity that used to be called Intermediate Technology) has a design, with rather sketchy instructions. One of Anne's compilations of useful suggestions has a photo of another. It's apparently recommended by the government here though nobody I know has one; it's known as a peacemaker. It's what I called a haybox when I was a Girl Guide.

Rachel and I have been looking for a suitable container. Soon after the beginning of my enquiries she bought a couple of beautiful baskets but they were too small and she took them back. I have considered a banana leaf hamper in a tourist shop, a large plastic plant pot and a utilitarian plastic bin. None is quite right and only the last is a reasonable price. As we left the house this morning I spotted a laundry basket that would serve though it's unnecessarily tall. We could use it, Rachel says, but they're expensive and she wouldn't be able to recommend a place to buy them as it came from a travelling salesman or similar. Then she thinks of a large waste paper basket in the house worker's room. It's the best yet, and light enough to carry on the bus if necessary tomorrow, though we won't be popular if the bus is full.

What else does the project require? I've been doing my best to make sure both Rachel and Gaudance understand the need for plenty of rags to stuff the cushions. I'm borrowing a sewing machine from Cassie. I have a couple of pairs of scissors.

Now to buy the tough fabric to enclose the rags.

Ruth has recommended a fabric shop called Maman Fatuma. I think I can find it. I take the bus back into town. It's after one and I'm getting hungry. I've arranged with Rachel that I'll find lunch in town. I remember that Dorothy (now back in England) once suggested meeting at a place called La Galette. I spotted it once but haven't visited. It's near the seed shops and I might as well top up on seed supplies now I'm here. I buy another 60 or 70 packets of seeds – for the women tomorrow and three more full workshops of 15.

As I leave the second seed shop I ask for directions to La Galette. It is where I expected. What I didn't expect is that it's sub-titled German Butchery. The language of the labels and the menu is French, nevertheless. The shop part has many interesting supplies and I buy coffee and brown bread. Then lunch takes the usual 45 minutes to arrive, despite being only an egg salad. It's good and I'm refreshed and well rested.

It's steeply uphill to Maman Fatuma and the sun is hot but it's not too far. The shop is much smaller than I expected. I'm beckoned in past three people battling waves of clear plastic tablecloth printed with pink roses and emitting a strong plastic smell. I show an illustration of what I need. I'm sent through a narrow opening into a second room. Bales and rolls of fabric are stacked on all four sides up to the ceiling. The assistant allocated to me has little French (and no English). How on earth shall I choose? I do, however, on weight and price. I'm passed to a different assistant who measures and cuts, in between contributing to the taming of the plastic. Anything else? I need needles. A box containing at least a hundred packets of steel needles, made in China, is passed to me. But they're all the same size and too big. Another box is produced. That will do. Thread? A box with a dozen to choose from. Done. As I leave I spot a stack of at least fifteen folded rosy tablecloths, each two metres by three. The cutting, billowing and constraining continues. Who could need so many?

It's a ten minute hot walk back to the bus stop. Some people here say the sun feels hottest before it rains. Thunder rumbles. I'm glad to get a place on the first bus, though it's one of the uncomfortable fold down seats. Two minutes after I'm home the rain comes. Rain is good; getting drenched is not.

At supper with David and Rachel I ask for clarification about 'umuganda' on Saturday. The last Saturday of every month is designated for communal work – nobody thought of that when the workshop dates were agreed - and the roads are closed till 11am. However, when I realised last week that there would be a problem they said we'd be OK getting to Kagarama early – around 8 – to prepare the food for cooking in the new devices. Now they say we'd have to be there before 7 to avoid the roadblocks and whoever drove us would not be able to get away. And I hoped I'd thought of everything!

Rachel says we can discuss it with the group tomorrow and make a plan. I'll report on what transpires.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Another brief encounter

Giheke,17-18 February

This was a two-day workshop with a new group, at a small Friends church seven kilometres up the road out of Kamembe towards Nyungwe forest. I've lost count of the number of groups I've worked with but it must be more than 10. This is the first time I've had a student who's been to the organic training at Gako, outside Kigali, where I visited at the beginning of this project, two years ago.

Having an ally in the group is a new pleasure. Of course Marie Claire may disagree with some of the things I say, and I invite her to do so if there's something I've forgotten or misunderstood. (The group has already had the line about how they and not I are the experts on their soil, climate etc.). Mostly she is able to add detail – it only takes 30 days to make usable compost if you construct the heap in one day; biogas can be made equally well from cow dung or human waste....

The second day is to end after a late lunch. We finish by planting seeds in the sack outside the church leader's house where we are to eat. I suggest that we just relax and wait for the food to be ready in 10 or 15 minutes. Oh no, we must go back to the church/classroom for the recommendations.

Mukarugwiza Mary, the woman who has led most of the singing and dancing and asked the most questions, wants to speak on behalf of the group.

'Thank you for two days' teaching. We have learnt how to prepare and plant a sack. Thank you for what you have taught.

'Also you have helped us to produce many vegetables in a small space when we don't have much land. And we have learnt about plant tea and ways to protect our plants from pests. Also we have learnt about compost. Altogether many new things. Thank you for choosing to come here to us.

'Now we have some recommendations. First, we would like to learn how to grow mushrooms so we can sell them for income and eat them when we can't afford meat. [This was not a good time to make sure they know mushrooms – a very fashionable commodity at the moment - are not nourishing!] Second, you can see how our church has foundations but hardly any building; we are a small congregation of 60 including children and we hope you will ask your church to pray for us and consider sending us money.

'We ask you to greet your family and your church.'

Dancing in the part-built church
I thank everybody for attending and wish them well. I leave a selection of seeds with Marie Claire, whom they appoint to distribute them. After lunch I am picked up and taken to Kumbya for a weekend's relaxation. They get on with their lives.

Marie Claire (left) and Mary

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Weekend off

Saturday evening, 19 Feb
I've been learning about Lake Kivu, which forms most of Rwanda's western border. It has no hippo or crocodile or even fish big enough for one to make a meal. The reason is a concentration of methane so high that once it's been harnessed there will be enough not only to meet Rwanda's power needs without importing diesel but also to export to neighbouring DRC.

That's in the future. For me now the main significance is that the water is safe and clean enough to swim in. In the 1940s several of the protestant missionary groups developed a simple retreat, with a brick and tile cottage for each of the denominations and an annual conference week. The bumpy drive doesn't do much for the papaya and avocados but it takes only an hour and a half from Kamembe, where I've been staying and working since Monday. Matt and Gayle (the English teachers from Oregon) have stayed here several times and invited me for the weekend.

The swimming place

Yesterday I went for my first swim and there was a kingfisher on the handrail of the steps down to the water. Today my companions were first a kite then an egret. I think I may have been hearing monkeys, but I didn't see any. Every now and then a canoe is paddled close to the shore: if there are several occupants they sing a mesmerising call and response. Matt complains that they do it at night when fishing, but last night the moon was full and no boats were out.

The cabin has solar powered lights in the living area but no means of charging my computer or camera batteries, so I'll stop now. Whether there is signal enough to send this post remains to be seen.

The view from my bedroom door

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Can you give me?

Written 16 Feb, posted 17th.
Four times today I have been asked. The first request is for the laminated sheets, courtesy of Send-a-Cow and my friend Ann R, showing the ingredients and techniques for making liquid plant food from different kinds of leaves or by steeping animal droppings. This time last year I had one A3 and two A4 copies of the set of six sheets. Several of the smaller ones have disappeared – I hope whoever couldn't bear to give them back is benefiting. I do give an electronic copy of the set on a flash drive to somebody with access to a computer. I have also compiled a set of around ten photos of the recommended plants, so I copy that file onto the flash drive as well.

The recipients are the group of women whose story I heard in October from the pastor's wife. Our workshop time today began with a tour of four gardens.
Only one has sacks planted but that is of no consequence – all are productive.

The women are positive, relaxed, appreciative. They confirm the theory that having veg in an intensive space close to the house makes tending and using easier. When the conversation turns to using the unfamiliar vegetables whose seeds I gave out last year (kale, basil, chard), one asks if we could cook together. It's too late for that now but I say I'll try to come back next year though I can't promise.

I have noticed before how much pleasure my students get from looking at illustrated seed catalogues, which I use for plant identification when neither the English name nor the French from the local seed packets is understood. This year, though not previously, I have been asked three times already to donate a catalogue, including both this morning and this afternoon. Not yet, I say, but I'll try to get one to you when I'm leaving. On my last visit I left some teaching materials behind by mistake and it was the catalogue I missed most; this time I find I've packed five.

The third request comes from the group of teachers at Kamembe Friends School. My visit has provided variety both for the twenty teachers and for Gayle and Matt, the couple from a Friends Church in Oregon who are here for two years as part of a small team teaching English to the teachers in the four Friends secondary schools.

Yesterday I used a page on healthy eating, prepared by my friend Anne W with a paragraph specifically about Rwanda from Rachel Bugenimana. The highlight for me, as for Gayle and Matt, was a question about an item of vocabulary none of us had considered tricky: 'What is a snack?' Today, after an hour on complementary proteins, we divide into three groups to study a colourful chart about nutrition, produced in England for use in health shops, spotted by my daughter Judith and appropriate because it excludes animal food sources. I have explained earlier that some people in rich countries choose to be vegetarian or vegan and that it is possible to be well nourished without animal protein. One of the teachers in my group begs me to give him that chart so he can use it to teach the people in his home village: he has already made notes about the importance of vitamin A for preventing sight problems. I say I can't give away my teaching material, which I will need for other groups, but I'll get a colour photocopy made in Kigali and send it to him via Gayle and Matt. The minute the class finishes he is checking with Gayle that she'll chase me up if necessary and not fail him.

And the fourth? Not from a student but a child of less than two, encountered on our morning tour of gardens. He drags his attendant adult to my side and speaks earnestly. I ask for a translation, thinking he's probably greeting me, as children often do. Oh no. He already knows the thing to do with white people is ask them for something. 'Give me a sweet potato.'

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Some presidential snippets

Monday 14 Feb
For the last couple of years people in Kigali have been instructed to cut down their hedges and replace them with walls and fences. The effect on the microclimate in streets and gardens has been markedly detrimental, despite the contemporaneous planting of street trees. The story was that the president found the hedges unsuitable to the dignity of a capital city and an embarrassment when his presidential pals from France, USA etc visit his country. Yesterday I heard that he actually commented when seeing an overgrown hedge that it was untidy and should be cut back. An official misheard or overreacted. The owners of hedges not yet massacred are wondering what will happen now. For too many the damage is already done.

When the president is due to visit a locality much sprucing up is done - as for our own royal family, one hears. Particularly during the campaigning for the recent election, many roads were mended. But to go to Cyangugu, he flies. I witnessed again today how badly the last quarter of that road needs some presidential attention.

Arrived in Cyangugu after the bumpy ride, four of us made for the pleasant restaurant next to the market in Kamembe for a late lunch. At 3pm the TV was turned up for the presidential opening of parliament. After President Kagame's address, the national anthem was played. I wondered whether people would stand. One customer did so.
Outside, a few minutes later, the three white members of our party were waiting for Antoine to complete a conversation. The man who had stood to attention came to speak to us. The president had been reviewing the decade from 2000, he said. He had made many comparisons. Availability of clean drinking water had risen from 41% to over 80%; availability of electricity from 4% to 13%. I was foolish enough to mention the word 'solar'. Our informant was scathing. 'I work for a Chinese company providing real electricity by cables and pylons', he said.

Tuesday 15th
I run the figures past Antoine. The statistic for clean water seems considerably inflated, he says. The figure for electricity may well be true, and there's a drive on now to get the supply round the country faster. However, the electricity is so expensive that many households run into difficulties and might be better off without it.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Eat dodo (now with pics)

Saturday morning, 12 Feb

What is dodo? It's the Kinyarwanda name for leaf amaranth, an African indigenous vegetable (AIV). It's the one AIV commonly grown, harvested in the wild, sold in markets and eaten without wincing all over Rwanda. I had it for lunch today, at the house of Rachel's parents outside Kigali, where she and I had gone to try cooking in a solar cooker donated by an American organisation but not used. (Rachel Bugenimana is the wife of the couple where I'm staying, a keen vegetable gardener and for this visit my most frequent translator and co-trainer.) It was picked from the garden, rinsed and chopped, and boiled with green banana and a little finely sliced beetroot.Caption:Rachel peeling the bananas

Caption: The dodo ready for chopping

Caption: the black cooking pot and the round thermometer can just be seen through the reflection of the cooker lid

The rice from the solar cooker, put in a black pan with 2 parts hot water to one of rice and left for 4 hours through sunshine and cloud, stayed pretty much at a temperature of 150F, once heated. It was a strange combination of mushy and grainy – what should we have done differently? The dodo dish was delicious. It cooks and tastes much like spinach. The few people who do eat the other local AIVs mix them with spinach to soften the bitter taste.

Why the exhortation? On Wednesday a group of Rwanda Yearly Meeting leaders – not the formal executive committee – was meeting for planning and general exchange of information. The preferred venue for such occasions now is the small conference facility at Gasharu Church, called the Peace Garden. I was there to look over the fairly extensive piece of ground, with the caretaker and a couple of other church members. David Bucura's contribution to the current FWCC (Friends World Committee for Consultation) initiative on the environment is to encourage better use of the space. Here his two roles as pastor at Gasharu and clerk of FWCC Africa Section come together. I had talked with him in October about 'the edible garden': now I was to be put to the test.

I had forgotten to do much specific preparation for this role, and there was no internet connection on Tuesday evening so I couldn't mug up. My draft programme had 4 days for this activity but there was nothing actually to be done until it rained. I agreed to meet the small group and give them some seeds from my garden and from Agrotec in Kigali. In the event most of our time was taken with talking about trees and hedges with edible leaves and/or fruits, and devising ways to proof new planting against child trespassers. I am to return near the end of my time to see how things are going.

That done, I was invited to take lunch with the YM planners and take 15 minutes to tell them about Growing Together. I invited questions at the end but was thrown by the best: 'What can we do in 2011 to cooperate with your project?' I'm sorry to say I waffled.

Later in the day David asked me to give the message (20-30 minute sermon) this Sunday, introducing a few weeks' focus on the Quaker testimony to simplicity. I hope I shall manage to do that without hypocrisy. Next morning I woke with the answer I could have given the planners – eat dodo. It's cheap or free, palatable, local, rich in micro-nutrients, health promoting. It's not grown in monocultures drenched in fertiliser, it's not trucked in using precious and expensive diesel, it's not evident on aspirational TV, it's not an imported luxury. So – step one, eat dodo.

I'm posting this in a hurry without pics. I'll add some later.