Sunday, 22 July 2012

Farming Progress

The maize we planted 3 weeks ago is now about a foot high and it is time for a little fertilizer. Louisa bought a large sackful of tiny white balls of the magic stuff through a government subsidy scheme of vouchers which enables people to make the most of their land. Yesterday dawned bright and sunny and we began to tip quantities of the fertilizer into small holes dug beside each plant. Needless to say this was proving to be a laborious job and as we looked down the length of the field there was no way we would finish in the day. Some swift telephone advice allowed us to place the white balls close to the plant on the surface of the soil. Too close to the seedlings and if there was no rain imminent, then the chemical would burn the plants. A risk, but one we were prepared to take. We worked much faster now with 3 of us making our way down the rows. The fertilizer ran out about 20 plants from the end but we were fortunate to acquire an extra calabash full from a neighbour to complete the task.

As the day drew to a close the sky was clear with a gorgeous evening glow. The likelihood of rain was slim. Nevertheless, at 03.40 the telltale wind blew through my window louvers and sent my curtains horizontal to the ceiling. I knew then that our prayers had been answered. The rain lashed down for over 3 hours and dribbled for longer. I lay in my bed imagining hundreds of thousands of fertilizer balls dissolving and penetrating their way down into the soil. The seedlings humming with delight!

Timing has been crucial over the last week and a team of P6 pupils were busily weeding between the rows after school. Fertilizing weeds was out of the question! These children were desperate to earn some money to fund their end of Primary School Party. More news of that will follow next week. Schools are all involved in farming areas of their sites with areas of school fields temporarily sporting young crops of beans, maize and other staples.

An elderly woman ran into school the other day in a rather frantic state. She wanted to enlist the help of a group of pupils. Evidently, her pig had got loose from its tether and was running amok in someone’s field. The farmer would rightly kill it if she didn’t catch the animal soon. Such is the importance of the farmed crops. Children were dispatched from the classroom, but in vain as they couldn’t find the hog and returned later to resume their lesson. I never heard the fate of the pig and whether it is now more securely tied to a tree or has been enjoyed by many for lunch.

District Education Officers farm too…….well, most pay others to do it for them. They can’t really get their hands dirty. The Officer in charge of Basic Schools (that’s all of them from Primary through to end of KS3 ) arrived at one school last week and asked for a group of 20 pupils to weed her farm. This is quite common practice, to use children to labour in fields with hoes. However, this was in school time! To compound the horror of that, apparently, she didn’t even offer the kids water to drink and they were there for hours. It beggars belief sometimes!!

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