024: the Farm for Family Nutrition, part two


Pigs on the Global Family Nework farm, in May 2015

– The evenings of hot season were still cooler, so even with all the burners on the stove running it was comfortable in the house, with its lofty roof and electric lighting. Mel and Felix insisted that Chelsi come to Felix’s house in town to meet Jean Ann.  Now feeling fully recovered she was busily preparing a dinner of rice and vegetable with beef.  Chelsi sat at the small table leaning over the back of the chair listening to Mel and Felix talk about a particularly unscrupulous farm hand from the couch.
“So you’re saying,” Mel tried to clarify, “the wife that Paul had, when we first invited him to work on the farm left because he was drinking and then beating her.  And since then he’s brought other girls down to stay at the farm with him and he’s continued the same pattern of behavior?”
“Yeah, the other guy working on the farm also say he’s been telling them not to work unless we start giving them mealie meal [the maize flour used to make the tradition thick porridge] every week as well as their stipend.” While Mel’s voice faltered with a little bit of confusion, Felix’s response was driven with an urgency of concern that is difficult for Westerns ears to detect.  But the words! Chelsi thought to herself. How could you still be confused?  Since Mel was the financial backer of the project, Felix would never make a decision without his consent and only passively suggest change that need to be made.  
“But I just don’t know that I’m ready to give up on him…” Chelsi’s heart started to burn. Just a few days ago she was riding her bike past the small market in Mitukutuku and Paul had chased after her a fair way down the road before she had to stop to make sure Daisy was not left behind.
‘Hello,’ his huffing and puffing blew the smell of beer into Chelsi’s face.
‘Hi,’ she looked past him, praying for Daisy to appear from around the corner. Paul was bumbling and mumbling. ‘Yes, I know you.’ It was mostly his dreaded hair that she recognized.  ‘But I’m not really interested in chatting, I’m just waiting for the dog.’
“When we met him in town, and brought him to the farm; he showed so much potential.  I really thought we would be able to move him up in to a management position.” Chelsi’s skin began to tingle
“The other workers they say he is encouraging them not to work and I think he has been killing and eating the chickens.” Felix was sitting on the edge of his seat, steering at Mel leaning back with his eyes half closed.  Her brow began to sweat.
“Are you prepared to let him go tomorrow?”
“Yes, if that’s what we have to do.” For all his sureness, Felix’s voice was shaking. Chelsi’ did not understand; How is this a hard decision?
Felix readjusted himself on the couch. Mel’s eyes opened, staring at Felix, “but if we let him go, who are we going to get to replace him? Someone has to be feeding the pigs. That was Paul’s responsibility.” Which he wasn’t doing! Chelsi’s mind yelled.  Those pigs are skeletons. When she saw them for the first time it had broken her heart, but she figured Felix, Mel, they knew what they were doing. She was new and unsure of role in the Farm, so she emotionally separated from their animals.  Now she knew they were clueless; ‘We are not farmers,’ she would later hear Mel say.
“We could talk to Senior Mwala.  You know, because he recommended some of the people working on the farm now… And it would be good to have his blessing…  But if we let Paul go tomorrow, who will take care of the pigs until we can find a replacement?” Chelsi could almost hear the sound of his mind gears grinding, struggling to churn out a solution. Reverse engineering, it’s the only ways he’ll get there.
She beat down the urge yell, and mustered all her cool collectedness. “Why don’t you just hire the widow that lives at the end of the road?”
“What do you mean?” Mel looked up at her across the room.  The gears behind his eyes ground to a halt.
“The woman who lives at the end of the road, the one you help build a house for?  She’s young and strong. She lives right there. She can walk to the farm… And I’m sure she would appreciate the job way more.  She won’t spend the money on beer, she’ll use it to feed her kids.”
Mel eyes snapped back towards Felix, “can we do that?”
“Honestly, if you want the farm running properly you should let all the men go and hire women.  They’re more responsible, they’ll actually do the work.  Many of the men are lazy drunks, especially if you’re just picking them up from the side of the road in town.”
“You’re right, women are more responsible.” Sparks flew from his voice. “And they’ll spend the money better.”
“Should we ask Senior Mwala if he has any suggestions? For people to come work on the farm.?” Felix’s voice was still shaky. 
“Senior Mwala is never going to suggest women to hire on his own.  And I think this a change that really needs to be made. Senior Mwala, he is an excellent man, and a fine village leader, but culturally, he’ll just never offer you the names of women by steady employment on your farm.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t share the change with him, just you have spin it differently.”
“How do you mean?”
“And I’ve told Felix this before; You know it’s great that you want to build houses for old people and vulnerable women, especially those caring for children, but they can’t eat a house.  And the way that women, men, people garden here is so inefficient.  You could, should be using the farm as a way to teach best management practices for gardening, livestock management, and even fish farming.  If you have the women you’re building houses for, or their younger female relatives in the case of older people, working on the farm while the houses are being built, when you send them back they will become huge assets to their families and communities and you’ll get the farm labor you need.”
The two men on the coach were staring at her; nothing she hasn’t become accustomed to.
“Tell it to Senior Mwala like that, and then maybe you’ll get somewhere. Culturally women garden, especially as it relates to family nutrition, so that won’t be a stretch for him to understand. But you also show him that with this strategy you can more effectively raise money to build houses, with revenue from the farm products, improve mother and child nutrition by teaching women more efficient gardening methods and about nutrition and how-to raise family income by introducing ways to generate money from livestock, besides just raising broiler [Cornish cross] chicken. You have a massive opportunity and potential here,” Please don’t squander it… “I can teach about the gardening and livestock management, I can even do some health and nutrition, that’s not an issue. I’d just hate to see such an opportunity wasted.
Mel’s eyes were on fire. “Well, you seem to have a pretty clear idea on how this will work, how available can you be to help us get this started up?
The remained of the evening was spent identifying details that would need to be discussed later about how to set up a farming for family nutrition school.  It was also squarely decided that they would approach the widow at the end of the road the next day and offer her the job of caring for the pigs to fill the immediate labor needs.
She accepted on the spot the next day.

Categories: Drama | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “024: the Farm for Family Nutrition, part two

  1. Sandy Nowarita

    Yay Chelsi! Changing the world 1 farm and 1 woman at a time :)))
    Well Done!!!


  2. Kirsten

    I can’t even express my joy in reading this. So proud of you Chelsi and your willingness and ability to bring a new voice to situations. I’m anxious to hear how this develops.


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