This is the magic of connections that make things grow. Toby Ward, a friend who helped us pick up the pieces after the storm damage, suggested we get in touch with someone at an organization called Technoserve, which helps small farmers find markets for their crops.
We have had good success with growing chile peppers in the past, as they like our very hot weather. We’ve produced surplus of this crop- beyond what we needed to supplement the nutrition of the OVC children in the hostel and our 800 health care patients a month- so we wanted to sell the extra peppers for income to put back into the agriculture project in the hopes that it will be able to support itself soon enough. Where we needed help was finding people to buy our surplus produce. We tried approaching grocers, but many already had their chosen vendors and we couldn’t find larger-scale buyers that would make the project worth it.
Enter Technoserve… They not only provided the marketing connection to a top-notch company like Tabasco, but they also offer a lot of great technological advice about growing crops. For example, when growing chilies, the crops must be planted and grow very straight, otherwise they grow ‘J roots’ that prevent good peppers from forming. This kind of advice is critical to our Swazi agricultural staff members and volunteers, because we can grow better crops and generate more income for the project to make it more sustainable, and everyone can take the agricultural knowledge home, share with their communities, and grow better crops on their homesteads. We’ve started tilling the soil and making plans to grow Tabasco’s special breed of chile. If all goes well, we should have 4-5 acres of chilies for Tabasco by December.
Click below to see a video about Technoserve’s work with farmers in Swaziland:
We’ve also made a connection with SWADE, the Swaziland Water and Agriculture Development Enterprise. They have put in a dam near us for irrigation for poor farmers to grow cash crops. They’re going to use two acres of our land, put in irrigation, grow experimental cash crops, and teach the local people how to grow the crops on their own homesteads. They provide all the ‘input’- the seedlings, the labor, and technical advice, and we get to keep the produce for the children and our patients. They will also help us find markets for the produce. One of the first experimental export crops will be gooseberries- apparently there is a good market in Australia and South Africa for gooseberries.
We’re beginning to feel very hopeful about the longer-term sustainability of our agriculture project due to these developments. We’ve always been able to grow good produce, but the marketing has been slow-coming for us. These projects are helping us get our foot through the door and helping local people improve their abilities to support themselves.
Cheers to good friends, good ideas, good health, and good food!
Srs. Barbara and Diane