Letters

Urban agriculture

Market gardeners in the Boma area of lower Zaire are not economically strong. We used the INADES lessons as a group and realise that we need to market ourselves more positively to improve our situation. We need to improve our production of vegetables but we also see other important areas:

  • We do not preserve our produce to sell at the right time when prices are high.
  • We lack storage facilities.
  • We lack knowledge about appropriate preservation techniques.
  • Some members need cash urgently and cannot store crops.

We are unable to sell our vegetables for a good price because:

  • We have no control over the prices.
  • We are not well organised.
  • There is competition from imported vegetables such as onions.
  • We lack transport.

We see the need to organise ourselves in groups with clear aims, trust in other members and common goals. Then we can work together to buy tools, build storage facilities, improve sales and transport. We would like to hear from other groups who can share advice with us.

Gédéon Mbenza Panzu, AMIP, BP 23, Kalamu, Boma 2, Zaire.

Biogas production

Few people in our rural community here are aware of the environmental damage caused by continuous cutting down of trees. The few who do plant trees plant eucalyptus which is not good for soil fertility. This deforestation is causing the extinction of medicinal plants and a lack of firewood.

Our small group is building tree nurseries and encouraging tree planting. Can anyone help us with information on small-scale biogas production to help reduce the number of trees being cut down?

Ngah Edward, Citex Farmers, G H S Kumbo, PO Box NSO – NWP, Cameroon.

EDITOR: People are often very aware of the environmental damage caused by removing trees. However, their need for cash from selling wood or charcoal may force them to do this.

Family planning – an issue for governments or God?

Recently I visited my rural home in Western Kenya where I talked to various individuals about the issues of family planning. Many families here have ten or more children. For many Christians this seems a controversial issue. Some blame the State for failing to meet the needs of its people due to mis-use of funds. Some complain that huge sums of money are spent on sex education and condoms which can encourage sex among young people.

In Genesis 1:28 we read of how God told man to be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Children are a blessing to God. He knows them before they are born (Jeremiah 1:5). But through the wisdom and knowledge he has given us, we now know that the earth is filled up! If we reject this understanding we will also ignore our children’s future (Hosea 4:6). The question is – are street children, land shortages, hunger, drug abuse and violent crimes increasing because of over population? Are we waiting foolishly for God to rub out the verse in Genesis while we are being destroyed for our lack of knowledge and understanding?

Hezron Sande, PO Box 60954, Nairobi, Kenya.

Mushrooms

Several years ago I got interested in growing mushrooms. I obtained a manual but my interest soon cooled when I discovered I would have to learn about soil acidity, temperature, sterility of growing medium and spawn. Recently, however, my interest was revived. A friend here has found that rice husk is very good for conditioning the soil so he digs in about 10cm of rice husk for his vegetable plot. Last year he got an unexpected bonus – a wonderful crop of mushrooms, more than he and his friends could eat for a month or two.

The local Idoma people know of the mushrooms and call them Ifu Ap’Ochi Kapa – meaning mushrooms of rice husks – because they have long realised they spring up where rice is threshed in the fields and the husks and straw are left behind.

So, if you grow rice or live near a rice mill, maybe you too can encourage mushrooms without worrying about complicated procedures. Make sure that you first make a fence to keep out animals.

Father Vincent O’Brien, Ogobia, PO Box 13, Otukpo, Benue State, Nigeria.

EDITOR: You may find that leaving a few mature mushrooms on the soil will help encourage growth as they will release spores into the soil.

Beeswax candles

I am a pastor working in the region of the Fula peoples. The people produce a lot of honey and wax. We have tried making candles from beeswax but they did not come out right. Can anyone help with ideas for making candles and other uses for beeswax?

Pastor Augusto Gomes, Guinea Bissau.

EDITOR: Responses to the Editor please, so we can share with other readers (and for translation into Portuguese for Pastor Gomes).

African towns

Unfortunately there are many street children in Africa. In my country, Mali, they are most often cleaning shoes, selling things to passers-by and drivers or acting as guides to their blind parents. Society blames them and regards them as the lowest of the low. The town should reserve a special place for them, offer them playing areas and a supportive education system where they are valued and helped to develop their role in society. In short they should have places where they can find their dreams like other children of their age.

Our magazine, Villes d’Afrique (African Towns) began with the realisation that there is little thought about towns in Africa. In spite of all the inefficiency and lack of energy, we do believe in the dynamic which is at work everywhere in Africa. We want to contribute to the work of collective thought about towns. We hope to make a network of different abilities of all those living in African towns. So get your pens and write if you want to be part of this network!

Mr L Y Hassiniyou, Editor – Villes D’Afrique, 5 Avenue Rose Delaunay, 92330 Sceaux, France.

EDITOR: Villes d’Afrique is only available in French.