Trees for Zambia … Our Awesome God

I wanted to pass along this amazing story from our friend Renee Marini in Zambia. As many of you know,Diana and I have been going to Zambia for three years now, and have seen with our own eyes the things that have been happening there.

Hope you enjoy and are blessed by this amazing chain of events in a place far away.

25 July 2012

Dear Family, Friends and Supporters,

I have been silent far too long. I am so overwhelmed by the power of God and His goodness and faithfulness that I can’t keep it to myself any longer! God is amazing and deserves all the glory we can give Him! Let me share with you what is happening at SoT.

It was obvious that our orchard (what was left) was coming to an end. The fruit was souring, the amount dwindling, people in town complaining, etc. The man contacted from the Department of Agriculture told us an orchard’s life span is about 25 years which is what he estimated the trees to be. In the past year, Professor, who always ran the orchard went back to school and lessened his attention to the orchard requiring us to look for a replacement. We found Passmore had previous experience and loved taking care of the trees, so he became our orchard caretaker. We had discussions on what to do with the orchard, but without funds we were limited. Although we talked, no decisions were made nor directions given. One day Passmore came to the house and informed me that he had “cleared the land for the new orchard and we must plant by August.” He said it very matter of fact, but understand I didn’t even know what land he was talking about! We never discussed moving the orchard and I had no idea where to buy new trees. Heck, we didn’t even have money for trees! Not wanting to squash this enterprising spirit, I just nodded and said “OK Passmore…good job!” Now when I closed the door I said,”God, what are you doing? Are we planting a new orchard? You know we have no money for trees. I don’t even know where to get trees, but if you want a new orchard, then we are willing.” That’s all I said and went about business as usual. The very next day….literally the very next day, a man knocked at the door. His name was Derek, a South African man working in Lusaka for an organization called IDE. He had a meeting with the farmers behind our farm and wanted to pass through. Having some difficulties with people and vehicles using our farm proper as a shortcut road, Derek had been told by the other members of IDE to stop at the main house and seek permission first. So that is what he did. He passed by all the Farming God’s Way (Conservation Farming) maize fields and gardens along the driveway and so when he came to the house he asked me about Sons of Thunder and our agriculture. After a 10 minute conversation, he went on to his meeting. Three hours later, he again knocked at the door and told me he never made it to his meeting because “we took the wrong turn and got stuck in the mud. It took us all that time to get unstuck.” I hadn’t realized there were more guys in the vehicle when he first came to the door so I was surprised when he asked if they could come in and talk with me. There were three of them, Derek from IDE and two from an organization called Greenpop. The three men were all South African; Derek here in Zambia to work and Mesha and Jeremy to organize an NGO project. Greenpop’s mission is reforestation or planting trees and after doing research they found that Zambia has the second highest rate of deforestation in the world. Their project here is called “Trees For Zambia.” They told me their plan was to plant a total of 5,000 trees here in Zambia; at Dambwa Forest, Victoria Falls Heritage site, 20 different preselected schools and on 5 hectors of maize fields with subsistence farmers. They also had some fruit trees to plant! That is what they were hoping to meet the farmers behind us about. However since they never made their meeting and since they had seen we already were an organized and well structured group of farmers using conservation methods, they wanted to know if we would be interested in the tree planting proposal. Oh God is good!!! This was my answer and His plan all along! The trees they would be planting on the maize fields are called albeta acacia trees….the only tree that loses its leaves during the rainy season when the maize needs direct sunlight. The leaves cause the land to become more fertile thus reducing the need for fertilizer. I also saw the advantage of natural God’s blanket or mulch without any labor. So yes indeed I was interested….I felt like this was God’s next step. He was lighting the next stone for me. I also told them about our existing orchard and the plan for the new orchard but we didn’t know where we were going to get trees. They were an answer to prayer!

The meeting was maybe an hour in length and they left with the promise to be in touch. That was the beginning of May. It was the middle of June when we heard from Derek again. He came back to Zambia and met with Alexander and I and walked off the ground we had available to plant the maize fields. With his GPS, it measured exactly 5 hectors so he asked if we would be willing to plant all 5 hectors. We said yes not really sure how, but we didn’t want to miss God. It wasn’t just a coincidence to me that it measured exactly 5 hectors!

So now we had less than two weeks to prepare: we had to cut down all the dead guava trees, remove the stumps, cut all the grass by hand with slashers and then pile up the grass into heaps around the fields! It took about three days and quite a few men to cut the trees down with axes. Then it took Abson about three days of bulldozer work to uproot and help remove all the tree stumps. While Abson was bulldozing, the rest of the men began slashing. Now that tedious job took about 7 straight days of up to 17 men each day to clear that land! Besides the five hectors of maize field land, we also had to plan, purchase and install an irrigation system for the new orchard. First, Ocrist (the plumber) and Alexander went to farms around Livingstone to get an idea of different irrigating techniques not only for the orchards but also for new gardens, especially fresh maize gardens. Then Ocrist drew up plans and after discussion went to Livingstone to purchase Phase 1of the plan; poly pipes and gate valves to install the irrigation system from Engine 5 to the new orchard. While investigating on their own, believe it or not they were most impressed by a drip irrigation system for gardens that one of the retired ministers had installed! Now you have to understand that American farmers that have come to Zambia have been trying to get them to do drip irrigation for years!! J Well, back to the orchard… Ocrist went to town to purchase all the plumbing supplies. It took one day to dig the trenches with the help of Abson and the bulldozer, one day to lay the pipe and the third day to cover with dirt. That was on a Thursday and just six days before the tree planting was to begin! Friday brought disaster to the farm….four fires were deliberately set by; I guess you would say arsonists, at different locations around the farm proper. One right after the other ignited and raged so that it was impossible to be in all places at the same time. The first one started behind the clinic on the way from the dam coming around the back of the main house and ending at Arnold’s garden. Once that one was under control someone shouted “the Orchard!” and so everyone ran to the existing orchard only to discover an already hot and consuming fire. The entire orchard sorry to say was burned! We didn’t have time to grieve however when someone shouted “behind the tobacco barn!” Once again everyone ran to the tobacco barn area to put out the blazes that were threatening Airport Village. It was later discovered the fire began there very near Linah’s house. Then the fire was seen out at the church causing everyone to run to the church….men and women alike with all sort of fire extinguishing tools….wet bath towels, large “beater” branches, backpack water sprayers, buckets, large containers and bowls etc. The area burned near the church was the new orchard and the area we had just put in the new irrigation system! Thankfully the pipes had just been covered with dirt the day before….and thankfully no homes were damaged….and thankfully we had already decided to let the old orchard go….and thankfully only a corner of one garden was damaged….and thankfully no one was hurt! So after all four fires were extinguished to smoldering ash, everyone was exhausted and dismayed. Who? Why? Questions that only God knows!

No plan of God can be thwarted, so the following Tuesday Derek arrived with a man from the Conservation Farming Unit of Zambia and gave lessons on the importance of trees and the reason for the reforestation project in Zambia, He gave practical demonstrations on building a tree nursery and made albeta seedlings. It was decided he did not have to discuss conservation farming nor composting since our farmers are already using those methods. Early Wednesday morning, compost arrived in truckloads and mid morning 80 international volunteers arrived. They planted 100 lemon trees in the new orchard and 100 albeta trees in the maize field areas. Eight of our farmers worked alongside the volunteers and we provided a cooked Zambian traditional lunch of nshima, rice, potatoes, chicken, cabbage, rape (spinach) and mazoe (orange drink)! What a day!

The volunteers were to come three consecutive Wednesdays planting all the trees; 300 fruit trees in the new orchard and 500 albeta trees on the maize fields.….the second Wednesday 100 more lemon trees were planted along with another 200 albeta trees. During that week another man arrived and made seedlings of the moringa tree. A demonstration was made on constructing and using solar kitchens as an alternative to firewood. After making their solar kitchen out of cardboard and aluminum foil found from wrappers of biscuits and chips thrown away in the trash, they made rice. It was pretty awesome! The third Wednesday 200 more albeta trees were planted in the maize fields and 100 more fruit trees including mango and paw paw in the new orchard. All in all, there were 800 trees planted at Sons of Thunder by Greenpop and our eight farmers and nurseries of albeta and moringa trees to be planted after germination!

Don’t think this whole program and favor of the Lord didn’t come without a price however…..besides the four fires, we had 70 of the neighbor’s cattle visit the farm a couple nights eating gardens, the motor for the grinder mill broke and needed replaced, two dry attempts for the Makoli well after the company received all the money, the Western School of Nursing’s check bounced, two previous nursing students showed up intoxicated and threatening and did some vandalism, a rebellious spirit has gone throughout the Zambian leaders, I have been sick for the first time in seven years after some emotional meetings, visitors have even been affected with emotions and illness, names of previous people affiliated here coming up and causing problems again with our residents, people not wanting to do businesses, people leaving the church to go elsewhere, vehicle issues, zesco outages, frost damage, etc. So we move forward and continue to seek prayer coverage…..we are asking for serious “cover fire.” Other good things are happening even in the midst.…new preschool has opened in John I, Chrispine’s Dairy is underway, new septic tank and plumbing installed for the tobacco barn residents and 8 conference tables and 33 chairs have arrived for the Conference Center! And last but not least, 24 first year nursing students spent the last eight weeks here for lectures, labs and clinical experience! Another CARE International Conference is scheduled for this week. God has kept the Conference Center hopping with one thing after another….CARE meetings followed by eight weeks of nursing students, followed by a District Leaders Conference for the Church followed by CARE meetings again, etc. God is good and His timing perfect!

Well, Greenpop came back yesterday Wednesday the 24th for a check in visit. They brought 40 lemon trees for replacement in case any of the plants didn’t take and among the 40 was an orange tree!! Passmore was happy! They also brought us a baobab tree which we excitedly planted at the front gate! They also brought more albeta seeds and 1,000 moringa seeds! We will plant 1000 moringa in a 10 meter x 10 meter area also in the orchard after we make nursery seedlings. During the course of the meeting, proper thank yous were given from both sides and next year was discussed….Orange trees, mulberry, who knows!!! I guess this is going to be an ongoing next step! J


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