Newsletter # 10
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25
We both find it hard to write this newsletter. Our friend and neighbor, Iri Mato, a priest from New Zealand, gave us this passage in a daily prayer meeting being held to pray for rain. Drought is throughout East Africa. Doom, which has a history of drought, has only one rainy season. The students at the theological college are off from mid- December to mid-February to plant their crops. I returned to Dodoma January 4th, and since then we have had four light showers and one soaking rain. It appears that the usual staples of corn and millet are not going to make. Everyone is hoping for a later than usual rainy season to grow some vegetables.
Sandra’s prayer group has been meeting for weeks, praying for rain and for relief of the suffering. They have managed to buy and have begun to distribute 650 kilos of corn to local people. This has relieved to some extent the children coming to the door with their food pails. It is not enough, but it is some relief. Pictures on website:www.mccannmission.org.The government has a food program and is preparing to help. Meanwhile the price of corn continues to skyrocket out of sight for the poor. Concerns are real that many students will stay home for lack of fees and to be with their families during the crisis. Also, if there are no late rains, will this be a 3 month famine or continue on to next year? In addition, electricity is being rationed due to lack of water behind the hydroelectric dam that serves Doom. The current schedule is no electricity for the twelve daylight hours Monday to Thursday and for five hours of the afternoon from Friday through Sunday.
The explorer Henry Morton Stanley traveled through central Tanzania in the 1870’s. In the whole of Africa, he wrote, “there is not another place whose environment has attracted me as much as this.” In the last 135 years there have been many changes. The Wagogo tribe had mastered a method of communal grazing so that no one piece of land was ever exhausted. The present problem can be traced back to the arrival of the Europeans who made every effort to discourage the nomadic lifestyle of the Wagogo, which they considered backward. Land was confiscated, reducing the grazing ranges of the Wagogo cattle. They encouraged the Wagogo to settle and practice slash and burn agriculture instead. The long tern environmental consequences can be seen in the dust bowl like conditions in the central region. Slash and burn is still practiced and deforestation to make charcoal (still cheaper than fossil fuels) is taking a horrible toll. Tree roots not only hold the topsoil but the leafy canopy also breaks the fall of the rains. In this harsh climate, once the trees and brush are gone, the top soil blows and erodes away. Cultivators clear another patch of land and the whole process repeats itself. To reverse this process by providing forests and sustainable agriculture takes time and at present juncture time has all but run out.
Is the present lack of rain the result of a change in the monsoons which usually drive the East African rainy season? Is it global warming or long range effects of El Nino? No one seems to know. Whatever the reason, we are being called into a place of deeper faith and trust in a situation which seems overwhelming. Despite our gloomy forebodings, the people go about their business. They persevere, perhaps too calmly by our standards, without whimpering. A sort of combination of people spirit and Holy Spirit. -- let us continue to meet together to pray and encourage one another.
With much love and joy, Sandra and Martin McCann