Minnesota Farmer

South Africa Bound – the adventure begins

Sunday, January 30.  The forecast is for snow and 15 people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA are supposed to fly to South Africa on an agricultural mission on the 31st.  We cannot miss that plane so we start our adventure early.

When you are planning to be gone for two weeks the last thing you want to hear is that there is record snowfall forecast for those you love and leave behind to deal with.  That is unfortunately what we had to do.

This is the third trip from the Shetek Conference of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) to the Ondini circuit of the ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa) and the first time I will be joining the group.  It is my first time in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere and I am looking forward to the trip.  Our mission is mainly agricultural as we try to improve agricultural practices in the area.  Past groups have helped to irrigate and start gardens.  There has been varied success.  Our mission is to continue and expand those projects.  We are helping give the people of the Ondini Circuit knowledge they need to feed themselves.  We give them a start, and they must continue the project.

The Ondini circuit is located in the Zulu midlands, an area of South Africa between Lesotho and Swaziland.  Major towns in the area include Newcastle, Ladysmith and Dundee.  More specifically we will be in the area of Loskop, Winterton and Estcourt.  Our work would be centered on the Kwazamokuhle retreat and agricultural center.

Much of Africa has seen an AIDS/HIV epidemic and those left are burdened with the orphans that are left behind.  Compound that with the flight of talent from the area, which has very few good jobs, and you are left with many people struggling to survive.  There are also many in the area who consider jobs in which you get your hands dirty to be jobs they will not do.

The Zulu midlands do have many things going for it.  The climate is mostly wonderful for the growth of crops.  The wet season provides much of the water needed to grow crops, but the dry season can make plant growth chancy.  Projects that bring water to the gardens can provide the opportunity for local folks to grow food year round.  While we were there people were harvesting potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapple, mangos, pears, grapes, beets and many other food crops.  The sugarcane, soybean and corn fields were looking great.  We saw fields that were all the way from recently planted to nearing maturity.  The rainy season has brought on an abundance of foods.

Our hopes are high as we packed our bags with items we would need.  Local churches had donated bibles, catechisms, and bible school materials.  All members of our group were packing two suitcases bulging with materials we needed for the trip, I planned on leaving most of what I took along behind.  The U.S. Agriculture Department frowns upon the bringing of soil, plants and animals back from Africa with all of its potential for diseases not found here.  Because of that, those who worked the fields planned to leave boots and shoes, plus much of our clothing behind.

I hope you will follow me as my future blogs explore our South African Adventure.


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