Thursday, March 14, 2013

Between Prison Walls and Shady Trees

A few days ago I was walking home from a morning of teaching and I noticed a Swaziland government vehicle pulling onto the farm (New Life Homes). The distinctly colored green bakkie van (a four door pickup truck) had big white letters that read “DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.” I watched four baton-wielding men get out of the vehicle while I went inside to change from my “school clothes” into my “farm clothes.” Minutes later, I received a knock on the door and one of our workers proceeded to tell me that I was needed immediately. By this time I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I, or Mandi, did wrong. It turns out that they were less interested in me as a criminal and more interested in learning about how to grow moringa at the prison’s farm (go here to learn more about this awesome crop). We gave them a tour of the moringa fields and drying facilities. They mentioned eventually having us out to the prison the see their resources. Lo and behold, the next week I was headed to prison. After touring the future moringa growing site at the Bhalekane Prison Farm, we went into the prison to talk about the details of growing—water, opportunities for growing other crops, pest control, and fertilizer management. 

The challenges that they face are very similar to the types of challenges that face many growers both in America and other parts of Africa. In fact, two days later I found myself under a tree meeting with seven growers and three extension specialists discussing how to revive a beautiful piece of ground that has sat fallow after the crash of the sugar market. Their desire to start growing vegetables on this land (about 40 acres) was being challenged by theft of electrical equipment on their pump, knowledge of fertilizer and water requirements, and market accessibility. 

Though these two meetings could not be more different in their environment, they both are examples of opportunity that exists for Swazis to capitalize on the gross shortage of vegetables that are grown within the country (more on this later). These types of meetings are encouraging-they lead me to think that Swaziland, at least agriculturally speaking, is headed in a positive direction. 

Quick Hits:
Thanks to your generous giving, we were able to purchase a pickup. This second-hand Toyota Hilux (seen in the picture above with kids and pig heads, yum!) has already proven to be a great asset to us, the farm, and surrounding community. We will be moving into our new one-bedroom flat on the farm next weekend. We have been busy collecting and organizing household items needed to move in and we are beyond thrilled about making it happen! Thanks for praying. We appreciate your support while we do God’s work together.


  1. awesome! does moringa grow in Calif?

  2. Great to read about your work there. We miss you guys! Ron