World Cup of Farming

June 25th, 2010
The Rain

Well the rain showed up in force this morning the street out front looks more like a river. To be honest I’m quite thrilled about it. The first and simple joy is not having to water the 200+ trees now planted at “Ne Gessa” – when you pump it all by hand each day it can take a toll on you.

Secondly being a Vancouver boy it is hard to go 3 months with out a good rainy day. When it is sunny it can be hard to justify spending the day inside typing emails or researching things even organizing your receipts and folding clothes.

All said welcome “tabot” (Rain)

Update on the trees

It has been a busy couple of working weeks. We have planted over +200 tree of 20 different varieties in a space of 3 acres. All in all, I’m pretty stoked despite the mostly indifferent reception from the majority of the community (but that is often the case – with any major project). It is typically the elders and leaders who understand best what is going on and they have been supportive.

Each individual tree is protected from ducks goats and cows by a 1 meter high fence. The grasshoppers have continued to be the largest threat our work. We have had some success of repelling them using a pound mix of neem tree and garlic. We have also resorted to some chemical defense however, as sprays are particularly expensive in country and there is always a concern with impact on other animals and families living close by. Still to date the most effective protection has been hands, feet and big sticks –I have personally killed well into the thousands – I should get some kind of a medal.

For those who love stats here is the breakdown of the tree thus far…*
Navel orange – 20 , Valencia orange – 20 , Jaffa orange - 20, Tangelo - 6, mandarin - 24, Lemon – 7, Avacodo – 32, Lime Tahiti – 12, lime local - 18, grapefruit – 8, Papaya – 14, Coconut 5, Bananas ~32, pomegranate – 12, guava – 8, starfruit -8, jack fruit – 8, goose berry – 8, Sour sop – 5, sweet sop – 4, cashew -12 and mangos - 6 (various varieties)


Surveying the piles of scrap paper I've recently cleaned up there is no doubt I like to write list. I usually have a lot on my mind. For a time in my life writing out my thoughts in a list was the only way I could get to sleep. If I recall correctly this isn’t even the first time I’ve blog’d about lists.

However, if you are to the missions field there are some lists you cannot keep. Not because it is impossible to keep them but because we are called to live beyond them. Let me try to expand…

I believe when you sign up to help people there is a part of you that anticipates seeing cooperation, acceptance, respect and maybe even appreciation. This experience tends to be the exception and often the experience is really the opposite.

I could make large lists of the number of times I’ve been (or think I've been) misunderstood, unappreciated, lied to, cheated and stolen from. It would be depressing, it is even discouraging to even think about. How do you come to terms, it is not that I can ignore such experiences. They are real and they have real implications on each day's life. I don't believe this is too different from my life experiences at home.

I’m reminded of a story “A home for bastards” that is found in a book by Philip Yancy. The coined the phrase “We're all bastards but God loves us anyway.” I posted an abridged version at the end of this post.

At the end of the day, my faith* that brings me here is the belief that while I was/am a complete bastard and God did and is doing everything to put things right (without imposing on my free will) so I like the prodigal son and his self righteous older brother (who is just as lost) may understand the fullness of life and the love we are called to live in.

The Gospel is justice and mercy – you can’t have one without the other. The are spawned from the unchanging love of a heavenly father/mother who longs for children to come home. I really believe this is the only hope for the world… we have no where else to go narcissism wins.

I could go on explaining what it is that brings me here in detail but as it has taken me a lifetime to arrive to this point and I’m still on a journey. I’ve left it as an exercise for the interested reader again at the end of the post – all you need is a bible or a google search engine.

Bottom line… if I believe no lists against me how can I hold lists against others. It just won’t work (and I've got a list of my own doing). So I'm throwing out "those" list but it leads to a good question 'Really, how does that work?' and that will be left to another post.


There are a lot of strange bugs. I’m not sure what they do or why they were created for but I feels like each night my room turns into an entomology lab and I've never really liked that subject.


It is important to know ones tendencies. We all have things to avoid things; paying taxes, eating veggies, the neighbour who keeps asking for favours, the polarity poverty, waking up to pee in the middle of a cold night, environmental consequences*, trips to the dentist ect… To some degree I believe this is healthy – we are too frail to deal with everything at once.

The last couple of days there is no doubt I have been avoiding some things and sometimes I just conveniently forget. I know when I’m doing it and I do it best by being busy. It is easy to give yourself to work or a project, you can always justify it even though you know you really should be engaging something else.

Maybe I’ll get around to it after I’m done blogging.

Thoughts on Changing Culture

I thought I’d update on the reprimands the other week. Correction and discipline coming from the outside can create animosity for years because you are often correcting a cultural blemish. For this reason you can burn bridges very quickly.

At the best of times even in our own culture the ideas of stewardship, decision and responsibility are often problematic in nature. A situation we might see occur in the West African context may play out as follows.

I loan money for you to build a fence - your mother gets sick you now use the money to travel to see your sick mother; there is no problem here. Further yet sometimes there is an assumption that I will just give you more money to buy the fence. Seems outlandish however, it is a reality here. I saw an example of this while in Guinea - the result stalemate between local church and missionaries.

Although, easy to throw stones I just think of the number of "western" cultural assumptions and have an revelation of just how patient and merciful God must be even when we think we are doing good.

World Cup…

There is no doubt it is a big deal here. The unanimous local favourite is Ghana. Many merchants and taxi drivers will shutdown to watch the games. As for me I continue to develop an appreciation for the sport itself despite the ridiculous officiating policies and refusal of appropriate technologies such as video replay. (Everyone with a TV set knows it was the wrong call why shouldn’t there be a way for the ref to get things right if challenged)

Anyways, at the time of writing this I’m about to go watch Netherlands take on Brazil. Go Netherlands!

Post Note :: Not a pretty game – more bad acting then Paco – (see previous posts) .

But to the lost of the African contient bring on Uruguay (due to the best Red card ever taken)

Min, Ko Mi Remoowo! (Me, I’m a farmer)

With the arrival of the rains comes the field cropping season. Over the past two weeks there has been a lot of action at En Gessa. The 3 acres are gradually being transformed into a field. Granted if you are a Canadian farmer you probably finish 3 acres of farming before you can finish your first cup of coffee.

However, unlike the “modern farmer” we here are working with machetes, hoes and donkeys. You know the old fashioned third world way – slash and burn! It is good hard work but we keep a good African work pace with plenty of breaks and chit chat.

...Good old slash and burn

It has been an interesting experience being involved with the process. I know from everything I read since social studies 8 these techniques are not the best practice for farming but now there is an appreciation as to the why such practices are used. This understanding may allow me to help influence change in the future.

Canada Day in the Gambia, eh?

This was my first ever Canada day abroad and not having an embassy or knowing of any other Canadians in the country I knew I would need to create my own patriotism. I started small sharpe’ing a maple leaf on every willing kid and hesitant adult. But I knew this was not enough I had to reach out to the greater Sukuta community.

I thought to myself what a better way to celebrate my Canadian heritage then to ride through town on the back of a donkey wearing my Canada shirt. So I did…

Happy Canada day missed being there with you all – we will make up for it next year.

*Environmental consequences:
This goes well beyond global warming and modern catch phrases as many do and can dispute these some with validity. As I believe the way we currently live compromises our current life and the life of people in the world.

** A short list of reading for the interested reader.
Luke 15:11-32 - prodigal son(s)
Matthew 5:42-48
Matthew 18:20-35
John 3:16-17
John 13:1-17
John 13:34-35
Romans 5:7-8
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
1 Corinthians 13

The context for all this lies in the understanding of the biblical context. I recommend reading from the bible with help from N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” and “Simply Christian” or C.S. Lewis’ Classic Mere Christianity.

The excerpt is found on page 8 -12 of this PDF
is pulled from:
What's So Amazing About Grace? Participant's Guide it is an consedence version of the story found in Philip Yancy’s “What is so amazing about grace?” I highly recommend the book it is a great read.