Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Little Piece of Paradise


On the road again!
Magic is real and a little piece of it hides on Ibo Island.  Not even a full week outside of Pemba city limits and I felt like I had flown into a new world.  













The Dream Team
I was an honourary member of the Agriculture component with Sarah and Ashlea on a four day trip to Quissanga district and Ibo and Quirimbas Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago to participate in spot checking the data collected (using our new research tools) and to conduct informal interviews on the adoption of conservation agriculture techniques in home gardens and machambas, bigger crop plots for household consumption and market sales. We visited farmer schools and associations working on garden blocks together and were invited into individual homesteads who showed us their green peppers, okra, corn, green onion, tomato, cabbage, carrots, bananas and papayas and shared their challenges with rainfall and flooding, elephant and monkey attacks, and dry season woes. 



Checking out techniques




















The hundreds of pictures we took (thanks to Ashlea and Sarah for sharing their photos) will help tell the story as I was enthralled from the moment we got out of Pemba until our return four days later.  Our first stop was in the district of Quissanga where we set up headquarters in the guesthouse in Bilibiza.  From there we visited newly planted machambas, more established groups including the Greenbelt Movement, and had the opportunity to sample some of their products fresh from the vines.

 Our transport to each household was via the back of the AKF pickup and we trekked through brush and vines to get to the homes and fields.  After a full day of learning and observing about the challenges and successes of agriculture in Cabo Delgado and a lot of sunshine and walking, we ate a giant meal in the AKF guesthouse of galinha makua, xima, matapa, okra and beans and freshly boiled corn.  After our basin baths, we explored the bustling nightlife of Bilibiza which was a baracca with one kind of cold beer and music videos from the early 1990s.

The next day dawned bright and early (with the help of our breakfast of champions) for trips deeper into the villages of Quissanga district where we parked the truck on the side of the road and trekked into the bush to the machambas.  More information about elephant attacks, irrigation problems, and how useful mulching is.  First tastes of baobab and a pitstop for bajiyas and buns served to us through the car windows from women on the side of the road.  After our work was done in the inland portion of Quissanga, we headed to Quissanga Praia for a few more home garden visits and spot checking recipients of goats and chickens through the livestock program. 

Matabichu (breakfast) of Champions
Ricoffy instant coffee (actually chickory), Coke in a glass bottle, and bajiyas in a bun


Best Bike Name Ever (and the rural roads are packed with them)
 
Baobab tree fruit - definitely an acquired taste
 
 
Fresh buffalo meat

The use of sisal fencing is one technique promoted by AKF
to deter animal attacks, especially elephants.
This section of the machamba was beginning its fence planting.


 
Planting sisal to ward off animal attacks in Senhor Celestino's machamba

 
 
Senhor Mustafa and the machete that cleared our path to the machamba
 
Just another day at the office; carrying a full tree on your neck
 
Riding in the back of a pickup makes me feel like the coolest person in the world.
 
Welcome to the Termite Lodge
 


Pounding rice husks
 
How it should be done:
The raw rice is poured into the wooden bowl and then pounded to remove the husks.
After a few minutes of pounding, you pour the rice into a woven basket and filter out the husks.
You continue this process until the rice is clean of its "jacket".


 
Preparing the evening meal
 
Water Well

 

 
Bringing in the day's catch in Bilibiza
 
Picked from the machamba that day and boiled as an appetizer in the AKF guesthouse
 
 
Drying corn

 
 
Big friendly giant
 
 
More discussion about irrigation in Bilibiza
 
Another mitigation strategy for elephant attacks
(and a great photo op)

This man is a new convert to the world of red peppers.
One of the highlights of the trip was eating one of his red peppers that was meant to be used for seed.  Sarah and I saw shining it in the sun and as it was the first red pepper I'd seen since arriving, we both jumped on it.  Bell peppers are only eaten at the green stage here, so I was excited to explain (in Portuguese!) about the health and flavour benefits of eating red peppers.


Green pepper plant

An afternoon break over more Ricoffy
 
The bright lights of Bilibiza
 
Banana fairies
 
I will never take a stove for granted

Magic baobab tree


The machamba of this family in Quissanga


Background to a machamba and something out of a children's storybook with the winding river and cliff


The sweetest red pepper I have ever eaten



Green pepper and baby okra fresh from the stalk
(pimento verde e quiabo)
 
The majority of the communities follow Islam but this tree is a traditional prayer and thanks giving site which is combined with Muslim beliefs.



Hanging out with Forest Whitaker's twin in Quissanga Praia
(actually our driver Senhor Abudu)

Senhor Abudu and Senhor Mustafa in Quissanga Praia
 
Chicken coop in Quissanga Praia


Two machamba helpers - one girl is wearing the traditional face paint
that acts as sunscreen and skin lightener

Oyster farmers and the source of part of our meal on Ibo Island

 



Leaving the port for Ibo in the AKF boat - not a bad commute!
Finally, we began the bumpy drive into the port to Ibo where we took the AKF boat to the former capital of Cabo Delgado province, Ibo Island. After hearing so much about this beautiful (and still somewhat undiscovered) gem in the Indian Ocean, I was so excited to get on the boat and begin the next leg of our journey.





We came into port and I felt like I had stepped back in time to a ghost town with old colonial architecture on the verge of crumbling into the ground. The natural beauty with the skeletons of houses is hard to explain in words and pictures but I feel like if you have not been to Ibo, there is a special corner of the world waiting! 

Coming into Ibo



















After the three of us settled into our giant room in the guest house, we explored Ibo with the threat of the setting sun. After fresh Quirimbas lime juice and a cup of Ibo coffee, we raced to Ibo Lodge for my first caipirinha and Ibo sunset. I lay under the setting sun through the mangroves and then watched the stars come out before we had dinner of grilled prawns, the oysters from Quissanga Praia, coconut rice, and more vegetables.
Waking up in Ibo was a lovely way to start the day before heading out on foot (there are two cars on the entire island) to visit home gardens through the winding neighbourhoods and streets. We learned about some of the eating practices and uses of vegetables in daily life and I saw the coffee seedlings that had produced the very unique coffee I had the night before. Of course, we stopped on a porch selling bajiyas; this woman hands down had the best bajiya breakfast with a pot of hot rolls.

Discussing techniques for conserving water through the day

But our journey was not limited to one island; we had more of the Quirimbas Archipelago to explore and we were given the cue by our boat captain that the tide was at the right level to make it to Quirimbas Island. The timing of our visit was dependent on the tides as the boat had to be navigated through the mangroves and low tide would have shipwrecked us. Not a bad commuting problem. 

As we approached Quirimbas, I felt like an explorer seeing a world for the first time Our second day on Ibo, we took a boat to Quirimbas Island (all part of the Quirimbas Archipelago) and felt like an explorer coming up to shore for the first time. Our tour of the island was similar to the other locations but we also just missed a huge storm and also got to sit with an agriculture group as they explained their techniques and progress.

Because of our photo shoot of all of us with frangipani/plumeria flowers braided in our hair and watching a goat give birth, we almost missed the tide and the mangroves seemed awfully close to the bottom of our boat. Upon ther eturn to Ibo, we ran to the Ibo Fort where the silversmith artisans work out of. Ibo is famous for their silver jewellery so bargaining skills were put into place until I walked away with a number of new necklaces!

Another big meal and a bit of sadness as I realized that this was our last night in the field and on Ibo. By our final morning, it seemed like the four days of basin baths were beginning to show and Ricoffy was needed even more. After spending our last meticais on jewellery, all we could afford was a visit to the bajiya lady but it was on our route to visit a model farmer and his machamba and learn about the small guest house project they are developing on the island.

The photos of our days and nights spent in Bilibiza, Quissanga Praia, villages on Ibo and Quirimbas Islands, and people’s homes can help describe a magical week spent with amazing company, fascinating work and insight into the hard work of harvesting food from the ground, and the need to hold onto the time on Ibo where I think everyone must leave a little piece of their heart.

The M&E Meninas



Dhow on the way to Ibo Island


Rushing to our date with the sunset through streets of Ibo Island

Our bajiya dealer on Ibo Island
 
AKF headquarters on Ibo Island

One of the artisan groups working with AKF and the craft component
How convenient that this is part of my job...


A machamba owner and counsellor to other villagers on conservation agriculture techniques
This was in their guestlodge project on one side of Ibo Island
 
Final field morning required even more Ricoffy
The black and white photo hides the griminess of  4 days in the field


Ibo Fort - the archives room where all the bulletins and documents are still kept
 
Mangrove route to Quirimbas Island
We had to pay close attention to the tide so that we could make it through with enough time to not get shipwrecked


Glamorous mangrove shot

Our trusty captain (one of the few times without a cigarette hanging from his mouth!)

 


Meeting with an agriculture group on Quirimbas Island


Coming into Quirimbas Island
 
Ibo Island
 
Ibo Fort

Sunripened tomato


Green onions waiting for mulching


A pomegranate tree!

Caipirinhas at sunset


Everything depends on the tide so we watched the water
recede all the back until boats were beached on shore

Little slice of heaven


Relaxing at Ibo Lodge

Our Quirimbas Island commute


Ibo Fort sunset

Bajiyas and pao - breakfast costs 30 cents


Ibo Lodge

One of the many types of beans we learned about and sampled.


Strolling through Ibo ruins

Setting Ibo sun
The hole in the mangroves was our route to Quirimbas Island the next day.


Ibo Fort
 
Checking home gardens on Quirimbas


Quirimbas Island looking out towards Ibo
 


Coffee seedling and proud machamba owner


Grilled prawns, the size of a baby's forearm
One of the hanging benches at Ibo Lodge



Return to Pemba life, a lot happier and tanner