Sweet potatoes are from North America. What we call sweet potatoes here in Africa are really yams, and yams are large, starchy roots. Nutritionally, sweet potatoes greatly outweigh yams and are much better for you. My wife knows this. She also knows that traditionally here, you plant one yam and one plant grows from that and then the yam that was planted dies, so it is difficult to get large crops that could support families. Although yams are popular here, they are not nutritious and don’t sell for much. Conversely, American sweet potatoes are very popular, if they can be obtained and bring high prices. I’m not saying how my dear wife got these particular sweet potatoes here (it’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of thing), but she knows how to grow them so that you can get many plants from one sweet potato—see picture at the right. This means that from one comes many, many. Kind of the opposite of E Pluribus Unum. We have a local plant and agronomy specialist named Phillip who lives here in Bunda and is also a specialist in medicinal plants. He will be teaching a week-long seminar on local medicinal plants in September here at Maisha Na Maji sponsored by Anamed, a German charity that supports getting natural medicines to the poor in developing countries. As a side note, Phillip has also learned how to make biosand filters and is going to the Congo with one of our molds to start making biosand filters there and teaching the locals how to do it as the Congo suffers not only from poor water but from rebels deliberately poisoning wells with bacteria and parasites. Phillip is in Dar Es Salaam right now getting his visa for the Congo. By the time we have the seminar in September, the biosand filter project will be well under way in the Congo. Back to the sweet potatoes. When Phillip saw how Karen was growing many of these good tasting, nutritious sweeties from just toothpicks and water, he laughed and jumped up and down, he was so excited. He said that from these two sweet potatoes he will be able to grow whole farms (shambas) and to teach the locals how to grow, cook, market, and sell them so that a new cash crop that benefits everyone will be introduced here. There used to be these kinds of sweet potatoes here and many remember them, but no one seems to remember why they died out. What Karen has demonstrated, I learned back in the fifties in elementary school as a science project. It is not exactly rocket science, but it has the potential for making a huge difference in the nutrition, health, and benefits to families in this area which is so fertile. Phillip rushed home and came back with a camera to take pictures to show to Dr. Hirt, the leader of the Anamed charity when he sees him in the Congo in July. It doesn’t look like much in the picture, but it could be one of the biggest and best projects we’ve ever done here—with toothpicks, a jar of water, and a sweet potato (I still don’t care for them, but I love the impact they may have). That Mama Africa is one incredible missionary, if you ask me.
Note: I thought that yesterday’s blog was one of the best I had ever written, so naturally fewer people read it than any from the last month. Pride goeth before a fall.