The third day of your visit to the shamba was the main reason we made the trip: we were scheduled to have access to the river water for irrigating our coffee trees and banana plants. We pay an annual fee to access the river water and then on our scheduled days we hire some local workers to help channel the water to our farm.
It was a super-long day for Kakasii because he had to get up about 2 a.m. to gather the workers and get started. It’s an all-day job of hard work.
As the water made its way to our farm through a series of canals, the workers started digging trenches throughout our coffee trees and banana plants to give them all a good drink of water.
Kakasii supervised, with some help from Max and Elly. Here is Max doing quality control on the amount of mud produced by the irrigation:
He got a pretty good start up it himself, and then got a boost from Wera, our neighbor. It will only be a matter of time before Max is able to get up that high himself. I warned Kakasii that we’re going to need to keep a close eye on Max whenever we’re at the farm–I know from personal experience how much trouble a kid can find on a farm.
Meanwhile, Elly took an interest in picking coffee.
The fruit of a coffee trees are called cherries. There are two coffee beans inside each cherry. Ripe coffee cherries are red; unripe cherries, like below, are green. The cherries ripen at different rates so we have the coffee harvested multiple times each year. Because there are both ripe and unripe cherries on the coffee tree at the same time, the harvesting process cannot be mechanized. It must be done by hand so the coffee picker can choose only the cherries that are ready for harvest.
Coffee grown on Mt. Kilimanjaro is very good quality because of the volcanic soil and high altitude. The coffee is also shade-grown, protected by a canopy of tall trees and banana plants so the cherries don’t ripen too fast. (This is all stuff I learned when I was managing the LWR Coffee Project during my time at Lutheran World Relief. It’s all coming in quite handy now as the wife of a Kilimanjaro coffee farmer.)
Although there are several types of bananas grown on Mount Kilimanjaro, the type we grow are green bananas, sometimes called cooking bananas. They are similar to a plantain and used similarly to how Americans use potatoes: roasted, fried, boiled. A common use for the Chagga people is in mtori (banana stew), which Max and Elly both love.
About midday the irrigation workers took a break for lunch. They ate makande (maize) and beans, and washed it down with a local brew made from bananas and finger millet called mbege.
By suppertime the irrigation work was all done and Kakasii was completely exhausted after having been up since 2 a.m. that morning. We ate our supper (chicken stew, cooked cabbage and rice) and called it a day.