Let us love one another. From the name, to the operation, to those it helps, the Tikondane Garden Program exemplifies the message of 1 John 4:7: to love one another. In this episode we break down the origin of the program, how it works, who is helped and who are the helpers. Learn why some residents of Lusaka were wary to participate but have certainly changed their minds as the gardens have flourished. The Tikondane Garden program is another way Sew Powerful provides opportunities for those living in extreme poverty to change the trajectory of their lives.
Tikondane Gardens in Zambia with Jason Miles
IN THIS EPISODE
Ngombe compound, Zambia, 3 Esthers Farm, food insecurity, feeding hungry kids, after school jobs, part time jobs for boys, small gardens, greens, water supplies from wells and cisterns
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
1 John 4:7
Tikondane Blog post, https://www.sewpowerful.org/blogs/3-esthers-farm/the-tikondane-garden-project
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Jason Miles
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello, Sew Powerful podcast listeners. Today we continue our series, Jesus and the Poor, with Sew Powerful co-founder, Jason Miles. And today we're going to talk about the Tikondane Garden Program in Zambia. Welcome, Jason, how are you today?
Jason Miles, Guest 00:38
I'm great. How are you doing?
Oh, I'm doing fantastic. I am so excited to talk about this new program that Sew Powerful is sponsoring and Zambia. What's the name of it? Tell us a little bit about it.
Yep. It's called the Tikondane Gardens program or project. We keep vacillating between project or program. So, whatever. But Tikondane. We just thought,Tikondane, and that's the name of it. And I'm happy to describe the details and the origin of it, how it's growing and, and blessing the community there. And we're just so excited about the journey that we've kind of created in the lives of community members and, and kids as well. So yeah.
Okay, so let's start out with a name. I want to make sure I'm saying it right. Tikondane.
Okay, and what is that word? And what language is it? And what does it mean?
Sure. Yeah. So well, sort of the origin story as we have a program, which we'll describe momentarily, but we needed a name for it. And so, Esther, our program director there, and I started bantering around names. And I would come up with names that were just horrible, you know, like, The Banana Gang, or the Banana Program. And and she was like, No, that's not too good. And then I said, Well, you guys just talk as a group and figure out what might make sense. And I said something like, maybe it would be something that would make sense in the community, like the community would really appreciate it; not some dumb name from me. And so, she came back and she said, we like to call it Tikondane Gardens. And I was like, Okay, what does that mean? She said, in Nyanja, the local language Tikondone means, let us love one another. And I was like, home run! That's perfect. It's beautiful. So, in Nyanja, locally, it means let us love one another. It's a reference to 1st John 4:7: And dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. And I was just like, Ah, you guys, this is beautiful. I love it. It's a fun name to say. It's beautiful sentiment. And so that's kind of where the name came from.
Well, and you know, I think you had to ask a few of us to suggest names too. And we were trying to come up with real, real trendy names.
I forgot about that.
Did you come up with any bad ones, too? Like I did? I don't even know
I think it was like, you know, Farm to Table or something. You know, that's a cool name in the US right now. And I'm sure that would have meant absolutely nothing locally there. So yeah, home run, Tikondane. I love that. Okay, we have the name. What was the objective of the program?
Yeah, so it goes back to the work of the 3 Esthers Farm. And we've tried our best since 2015 when we got the property, a 10-acre farm, to use it for feeding hungry kids. That's the mission and stated purpose of the farm. That's all we do is focus on how do we feed kids. Well, one of the big challenges is, you know, the farm is, you know, 25 minutes away or so from the primary school we work at. And the kids, as we've talked about prior conversations are, you know, just desperate for food at their household level and come to school hungry, literally, you know, bellies, you know, growling and all. And the challenges what food exists in the community, right in Ngombe compound, which is an intense urban slum. And so little houses, you know, maybe 300, 400 square foot little, kind of Adobe mud houses, little courtyards, but just packed together tightly and, and so the challenge is, you know, food security and food production. And so, I sort of had this dream years ago that could we create a program where food would be grown locally in Ngombe. And we've debated the merits of that idea for a couple years to be honest, back and forth. Is it possible is it not? And the trigger point for Tikondane was actually it started on the farm with suckers. And the suckers are from the banana trees. We have a banana orchard and if you know about banana trees, they at their base, put off these little baby banana plans and to keep your orchard clean and tidy, you just peel those off and if you're growing your fields or your orchard, you would replant them and grow them up as new trees. But you would discard them if you were just keeping your orchard clean and organized. But every time you peel off one of those babies when we were doing that, I was just thinking, man, that's a new banana tree that could be feeding hungry kids. And so, I asked the question, What can we do with those banana suckers? And can we possibly get them into the backyards or the courtyards or houses of community members? And, and for various reasons, mainly, their water intensive plants, that is probably not going to happen. But we're still optimistic it might. But what it did spur was the idea that maybe we can do other plants. So, Esther had meetings with the community and started to ask the questions. Could we do this idea of having courtyard gardens? But the other element of this that we were really passionate about was that the farm really doesn't employ that many people. It's, you know, just three people, and then their kids and spouses out there helping them sometimes, but it's just not an employment, kind of intensive thing. And that's really our passion is is local employment, local jobs. So, what we started talking about was, could we weave together this idea of these courtyard gardens with another desire of ours, which is employment opportunities for after school, or for the older kids, the high schoolers who need money and need vocational training? And could we kind of weave it together in such a way that we have this program where the boys, they are all boys that at the moment, but that could be girls going forward too, they get the opportunity to have responsibility for some yards and courtyards that they would be going and visiting. And so, this is the way it's swirled together. So, the community there, man, they talked about what plants would be possible how it could work. And it really had the makings of an interesting program. So, we, we prototyped it or modeled it this last year with one, one key kid named Chris, and then two others, so that we started with three, and then we've grown it to five now, and it really excited to see it grow to 10, soon, and it's going to be an ongoing program.
Well, you know, one of the things that I liked about it, you know, we're helping girls stay in school. I think everybody was saying, well, what about the boys? And so, I know, these are older young men, more like high school age here in the west. So, I'm excited to have an opportunity for them too, because obviously, they're part of the community and part of the future. So that was really exciting to me. So how did you find Chris, do you know? And what was his reaction when you invited him into the program?
Yeah, you know, it's one of those situations where Esther has run the Needs Care School since 2003. And so, she has 1400 kids at that school. Every year, there's no shortage of Chrises. And there's just so many kids who just don't go past seventh grade. They're there in the community. They just, you know, hanging out, they don't have a vocational plan or anything like that. And her heart breaks for those kids. And all of ours do, and their dreams fizzle. And they settle. And they just start hanging out in the community. And so, her passion was to figure out how to help them. And so, when she started working with Chris, and the other three, as a group initially, one of the things we were interested in was how the program would work. So technically, what they do is they each visit 10 households, and they go in the morning, and they go in the evening, and they initially do the ground prep work and the planting. They work with the family members, and they explain the process. And they learn this process from an Ag teacher who we got to help them. And so they're as a group, currently, they're serving 50 households. On average, those households have nine members in the house. And when we, we started giving them a small stipend mean, it's an after-school job for you know, for a high schooler, but it's money. And we were really curious to know what they would do with the money and kind of what it would mean for their life. Well, it didn't take more than like a month or two for us to realize they all just are going back to school. It has enabled them to have the uniform, and the books and get clarity on where they can go. And Esther of course, you know, is excited to see them reenroll in secondary school. So, you you know, they're not necessarily young kids. I mean, one of them, I think, is 22. But they've all stopped at seventh grade. And so, this is not only unlocked a vocational skill, it's also given them the money to actually just continue on in their formal education and we're just so excited about it. At that level, it's really, really helping them. And I grew up as a substitute paper route, paper thrower. I had Wade Ramsey down the street from he had the good paper route, and when he would be sick or go on vacation, I was his substitute. And I remember getting the money from that. And you know, this is in the 80s or you know, you're riding around on your, your BMX bike, and you're throwing the papers at five in the morning. And that didn't hurt me at all. Now it's helpful. And I wanted the money. And in a way, this is sort of a throwback to that kind of program where they have a route they go on every day. And they have some responsibility, and they get some money, and they're helping their community, which is just a beautiful part of the program.
So, what is the obligation or the role that the family plays in all of this? If I have a garden in my courtyard, what do I do?
Yeah, it's actually really interesting how it's played out in the community itself. The first few houses that we did during the pilot phase, were just seamstresses and, you know, some of the teachers like they were, you know, kind of the, the people in our program so that they knew what we were doing. But when we've expanded now, to the additional households, we we went straight to community members. Well, some of the feedback they heard was, you're trying to steal our property; this is some kind of scheme to kick us off our land; they are trying to create some kind of ownership or something. And then one story was lady said, we think you're witches. And this is witchcraft, and you're going to curse us or something. So, we don't want any of this on our property. And I don't know, maybe their religious background. But Esther said to that community member, no worries at all. You know, we're not witches, and we're not trying to steal your properties. And so, we just didn't work with those people. But we worked with their neighbors who were willing. And then once the crops started producing, and they have been producing like, really, really well, which is such a shock. Those people have come back. The, the one lady who was concerned about us doing witchcraft came back and said, I see my neighbors have such beautiful gardens, could I get in this program? And so, part of the responsibilities just be a neighbor, let a kid come and work in your backyard. And then also, though, joint responsibility, you know, they're there all day long. So, it's one of the big concerns we were initially worried about was the security of people just coming and stealing all the food. And so, the households have responsibility as well. But it's really the young men who are leading the way in terms of how to do it, what to do, the seeds, the system, and all that and they're teaching the, the household so I wouldn't be surprised in you know, a year two or three, whether we don't move on in the households can actually maintain their courtyard gardens on their own. And we've taught them to be productive on their own little, tiny, you know, postage stamp sized courtyards.
That's fantastic. And so, have we had a harvest yet from any of the gardens?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, repeatedly. They're doing greens, and they're doing tomatoes. Tomatoes are harder, but greens are easy, cabbages and and they call it rape, which is like linseed oil plant, but they eat it, edible greens. And it's working. They're harvesting this stuff continuously now. I get videos all the time of the local household level gardens. They're cutting the greens; they're washing them; their prepping meals. So, it's just this constant flow from these these micro gardens, you know, from the 50 households now. So, the answer is yes, it's working really well.
So I have a question about how the gardens are watered. I assume most of the households don't have running water. How do they get water to the gardens?
Yeah, it's a great question. I've been sort of arm's length observer of the water system in Ngombe compound since 2009. So, the way in which water systems work there are originally I'm talking like 10, 15, 20 years ago, there were community cisterns, or wells. And those are polluted and gross and not healthy. And so, years ago, now, probably 6, 7, 8 years ago, now, there were community tap boreholes that were put in, that was clean water that was drilled far enough down for it to be clean, and they're managed. You actually have to pay money to use the community taps, you know, locally there, you have to come and bring a little bit of money, and there's a tap attendant. So, our program costs cover the watering costs. At first, we have money for the tap water. But what we've realized and what I've seen in videos as they're pulling water out of those old cisterns, which is really cool to me, I don't know why, but it just seems like you know, you this is kind of abandoned wells that are almost a safety hazard. But they had water that was just not drinkable, not potable water, but they are using them in these gardens. And so, to me, that's just I don't know, I love stuff like this, where it's like, what asset does the community have? Well, they've got these old cisterns. What are they used for nothing? Well, can they be used to make these micro gardens flourish? Actually, as it happens, they can. And so anyway, so that's kind of how it works.
Well, Jason, so how do you see this playing out in the future? Look in your crystal ball. What's going to happen here?
Well, we're going to add five more workers, kids, in January, so it's going to go to 10. And so, we'll be serving 100 households. So, we're doubling in January, that's next this next month, and serving 100 households with 10 Tikondane helpers, boys, workers, whatever you know, in the team members, makes you realize this is highly scalable. It is not expensive. It is not complicated. And so honestly, we could be serving hundreds and hundreds of households in the community in the next couple years. And it's a plan that does not seem like there's any barrier for us to implement. You know, we have donor funding, people have been so generous to give to the farm. This is a ministry of the 3 Esthers Farm, to be clear. And so, as people have donated to the farm, we've got the finances to scale this up, you know, in January. And beyond that as donors step up, and we tell the story more, and we see the impact., we'd love to see it grow. Can you imagine if we had 2, 3, 400 kids in the after-school program making money to stay in school and blessing their community? How cool is that?
Yeah. Well, and you know, we talked last week, when we talked about widows, we talked about them struggling every single day, how am I going to feed my household?
And if all they had to do was open their door and look in their garden, how amazing would that be?
It's one of those things where you just feel like the anointing of the Holy Spirit is on this stuff. This is not my idea. This is not my program scheme. This was this was just a set of questions and a desire to see on everybody's part, a desire to see the community helped. And these kids helped. And little by little, were piecing it together. And it it just makes you realize there is hope, in very desperate places. And there is opportunity for us to come alongside people who are making a difference in their own community. I've never been a part of this, you know, I'm not the one watering the plants at five in the morning. None of us here are. We're just helping facilitate. And so to me, that's the exciting part of it. And, and I would love nothing more than for us to say we're serving 6000 people through this program or some outrageously amazing number like that, because the reality is every single household is helping that mom who's trying to figure out how to feed those 7, 8, 9 kids in the household. Every single household is seeing the love of Christ. The program is named, Let us love one another. And so there you have it, that's the future and my hope is that we just grow in love and grace and in the skill sets needed to do this.
Any chance we could have a Tikondane t-shirt among our arsenal of t-shirts?
I think we need to make a logo. Yeah, I think we need to do a t-shirt for sure. Wouldn't that be fun? And people can buy the t shirt and tell the story and
Right. Yeah, because people will say what in the world is Tikondane? Yeah, that's fantastic. I know there's been some blog posts, and there's videos. So, if you want to learn more about our Tikondane program, I urge you to go to the Sew powerful.org website. There's lots of information there that will really touch your heart to see the video of the kids working, read the blog about it. And, of course, donations are always welcome. There's a Donate menu option right there at the top of the page.
So thank you so much for your time today and we will talk to you soon. Next week, we're going to be talking about volunteers. So, another interesting topic. Thank you.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org That's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.