In August 2012, I became a great-aunt for the first time. I have always been a good aunt — just ask my niece — but when my dear niece had twin boys, I graduated to GREAT aunt.
I grew up with a plethora of great aunts. Like all good Northern farm girls, they could knit up a storm. So when I became a great-aunt, it was like some genetic switch went off in my head when winter weather hit. I was driven by unseen forces to pick up the knitting needles. MUST….KNIT….SOCKS….I made a zombie-like pilgrimage to JoAnn’s yarn aisle and tanked up on supplies.
I have been knitting since I was a little girl but had never tried to make anything using a double-pointed needle technique. This allows you to knit the socks in a tube, without sewing a seam up the back. So I used my iPad to find free patterns on Pinterest, and videos showing me how to knit socks.
It took eight weeks and a lot of do-overs but I finally did it: I knit one tremendously misshapen gray sock! Despite the high ugly factor, it was the most incredibly satisfying knitting project I’ve ever done. I had added an important skill to my toolbox, one that would stave off cold feet for the rest of my life. I was on top of the crafter’s world.
I thought about that sock when I read a story from the Democratic Republic of the Congo today. Like me, some farmers learned something new and were so proud. Unlike me, their victory means that their children won’t go hungry.
The story came from field staff in Congo, telling how a farmer’s group thought that poor harvests were due to someone magically robbing all the goodness from their cassava fields. Cassava is their staple food, but it was dying off from an epidemic called mosaic virus, that is killing cassava all over Africa. And even if the cassava didn’t die, their yields were often very low.
They attributed the poor harvests to witchcraft called kutekana. It happens when a sorceror takes soil from a farmer’s fertile field (robbing it of a good crop yield) and transfers it to another field. Thus, farmers often attribute their low yields to witchcraft.
FH started working with the farmers, who named their group, Intelligence and Courage. They decided not to be fearful of unseen forces anymore and came to understand that God wired them to learn new things.
So they planted an improved variety of cassava, from cuttings that FH provided. They learned new techniques for planting cassava as well. They realized that their own talents and hard work could produce results, so they could feed their family.
“I have had so much success! This year, my life will change,” said one farmer named Kyalwenda. His cassava was so successful that the roots cracked the sides of the raised soil bed, where he had planted the cuttings.
I have a sense that these farmers will plant another round of improved cassava cuttings next year. And due to their influence and example, I’ll start working on the second sock.