Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Children of the Fields

The smell of dry soil filled the air as the sun flooded over the fields. There was an overwhelming sense of calm and stillness as we wound our way through waist high millet stalks, their leafy arms waving delicately in the warmed breeze.
An implicit sense of freedom was carried on the whispering breath of the wind, however the shadowed eyes appeared to suggest otherwise...

On the morning of Tuesday 20th August, we were given the opportunity to experience possibly the rawest part of African life. We were taken by Tougma, Wilfred, Pascal and Helène (one of the members here at Kabeela) to spend some time in the fields where many of the women who attend Kabeela work.
We were shown how to plough the fields, ridding the soil of weed, all by hand, using traditional African tools, before being handed the 'daba' (the equivalent of a hoe) to try our hand at African farming methods.

Helène, one of Kabeela's members in the fields

Walking further into the fields, Tougma pointed out the different crops grown there - haricôts verts (green beans), gumbo, mille (millet) and sésame (sesame seeds).

We took the opportunity to film Helène as part of Kabeela's promotional film, asking her questions about her work in the fields. We also met other workers, both young and old, male and female, working alone or with their family.
The African farming culture is very much a family affair, with each family having their own field (or area) that has been passed through the generations. Mothers will often bring their children to work in the fields, nomatter how old, however we were told the average age to start work in the fields is merely ten years old.

Catherine, a member of Kabeela, and her family

Children of all ages were working together

Despite the great differences of African farming life compared to the farming we are so accustomed  to at home, the experience was rather inspiring as we witnessed, first hand, the extensive work the women at Kabeela have to do all day, yet still find the energy to attend the sessions we offer them - Kabeela really is a very important part of their life.

A strange feeling sprung from that moment, evoked from the vast and expansive space that rippled like gently breaking waves. It seemed almost idyllic - miles upon miles of fresh green crops, interlaced with trees. An unwelcome sense of irony stirred in the shadows, the knowledge of endless days of hard work had seeped into the parched ground, resonating into sun filled eyes and mesmerised minds as the children of the fields watched on.

The Children of the Fields

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