Thursday, 1 December 2016

Elephants and Millipedes

It's a small world. The other day in church, a choir member asked me if I'd heard of Merfyn Temple. I'd heard of him, I said, he was well known in Lusaka, and attended services at the Cathedral in Lusaka sometimes - and my parents knew him. "I have a book for you," she said. So, I was gifted this title called Elephants and Millipedes, The organic revolution in Zambia, signed by Merfyn Temple. My benefactor had met him at a meeting on organic farming somewhere in England. Merfyn had interrupted her conversation when she suggested using a pesticide on some or other garden pest. Now I know that Merfyn became a champion of organic farming in his later life.

Merfyn has a natural way of writing and a passion for his subject, as well as a depth of experience in Zambia. In this account he talks about his work in Chipapa, near Chilanga, where he helped establish organic farming, a later venture of his. He had arrived in Zambia in 1943 as a minister of the Methodist church, left Zambia in 1974, and returned to start this work at Chipapa (which it seems took its name from that of a freed slave) in 1989.

He writes of his early experiences:

Not being a natural linguist I was having great difficulty in understanding and speaking the local language... I went to live away from the mission, where no-one spoke English... I learned to use a native adze and carved a six foot wooden cross which I set up by the well... I bought an iron spearhead [which] I hammered into the cross and asked to explain to the mystified villagers that on such a cross had Jesus their Saviour been crucified and the spear was man's sin which had been the cause of his death. I planted zinnia seeds at the foot of the cross and some of the women helped gather thorn bushes... to keep the cattle and goats away. I later heard that soon after I left someone stole the spear, the flowers died from lack of water and the white ants ate the cross. I had a lot more to learn than the language.

I find this tale so typical of our failed expectations as missionaries and also as NGOs. We have high hopes that are often sadly misplaced.

Merfyn writes of a stranger who visited his mission station to hand him a note saying:

Dear Muluti [teacher], we know that you missionaries have been sent here by the government to apply Bible grease. You have come to make us soft so that we will not oppose Colonial rule. You will never succeed because we African people will take the power and you with all the other white people will be thrown out of the country....

On another occasion the man (it turns out he was Edward Liso Mungoni, later a politician and member of the Anglican church) returned medals issued to mission schools to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, saying that Harry Nkumbula was the true leader of the country.

Merfyn Temple later joined Kenneth Kaunda's UNIP party, which must have taken a great deal of courage, and was active politically, helping to establish the Zambia Youth Service. After independence, the youths at a planned agricultural project were not well-pleased to be told they had to hoe the ground, as there were no tractors. As Merfyn puts it, there was a 'gap between dream and reality that had grown out of all proportion'. I do find this earlier history very revealing.

Merfyn asks 'old' Schachifwa what he thinks of Americans having flown to the moon. He said  

'he believed it because he knew the Americans were very clever people, but there had been a great deal of discussion in the village amongst the older people who found it impossible to believe. They had two difficulties. One was that people could not walk on the moon because they would not have any sky there since they were in the sky already. The other problem was about God. God is somewhere up there in the sky because he sends the rain, and nothing in the lives of people is more important than rain. Somehow, men on the moon would interfere with God's benevolence.... Anyway, what's the point of going there since they found no trees to build houses with, and no grass for grazing cattle'.

He's got a point...

There is much of interest in the later history of the work at Chipapa as well, including the story of a family that died after brewing beer in an empty pesticide barrel, but ultimately it is a positive account of the success of organic farming in this area.

Merfyn Temple died in 2012.


Here are some of the people mentioned, some from the earlier history, many chiefs, some proponents of organic farming mentioned in passing, others people living in Chipapa or involved in the establishment of organic farming there.

Chibuluma, Chief
Curtis, Jukes (Lusaka businessman)
Doxiadis Ltd - Greek town planners

Filipo - farmer and water engineer, Shantumbu
Goodfellow, District Commissioner
Jansson engineering works

Kaingu (Ila Chief)
Kalambalala, Daniel
Kalambalala, Godfrey
Kasempa, Chief
Kaunda, Kenneth
Kibika, Juda (farmer)
Krapf, Dr

Lewanika, Chief
Liebentall, Bob
Luungu, Bazak

Maane, E.C. (architect)
Mayanda, Job
Mbewe, Peter (tavern)
Michello, Ennias
Moffat, Unwin
Moono, Chief
Morris, Colin
Mukobelal (Ila Chief)
Mungaila (Chief)
Mungoni, Edward
Muwezwa (Ila Chief)
Mwando, Yoram

Nalubamba, Bright (Chief)
Namwala secondary school dancers
Ndunda, Matthew (farmer)
Nkomesha, Chief
Nkumbula, Harry

Phiri, Mr (driver Chipapa bus)
Porter, Mrs (secretary of Schumacher)
Priebe, Dr

Schachifwa, b. abt. 1900 headman, wife Esther
Schachifwa, Daniel, wife Sarah
Schachifwa, Janela
Schachifwa, Chipo
Schachifwa, Trevor
Schachikwa, Gilbert
Scott, Guy
Shakumbila, Chief
Shankwaya, Herbert
Shantumbu - village
Shezongo (Ila Chief)
Schumacher, Dr Fritz

Zumbwa, Moses
Zumbwa, John (son of Moses) wife Charity
Zumbwa, Norman


Elephants and Millipedes is published by
Millipede Books,
40 Thames Avenue,
Berks RG8 7BY

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Chuma and Susi in Northamptonshire

Most people will have heard of David Livingstone's companions James Chuma and Abdullah Susi, who in 1873 along with Matthew Wellington found Livingstone dead and helped to carry his preserved body from Chitambo's village in North Western Zambia, wrapped in bark, 1500 kilometres to Bagamoyo in Tanzania. Chuma and Susi are rightly remembered for this loyalty and effort, but little is known or said of their time before or after Livingstone. I was surprised to discover then that both of them had traveled to England. Apparently neither was with Livingstone when he was buried at Westminster Abbey, although Jacob Wainwright, who carved the famous memorial in a tree at Chitambo's was.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - the original memorial
Wainwright, who had been part of Stanley's famous expedition to find Livingstone, was one of the pall bearers at the funeral, along with the Revd Horace Waller, who edited Livingstone's last diaries.

Chuma and Susi must have traveled around England quite a lot, having apparently spent time in Leytonstone (north London) and also in Twywell, Northamptonshire, where they are remembered in the local church of St Nicholas. They helped Waller to decipher Livingstone's notes and fill in gaps in his story. I am not sure where they spent the greater amount of their time, but they were in Leytonstone long enough to build a replica of the hut in which Livingstone died, which must have been viewed by many visitors. Since I live nearby, I like to think that Chuma and Susi must have visited Northampton, and to imagine them walking about. Anita McCullough [2] reports that Susi and Chuma probably returned to Africa before the year was out and it is reported elsewhere that they were not treated very well, and although feted were housed and fed with servants [3]. Both received bronze medals from the Royal Geographical Society.

Stranger still, in Twywell rumour has it that one of the two remained in England and married a French girl, with whom he had two sons, one of whom married a Twywell girl [4]. This seemed very unlikely to me in light of other evidence that both Chuma and Susi returned to Africa and died quite young. Chuma and Susi both returned to work with the UMCA [5, 6, 7]. Chuma died in Zanzibar aged about 32 in 1882, and Susi also in Zanzibar in 1891 [7]. So where did this story come from? It seems that one day a 'dark stranger' was seen crossing a field, who later claimed to be a son of either Chuma or Susi and eloped with a local girl, named Polly Abbot [8]. According to Jeffrey Green the man was actually George Henry Watteau, son of a well-known gardener in Chislehurst, Kent, also called George. The elder George claimed to have been part of Livingstone's party and to have helped bring his body from Africa, but this does not seem possible. According to another source [9] his name may have been derived from his habitual greeting of 'What ho!', but his original name may have been Makepo (Makipo?) and it is possible he was born in South Africa.

It seems clear that George Watteau senior cultivated the idea that he had worked with David Livingstone, which must have given him a celebrity status and possibly an income (his portrait appears to have been taken on many occasions). Did George say that he worked at Livingstone House in Kent, and go along with the idea that it was David Livingstone's house? Did the villagers of Twywell transfer George's parentage to Chuma and Susi, or was that George junior's ruse?

St Nicholas Church is worth a visit if you are interested in David Livingstone and this history. They have a few interesting artefacts as well as two beautifully carved pews depicting the work of the UMCA and African animals. On examining the photos carefully I see that one is actually of George Watteau. At first I thought this was a Rhodesian newspaper, but now I'm wondering if it is a UK paper with the headline 'Livingstone Echo'. There is again the claim that Watteau was involved with Livingstone's expeditions and was a servant to Livingstone - but I've not seen any evidence of this elsewhere. I suspect that the newspaper fell for this story, as apparently did many other people.

Artefacts at Twywell, including pincers for removing slave shackles, and bark in which Livingstone's body was wrapped.
Mr Watteau, I presume?

St Nicholas Church, Twywell, Northamptonshire

A watercolour of the spot where Bishop Mackenzie was buried, present day Malawi
Slaves - on the right of the panel
Chuma and Susi working for the UMCA. The UMCA leads the slaves out from slavery, to the cross on the left of the panel
O all ye beasts and cattle bless ye the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever. O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord. Praise him and magnify him for ever. (Inscription on the carved panels in the choir pews.)

The Old Rectory, Twywell in 2015 - Livingstone's last journals were at least in part edited here
A letter to Horace Waller from General Gordon


[1] Bombay Africans, Royal Geographical Society

[2] "Rev Horace Waller: Dr David Livingstone's friend in Leytonstone", Anita McCullough, Leyton History Society

[3] Heroes of Livingstone's last trek revealed, The Scotsman, 20 May 2007

[4] Tales of Old Northamptonshire, Marian Pipe, Countryside books, 1990; also personal communication with the church-warden at St Nicholas, Twywell in 2015.

[5] Chuma+Susi fact file, Royal Geographical Society resources

[6] James Chuma, Royal Geographical Society

[7] Abdullah Susi, Royal Geographical Society

[8] George Watteau, the African gardener of Chislehurst, Jeffrey Green,

[9] David Stuart-Mogg, Letters to the Daily Telegraph, 2nd December 2006