I went outside to read letters from my sister and my mom. Of course, I ended up talking to Msembe; I instinctively avoided the front porch because I could hear the horde of raucous children screaming. I sat down and Msembe and I commenced a long catch up conversation. I often find myself sitting with him while he looks after the bomba. It’s comforting to me; he is like a grandfather I never had. And the incredible mix we create of English, Swahili, and hand gestures is always a fun game. Today we ended up having a more serious conversation. We talked about maize and Tabora and our project. Jamie had recently asked him what we can do; we are currently at a precarious point where we don’t quite know where we’re going and don’t have anyone to walk with. We are trying to gather partners together and simultaneously solidify our direction. We had turned to Msembe as a partial English speaker, a smart and well-educated man, and a friend. Of course, he is still a Tanzanian so there was nothing too radical about his advice but it was good to talk to him.
I ended up talking about how our project was different from other 2Seeds projects and how we have had trouble figuring out how to make nutrition as appealing as best farming practices or more reliable market access (ie getting more bang for your buck). He was explaining to me his idea for our project: keep chickens and sell meat or eggs. Simple (and yes my mother had suggested this before I had even arrived here, back in July when we were speculating about what I would be doing—brownie points, mom!). He was saying that people here haven’t started anything like this but that everyone has a chicken already and all it would take is hamasisha—a little motivation. 2Seeds would motivate people to begin.
It is meaningful to me that this word popped up in the middle of our long discussion. Motivation is the biggest problem we are facing right now. We have spent the last four, almost five, months living in Tabora but we are still in a slump. Granted, we are not exactly where we were three months ago. We have learned a lot more about life here and have made some real friendships. But we are not on a nicely sloping hill climbing upward; instead, we are sort of hopping up the hill trying to avoid rocks and sometimes sitting down to rest. Not the easiest of ascents.
There are a few different reasons for our motivation troubles. To begin with, both of us are content inside. I have a terrible reading habit which allows me to neglect all sorts of responsibilities with a nearly guilt-free conscience. I can spend hours reading—and have—while the day wears itself out. In this respect, we are terrible at holding each other accountable because we are guilty of the same thing. The real problem of our motivation is that our project did not immediately provide us with an occupation. Our friends had to jump straight into group meetings, planting schedules, drafting loans. We had nothing of the kind to do. Our group had fallen apart and we didn’t hurry to put it back together. We had no one in town to push us, to say to us “Hey. What are you doing? Get off your butts and let’s get started” We had only ourselves and our own judgments.
This problem has persisted and we are still faced with the same troubles. We do not have anyone to push us. We have friends who we love spending time with but we are not held accountable by anyone and therefore we have no external incentives to keep us going. And we have been burdened with this terrible word—nutrition—that we try to hoist on others with the hope that they will carry it around and it will grow into thoughts and new habits. But it’s an impossible task; the word means nothing to them so it lies on the ground in between us and we stare at it, thinking, what now? That was our job, our hope. What do we do now that they have let it drop?
As we again face restructuring our project, this question is on our minds constantly. What motivates people? How can we reach out to them and get them interested in our project? How can we get ourselves going? What can we do to revive this project?
These questions have no easy answers but what I have been thinking is that motivation can emerge from a sort of habit of action and motion. As Newton states, an object in motion will remain in motion and an object at rest will remain at rest. Motivation will come from action—from engagement with our friends and neighbors. Now this is easier said than done—after all, I just got a bunch of new books on my kindle.