KZN+Sugar Cane Visit

Soon after we left Camphill we took a flight to Durban in KwaZuluNatal, a province in the eastern part of South Africa. After a couple days in Durban we drove inland to Pietermaritzburg where we met some folks working in South Africa through ELCA Global Mission. These are the wonderful hosts who took care of us: Tessa, Jon, Isaac, and Sophia.

Tessa and Jon lead the ‘Young Adults in Global Mission’ (YAGM) program of the ELCA here in South Africa . They were kind enough to show us around and give us their impressions of living and working here. One of the highlights of our time in PMB was being in worship at the Lutheran seminary.

Tessa and Jon also got us connected with Laura, one of the young adults serving as a volunteer in the program. She lives in an area of KwaZuluNatal where sugar cane fields blanket the land. We were curious to know more about the sugar industry and the work of the laborers in the cane fields. Laura’s host father Joseph is a former parish pastor who now leads a ministry for the workers. Many mornings during the week he goes out into the field to have devotions before harvesting begins for the day. He also leads bible studies and other activities with the workers. It was great to chat with him and learn about his ministry.

Joseph also introduced us to Ron who owns a sugar cane farm and supports the ministry that Joseph does with the laborers. Ron gave us a tour of the sugar cane fields as well as his timber operation. Here is some of what we saw.

Cutting the last bit of the field.

Measuring the progress of each cutter. A minimum number of meters was required and then a bonus was given for any extra.

You can see the stocks are charred. Before the the field is harvested it is lit on fire to clear excess material

A special three wheeled tractor developed for moving the cut stocks.

Workers moving to another harvesting site. Most are women.

Trucks lined up at the processing plant

This was a special day of learning for us, particularly because it brought together many of the issues facing South Africa. The men we talked with on our visit to the sugar cane fields expressed deep commitment to their work that grew out of their faith. For Joseph this meant sharing good news with farm workers and bringing a word of strength amidst tiring work. Ron was committed to supporting this ministry across racial lines as well as providing employment for local people. For me they represented people trying to move forward together in a country still grappling with its past.

A special thanks to Tessa, Jon, Isaac, & Sophia for your wonderful hospitality! Also thanks to Laura for a great day!

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