11 October 2011

History "Fred Mweetwa" (Apr-2003)

“Knock, knock” goes the door. “Who is there?”. “Fred”. “Fred who?”. “Fred Mweetwa”. I stumble to the kitchen door. Another knocking on the door today, what will the story be now?

“Would you like to buy trees?”. “Trees, let me think, do I need trees you think?” “Yes, you need trees, there is much room in your garden to plant some trees”. “OK, let us plant some trees, where do you think they should go?”. It turns out that Fred nurtures trees from seed to seedling in discarded milk packages. “What do they cost Fred?”. “Give me 2,000 Kwatcha per tree please”. ZMK 2,000 equals USD 0.50.

Fred enthusiastically markets his trees, and other activities. I learn of his vision of the importance of planting trees, especially fruit trees, as the community is used to pluck the fruit, and take the wood, but not used to facilitate a process of replanting trees they harvest. He continues by explaining more and more initiatives and works, for instance the one bringing together communities to exercise the art of bee-keeping.

“Fred, such a tree brings in little turnover. There might not be a very big tree market in this rural community, and it seems you are able to do much more then that. What would you do if you were free to choose your carrier now now?”. “I would be a journalist”, he replied. “Journalist? What are you knocking at my door selling trees then? Why don't you knock on my door and ask me to be active in journalism? I will buy your trees, but let's start over and reacquaint!”.

Four weeks later Fred knocks at that door again. With two handwritten reports, expanding on the agreed journalistic tasks. One report provides insight on “What does the community think HIV is?” and the other “What does the community like to be educated in?”. Fred explains how he loves the tasks at hand, how he organized a good number of community sessions in which the questions under investigation were discussed, in communities near and far. Also he eludes on how the whole exercise has made all involved enthusiastic, including himself. “People were happy to be asked questions, and felt valued. They are keen to discuss these kind of issues further, it was a worthwhile exercise. What else could I investigate?”.

“Fred, what do you think you should be next? Do you need to be selling trees, work in journalism, or what?”. His heeding to calling: “I need to lead the community Radio Station”.