Learning my ABaCa…s


There is a Shona saying that says ‘Kudzidza hakuperi;’ indeed one can never have enough learning. The phrase literally translates to ‘learning or knowledge is eternal.’ Each day brings something new from which we can all learn. I remember at school the teachers used to conduct ‘revision exercises’ of the topics and sessions that she / he felt that some or all of the students would need a retouch. These would be topics that we would have already covered, but sometimes in order to move forward, we all needed to take one or several steps back otherwise moving forward would prove to be a futile exercise. Sometimes in life it might seem like there isn’t much moving forward. In these cases, we need to review our current situations, make corrections where they necessary, then pave the way forward. My teachers would never allow me (or anyone) to go on to a new exercise before accurately completing all the ‘corrections’ from the previous exercise.

In as much as we all learn every day, it is not just a matter of learning. The important thing is demonstration that we are learning and growing in the process, and making use of this acquired knowledge in ways that are beneficial to other people and glorify God. King Solomon asked God for wisdom and he managed to demonstrate such wisdom in a very difficult situation that any other person without wisdom would have found impossible. In the story of when two women came to him for advice and judgment regarding the true mother to the living baby.

‘Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.’ 1 Kings 3 28 (NIV)

Every day in the Philippines, I learn as part of Ecosystems Work For Essential Benefits (EcoWeb). We organise and/or participate in various workshops and training sessions with the locals aimed at capacity building and skills training, especially with the local farmers. Most of the farmers that we work with deal with such crops as coffee, Abaca, and bamboo. The locals already possess some knowledge and skills, for they have, for example, been farming Abaca from time immemorial. What EcoWeb does, however, is provide a systemised platform for all the farmers in the regions where the organisation has its operations. This ensures that the produce is standardised and therefore making it viable for a wider market. A wider market, not just within the Philippines, but exporting internationally also as per major environmental forums are opting for greener options in all goods, fibre included.

Prior to coming to the Philippines, I had no idea what Abaca was. Abaca is a plant endemic to the Philippines, very similar to a banana. However, Abaca fruits are not edible and contain many seeds. Owing to its strength, it is very much in demand as it is the strongest of natural fibres. Working in the Social Enterprise sector, our main aim is to ensure that the locals can be able to sustain themselves in the long run. In other words, to get to achieve sustainable development. It is a pleasure to witness the locals as they apply their skills, changing practises such as slash and burn, which have detrimental consequences on the environment, and instead opting for more environmentally friendly ways, that not only benefit them as a local community, but the country as a whole.


Charlotte Upenyu Chitambo

Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits (EcoWEB)


GMF International, Class of 2015-2017



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