Seems an unlikely title to a post I grant, Ceylon Tea and a village in Niger, West Africa seem the most unlikely of things to be connected. But truth they say is stranger than fiction and after seeing how 86yr old Anne Smithston of Somerset in England was the connection between a honey gatherer in South America and a Sri Lankan tea plucker I know that most things are possible!
Twenty five kilometers northwest of Niamey is the village of Boubon best know for its colorful Wednesday market and its local pottery. Situated on the banks of the Niger a trip on a pirogue almost guarantees a hippo sighting – how could I resist?!
Work done I was soon on my way asking for directions as I navigated my way across Niamey in search of the road to Boubon.
The drive down to the village was spectacular, across an arid landscape, desolate, scattered with rocks and sand and struggling plants in the scorching heat.
Down in the village it was but a few minutes for me to secure the transport and a few more minutes on the obligatory haggling that was required. From XOF 15,000 we were down to 9,000 payable ONLY if I saw a hippo! The haggling is time honored tradition in Africa,you have to do it! And I so enjoy the experience. From the green in East London South Africa, to Goree Island Senegal I've haggled in good humor for chess boards and paintings, all which adds to the intrinsic value of it
The riverside a bustling hive of people, laughing and smiling as they they wound the day down in washing and bathing. Children shrieking with laughter, splashing in the water, playing in the mud a their mothers, aunts, sisters, the women of the village washed, scrubbed and bathed in the river as they have done form the day they were born.
A gentle paddle cross the water and there, they were, four gorgeously chubby river horses snorting in mid stream! My smile must have said it all – Giraffes yesterday and Hippo’s today!
GOD I LOVE MY JOB – that it takes me places makes up for the amount of effort, the shit I have to go through to do it.
Stepping back ashore, I am again struck by how carefree these people are. The people of Niger are some of the worlds most stoic and resilient people on this planet – Just four years ago in 2005 though locusts and drought caused a 10% drop in food production, the main issue was that nomadic herders lost much of their live stock, their only income, as a result of which they could not afford the rising cost of food – putting 3.6 million of them at the risk of starvation. Niger is one of the worlds poorest countries, but those African smiles are there!
As I walk back to my car, my eye is drawn to a piece of paper amongst the debris, a combination of red and yellow and the word tea… Premium Ceylon Tea I read, Super Tea, Quality #1. I look around in curiosity, finding more, an envelope to match the tag that caught my eye, a piece of box board, obviously the inner carton – Ceylon Tea, in Boubon, Niger West Africa. Imagine coming all this way to see those magical words on the ground!