Kasenga sits along the Luapula River and is known for its abundant supply of fish. The primary source of protein for Kasena residents is fish. Fish supplies from the river are really like crops; some years supplies are scarcer than others. There is also a wide variety of fish from the river- catfish, tiger fish, tilapia, Thompson and eels are the ones I’m able to name. There are also large prehistoric-looking fish I’ve seen, but I don’t know their name.
Men from the nearby village fish on Sundays. Their wives or family members carry the fish 2-2.5 miles to the market to sell them on Mondays. Our goal is to meet the women on the way to the market in order to have the best selection of fish. One of my staff members and I ride the motorcycle down a rural road (I use the word “road” loosely…), carrying a small red and white cooler chest to hold the fish, as well as a pocketful of money to buy our weekly supply. This day was different, however, because we drove the truck. The motorcycle was being used elsewhere.
Today (Monday) the supply of fish was exceptional! Kapakele was surrounded by eight or nine women, all excited to sell us their fish. The staff member’s job is to negotiate the best price for the fish in accordance with the number of people we must feed for the week. The seasons dictate the types of fish available; this week the bargain was shiny yellow and silver tilapia of all sizes. I asked Kapakele to negotiate for the larger fish because they contain more meat. The fish were grouped by price and we began our selections ($3 and $6 per group). Each woman was paid according to what we purchased from them.
Among the group we meet, there are two sisters who always sell fish together. For some reason this day, there were not happy. They seemed to think that others were getting more of their fair share of the fish money from Nuru Ya Mapendo. There wasn’t anything I could do to make them happy; we had paid fairly according to our purchases.
As we started to pull away, I verified with Kapakele that we would be passing by the place where the women wanted to sell their fish. “Why don’t we make them happy”, I asked him, “and drop them at the market so they don’t have to walk the next 1.5 miles in the sun?” He thought it was a good idea, walked around to the back of the truck and invited the ladies to climb in the back. With big smiles, plastic fish basins and nursing babies, they tumbled in and found a place to sit. Two other ladies shortly behind us ran to also have a ride to sell their goods. As we traveled down the road, we stopped to pick up two more ladies who had talked to use earlier. The back of our truck was now full with 13 happy ladies!
We stopped at the entrance to the market and everyone jumped out, excited that their energy could be spent selling their goods rather than walking in the hot sun. Perhaps this was a small thing, but it was important to me. Whenever we can change a frown into a smile, we give God’s hope to someone in need.