Jane Elizabeth Baxter contacted me early this year and told me she had always dreamed of going to Botswana….I had been thinking of taking a small group of people to Botswana in June of 2018. I used to live in a small town there, and part of my heart still remains. Jane was the first person to sign up for my trip although it was over a year away. And, she seemed like the perfect person to be part of the group.
As the months went by, I learned a little about Jane: she lived in Centerville, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, on the water. Her family owned a company that repaired cranes and she had just retired and was excitedly planning to do more of the things she loved. Travel was one of them: off-the-beaten-path. She did not enjoy being a tourist, rather she spent time getting to know local people and how their lives were. She loved developing community and suggested that I start a special Facebook page so the 14 of us going on the trip could all get to know each other beforehand.
Two months ago, Jane had some surgery on her wrist. There was an unexpected complication afterwards and she died.
We thought there might be something we could do in Botswana to remember Jane and my colleague, Adriano, said perhaps we might support a local community doing sustainable farming practices, or something like that.
I contacted Adrian Dandridge, a native of Botswana, because I knew he had a non-profit organization doing just that: he and his wife own Tshilli Farm outside of Maun, the town where I used to live. They train the local community in conservation techniques to reduce the conflict between the farmers and the elephants. One of the crops they grow is chilies – something the elephants do not find tasty. And, they are putting Maun on the map – not just for safari’s, but for their wildly popular hot chile sauce!
Jane’s son and her parents have agreed to apply the deposit Jane paid for her safari to support the non-profit community Chile Project, headed up by Adrian Dandridge at Tshilli Farm.
Adrian has hired a community carpenter to build a bench with Jane’s name engraved on it and install it in the experimental shaded vegetable garden where the visiting farmers from the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture are trained.
A beautiful place to stop and rest from the heat.
The balance of Jane’s deposit will be used to train local farmers in elephant conflict management, purchase seeds for the garden, shade cloth, and install irrigation in the Shade Garden. Finally, Adrian will facilitate a Ministry of Agriculture conservation workshop for 20+ farmers that wish to be educated in non-conflict crop techniques.
In June, I’ll be there, and I’ll take photos of the farm and Jane’s bench. A part of Jane will be there with me, I’m sure.