Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 325
Black Mamba wasn’t ecstatic. It was because of the stereotypes that plantations had. Plantations operated on the exploitation of laborers. Initially, they had used slaves, and in the late centuries, they used cheap local workers.
Slaves were treated less than livestock, and locals were severely overworked. Plantation owners usually ordered overseers and team leaders to work the locals like slaves. Lynching and executions happened often. It was the same for the Samaria farm in Doba.
“The practice of monoculture may be ideal, but it’s managed wrongly. Through cooperative farming, our family converted performed labor into shares and divided the profits equally. Although the profits may be enough for the European farm owners, our family are locals who have lived in Eritrea for generations. We couldn’t profit off laborers, even if it’s for our reputation.”
“And the reason you moved to Yirgacheffe?”
“It’s because of the coffee leaf rust(CLR). CLR produces red dots on the leaf, which would result in the tree’s death. 80 percent of Eritrea’s coffee plantations have been destroyed. While variations of coffee cherries appear at the two-year mark, they can only be harvested after five years. So, my grandfather moved our plantation base to Yirgacheffe.”
“It sounds like they spread fast. I should take measures against pests and diseases in advance.”
“I heard there’s a plan to allocate a part of the Ennedi Plateau to coffee farming. Coffee needs to be handled from the seedling stage. The CLR on the leaves is intimidating, but once the CBD starts spreading, it becomes more difficult to handle. The quality of coffee significantly deteriorates without timely prevention against the worms that eat the fruits or stem, the scale worms that suck on the sap, and the moth worms that eat the leaves. At the Yirgacheffe plantation, sorghum was cultivated among coffee trees to prevent pests and diseases. Pesticides are too expensive.”
“Oh, did it work?”
“It’s effective at reducing pests and diseases. Our harvest increased by 10 percent, and the CLR was significantly reduced too.”
“It seems like one shouldn’t venture into this kind of business without experience. What happened to the plantation and the caravan?”
“Yirgacheffe is an alpine region south of Sudan near Lake Abaya. The lake’s thick fog blocks the sun, which helped aid in the plantation’s production of high-quality coffee cherries. My grandfather had made the best decision, and at the same time, the worst. A decade ago, we lost all our wealth because of Mengistu’s coup d’état and fled back to our home town in Eritrea. The plantation was seized by the government.”
Afwerki’s eyes flashed. The armed soldiers who had raided his plantation were violent mobs. They burned down his house, and they shot people randomly. Just thinking about that day made him grit his teeth. His entire family had to familiarize themselves with guns since then.
Regardless of the country, Africa had suffered from the coup. He’d heard about the coup that had taken place in Ethiopia. In 1974, a mere major Mengistu had overthrown the monarchy of Selassie and commanded the government. Mengistu, who had taken over the PMAC’s chairman seat, immediately initiated a bloody purge. He disbanded the council and nationalized farming and businesses. The coup in Africa hadn’t been prevalent enough to make headlines, but the fall of the imperial family by a major’s rebellion became the talk of the town instead.
“You must have suffered. I offer you my condolences. I hope those who were sacrificed find peace in the arms of God.”
“Thank you. I have confidence in coffee farming. Allow me to stay here, please.”
“Novatopia has only just begun. There will be many hardships. Why do you think that way?”
“Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa, you saved me when I was about to die. You got rid of the robbers and even returned my camels. No one in this world would serve justice without a reward. Even the members who’ve worked with me betrayed me when they felt that their lives were threatened. I was chased out by several b*stards because of my weakness. I’m intrigued by your sense of justice and strength, Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa.”
“Hm, do as you wish. I only need to add one more spoon to the table, after all. Stay and see if you can adjust. If you can, we shall become a family, but if you have different intentions, you can set out for the road.”
A smile spread on Afwerki’s face. While he was lying on the field bed, all that the soldiers talked about was the special military advisor, Ddu-bai-buru-pa. They talked about all kinds of things—how he was the owner of Ennedi, how he was planning to make a country there, how he had left for Ounianga to get rid of a monster, and how his subordinates were all supernormal. If he was such a great person, Afwerki didn’t mind taking his chances and risking the remainder of his life.
“Thank you. I would like to talk about the windbreaks first.”
“Wait, I’m unfamiliar with this subject. There is a biologist who helps me. Lieutenant, bring Professor Orifice over.”
The lieutenant left the tent.
“Eritrea was an Italian colony. Did you learn French separately?”
“I studied in France until my mid-teens. There are no higher education institutions in Eritrea.”
Black Mamba nodded. Children of African elites went to study in England or France as there was a lack of good universities in Africa.
The more Black Mamba spoke to Afwerki, the more amazed he was by his knowledge. Not only was he knowledgeable about coffee, he knew everything about the desert, plants, animals, international politics, and military strategies. He was even more intrigued by the man’s ability to speak languages. Not only did he speak Arabic, but he also spoke French, English, Italian, and Swahili. It was to the point that he felt inferior.
“Hey, Dubai, I heard you’re lovesick from not seeing my face for so long. My popularity still hasn’t died down despite my age.” Professor Orifice appeared with a smile on his face.
“Yeah, right. This is the botanist and soil scientist, Professor Orifice. He’s in charge of the greening in Novatopia, so you should discuss things with him.”
“Wait, if your name is Vallé Afwerki, could you be…?”
Professor Orifice carefully studied Afwerki’s face. Afwerki smiled bitterly.
“You recognize me? I am that Afwerki. The Vallé Afwerki, who had fought Selassie to restore my country Eritrea, and later fought Mengistu as the leader of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front(EPLF),” Afwerki admitted.
Although he did leave the organization to his younger brother, he didn’t want to live in hiding. If he wanted to hide, he would have used an alias.
“Le Monde has reported about you in their articles countless times. You were even on national television. Your reputation isn’t bad. Is the EPLF still active today?”
“Yes. My twin brother is leading the organization.”
“Afwerki, why did you lie?” Black Mamba glowered.
“I didn’t lie, sir. While I am the Vallé Afwerki of the People’s Liberation Front, I also owned a plantation in Yirgacheffe. If I’m trying to hide my identity, I would have used a fake name.”
“I suppose that’s true. Did Mengistu send the group of robbers to track you?”
“Are you planning to use me to go against him?”
“While it would be nice to receive the help of someone talented like you, I am not a bad person, sir. I left the organization to avoid more bloodshed.”
“You left the organization? That means you haven’t forgotten your home country. I understand your position. However, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. We will take care of you until you recover since you’re a patient.”
Afwerki felt his heart drop. Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa meant for him to leave as soon as he could move. Afwerki’s plan of moving the pitiful citizens of Eritrea to Novatopia might never see the light of day.
“Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa, my country, Eritrea, has become the world’s poorest country after it was forcibly annexed by Ethiopia. Mengistu gave all of Eritrea’s lands to his subordinates. Children are sold because of their parents’ debts even before they turn 10 years old. I’m fine with our generation paying whatever price it takes. I joined the rebellion’s forces so that the next generation can at least receive minimal education and live like humans. Please consider Eritrea’s people.”
Afwerki was desperate. Novatopia, which was led by Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa, was the best refuge he could find. Although he had left the organization because he despised the bloodshed, his heart remained with his home country. His heart crumbled at the reality of 10-year-old girls selling their bodies to repay debts and children being sold and forced to work 20 hours a day.
“It seems like there is another world where ridiculous people lived. There’s no grave that’s storyless. If you want to know my truth, you must first reveal your truth. You two can continue the conversation,” Black Mamba said in a hoarse voice as he left the tent. Afwerki’s pitiful eyes followed his broad back.
“You made a mistake. While people are awed by his superhuman abilities at first, he’s a fearful person who can read people well. You should have been honest from the beginning.”
Afwerki’s eyes turned downcast at Professor Orifice’s advice. He had grown to suspect anyone whom he met after being chased for a long time. He couldn’t speak up, afraid that the coup’s forces would show up.
“Hoo, I wasn’t planning to fool anyone. You’ll understand my actions when your life is being threatened day after day. I also have an eye for people. Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa will become an important person. I initially wanted to repay him for saving my life, but I was drawn to his charisma during our conversation. Now, I truly want to remain by his side.”
“I understand that. He’s a warm and just person. You should discuss Eritrea’s issue with his first servant, Ombuti. Although it’s a bit late, let me introduce myself. I’m Orifice.”
“Nice to meet you. I overheard the soldiers talking about the discovery of an aquifer. If the water problem is solved, windbreaks should be the next step. Have you ever heard of a plant called Simendispa?”
“Simendispa? I’ve never heard of it. Do you know its scientific name?”
“No, I don’t. I was shocked when I first saw the Simendispa in the Sahara, southern Algeria. Even when the date palm trees were all dried up, it was the only one standing. The locals plant the Simendispa like a fence to keep wild animals away. Its peculiar scent and poisonous attributes apparently keep scorpions and snakes away too.”
“Can you describe to me its characteristics?”
“It is hard to tell whether it’s a bush or a tree. It can grow up to at least six meters tall and has several branches. There are no hairs on its stems, and its angled leaves are the size of a palm. Like palm dates, there are plenty of fruits of at least 30 millimeters in diameter at the end of the branches. I took notice of the Simendispa because of its vitality. It can survive even without a year of rain. It also grows fast and has strong roots, allowing it to stand firm during storms.”
Professor Orifice smacked his hands together.
“Ah, Jatropha curcas! Why didn’t I think of that!”
Jatropha curcas was a tropical plant classified as a species of the Euphorbiaceae family by Linnaeus in the 18th century. It was resistant against droughts, and while its fruits were poisonous and useless, it had plenty of lush leaves and branches. It was perfect as windbreaks for the Ennedi Plateau.
“Where can we get its seedlings?”
“I’ve seen dense areas in Agbaya, north of Ennedi Plateau.”
“If it’s Agbaya, it’s part of Novatopia. We should check immediately. What are your thoughts on starting a coffee farm here?”
“While growing coffee isn’t that hard, certain conditions have to be met to produce high-quality coffee. As long as there is enough water in Ennedi, it’s not a bad area to start a coffee farm. Although the robusta species isn’t suitable, there won’t be a problem planting the arabica or tipica species. Tipica is vulnerable to pests and has low production, but it’s the highest quality. I don’t think pests will be a problem since this is an isolated area, and the low production can be covered with prices.”
“Lot was fascinated by the bountifulness of Sodom, and Dubai’s turning Ennedi into a land of abundance,” Professor Orifice commented.
Sodom and Gomorrah were cities referred to as the fertile Jordan by Lot from the Bible. They were now known as Bab edh-Dhra. It was a desert city with barely 70 millimeters of annual rainfall. Lot had settled in Sodom, taken by the plentiful water and forests. The green forest, which Lot admired, only existed because of the abundant groundwater. Ddu-bai-buru-pa intended to extract groundwater and supply Ennedi with it. The abundant land of Sodom was going to be replicated in Ennedi.
“The problem is shade.”
“Right, if there’s no shade during the dry season, the coffee will have a strong bitter taste.”
“Milo provides the best shade for coffee. If you can grow milo by controlling the amount of water and dryness, it can contribute to the rise of food production as well as coffee production.”
“Ah, are you talking about the native Ethiopian sorghum called camel crops? That’s a good idea. It stores plenty of water and is resistant to pests, so it’ll fit right in with the coffee trees,” Professor Orifice said, hitting his knee.
Aside from the coffee farm, it would be of great help to Ddu-bai-buru-pa if he could gather Africa’s crops and create a seed bank.
There was a risk of a food crisis if unethical major seed companies like Monsanto decided to wipe out all the seed types. Whether it be seeds or animals, a diverse gene pool would increase a species’ chances of survival.
Plants unified under the same GMO were extremely vulnerable. There used to be 2,000 varieties of bananas, but now there were only five. Scale insects that had spread in Indonesia three years ago instantly ended 80 percent of banana plantations. That was a great example of the vulnerability of the same plant variety.
 Provisional Military Government of Ethiopia.