Sunday, February 10, 2013

January 15 - Month 4 Blog Post

Wow, another month down – and things have actually gotten quite busy.  It’s a very new feeling.  At the beginning of this “month,” from the 15th to the 19th, I was in Parakou for a week of in-service training with my counterpart from village and all the rest of the Environmental Action volunteers.  One of the things we worked on was project design and management – the training was sometimes a bit tedious, but it was useful to talk about plans with my counterpart and share ideas.  It was also really fun to see what the other Environment volunteers have been up to and what their posts are like.  Not long after IST came Christmas and New Year’s, so I was out of post more often than usual.  But the weeks that I spent in post were packed with work.  Here’s what has happened:


Harvest time is over, so the women in my gardening group have had much more time to work on the garden.  We’ve been mainly focused on getting the garden beds ready for planting.  I helped the technicians employed by SELF/ADESKA lay the drip irrigation one day, and spent several days working on building garden beds with the women.  We’ve also been incorporating manure into the beds as an organic fertilizer.  I’ve set up 6 small beds to use for an experiment testing different organic agriculture techniques.   

I’ve been making plans for two school gardens – one at our public elementary school, and one for a new school that’s sponsored by an NGO and targets children who have been left behind in the education system.  Specifically, the school teaches students that have not started school and are too old to begin regular primary school, between the ages of 9 and 11.  They are taught in Fulani, with the instruction gradually transitioning into French.  The NGO asked the teacher of the school to organize a school garden to provide school lunches.  Along with my homologue, I have met with her several times to plan the garden.  We’ve chosen what to plant and made a schedule for planting to make sure that the vegetables will be ripe at different times.  The first step in any garden around here is to build a fence to keep sheep, goats, pigs, and cows out.  The children had almost finished the fence for the garden, made out of wood and sorghum stalks, when yesterday we learned that it had mysteriously been burned down.  No idea why that happened yet – it could possibly be an accident, since lots of people are burning the crop residue in their fields around now.  But either way it will put off our planting for a while.  The public school garden needs a fence too, and the students have been collecting the materials.

Mud Stoves

I built one more mud stove in Peonga, for my counterpart’s wife.  She seems to be using it a lot.  And on a recent run in a nearby village, Boa Gando, I met several women who were interested in mud stoves there.  I biked over there this morning, and built three stoves in the same concession before I had to head home.  It was great – we sort of had a “mud stove assembly line,”  with people preparing the clay and dried grass mixture for the next stove while others of us were shaping the stove we were currently working on.  I have plans to go back to Boa Gando and build more stoves on next Tuesday.


There are three garden technicians who work for SELF/ADESKA, and one of them is trained as a forester.  When I mentioned I’d like to learn more about the trees in our area, he got very excited and we made a plan to go on tree walks together.  He’s teaching me the scientific and local names for the trees we see, using an identification book I got from Peace Corps.  We’re taking pictures of each of the trees.  We’ve also plan to bring older people from Peonga with us on walks to teach us the traditional uses for each tree.  He wants to collect all this information into a book.  Either way, it should be useful to learn.

Other than that, my English club has continued – I now hold two sessions each Wednesday morning to accomidate all the kids.  It’s been fun.  Marathon training is going forward – I’m already tapering down my runs to get ready for the big day.  Longest one was 4 grueling hours!      

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