Friday, May 27, 2011

Last day of training

Yesterday was our last day of training. It was another day packed full of fun.  We learned about erosion control and how we can use local material to help in fixing and preventing further erosion damage.  In the raining season that is approaching within the next month erosion is a huge problem.  We where shown how you can put chain link fence down then stack large rocks, then put the fencing over it and secure it then put cement on the front and back and sides.  This will hope fully catch much of the sediment that the water is bring down from this already deep crevasse that was created by erosion.  

Ben and I working hard

Emily throwing boulders

 A couple guys came from the department of agriculture and they brought with them a level and stadia rod.  I was very surprised to see them show up with it but I took through it and reminded me of a few months ago now when I was using them daily.  We used the equipment to see how much the sediment would fill up the gully.  

Looking through the level

 The rest of the day was filled with composting, gardening and talking about other planting techniques.  It was good I learned a lot and my counterpart at the end of the day was very happy about learning so much.  I was very happy I was able to give him the opportunity to learn some more techniques over the past couple days and hopefully he can share the information to some more people back in the village

Lion cat

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day three of training

Today we learned how to graph trees, we had some practice graphing mangos.  Then we got to go out again and do some beekeeping.  This time our counterparts where there from the village.  My counterpart is named Yaya and was very excited to get the opportunity to try beekeeping as he had never done it before today.

Yaya and I
 The bees where a little bit more aggressive and active this evening when we opened the hives.  I felt much more comfortable this evening than yesterday.  We cut six old combs out of two different hives and harvested about four complete combs of honey. \
Honey Comb
Opening a hive

I came home made a gut bomb skillet and took a shower and am off to bed for tomorrow for another day of training.  

BZZZZZZZZZZ Training Day two

Yesterday started off with us going to a larger nursery that was started by the Republic of Iran with a partnership with The Gambia.  Here they have almost every type of fruit tree that is possible to grow here from mango and citrus to jackfruit and pomegranate.  
Islamic Republic of Iran Office in
The Gambia for Agriculture and
Rural Development Nursery
 Then it was off to an NGO that is operated a couple from the UK.  They are both beekeepers that have kept bees in the UK and Europe.  There is also a third year Peace Corps volunteer and a local beekeeper that works there.  Their goal is to educate Gambians on the best practices of bee keeping and be a resource for information about bee keeping in the Gambia.  They do this by offering training to local beekeepers and Gambians that are interested in becoming a beekeeper.
            Our day started off with a tour of the area looking at different types of hives both traditional grass hives made locally and more modern hives.  All together they have about 70 hives on their property. 
Local hive made out of palm tree and grass
We then learned how to render wax, which was then used as bait in small catcher boxes.

Seth baiting top bars with wax
   The small catcher boxes are placed in the bush or forest and are used to hopefully attract a hive.  You then would take that hive and transfer it into a larger more permanent hive.  The hives that are mostly used in The Gambia are called “Kenya Top Bar Hives.” 
We then had some free time to relax before we started to put on our suits and prepare to open hives.  
Seth and Abby "relaxing"
            The suits are locally made, many of them had holes where they had torn or were sewn poorly and had to be patched up.  I was lucky and had a suit that had no holes or if it did nor I or the bees found them.  We took a few pictures to document our experience, the suits are incredibly hot.
Me, Seth, Josh and Ben
            We then split up into groups and went to the hives to open them.  My group was led by another volunteer that has been here a couple years already and had done a lot of beekeeping in his village along with the environmental sector program assistant which is a long time beekeeper.  In total there were about 8 of us in the group.  The first hive we opened was a well established hive but we decided not to take any honey but to leave it so the hive could grow stronger and larger quicker.  
            I was a little nervous about doing all of this but I stayed calm and kept breathing.  The noise of a hive is incredibly loud once you take the lid off and start inspecting it.  There was a couple times when I had to take a few steps away from the hive and take a couple deep breaths collect myself and then get back in the action.  I was surprised at how intimidating it can be.  The second hive we went to was a newer colony and didn’t have really any honey that we could take so we inspected it and headed back.  
comb with capped and uncapped honey
            When we got back luckily some other groups had found hives that had honey available to harvest, so I got a taste of it and it was incredible.
Afterwards we were shown how to process the honey and I even got a taste.
some crazy kid eating honey
 Then it was dinner and back to the city for bed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

3 Month Challenge complete

So, the three month challenge that actually turns out to be 10weeks is officially over.  Here are my goals from the beginning of my 3 month challenge.
1.       The first thing Is to get a good garden going and planted
2.       Get a tree nursery started and start propagating various types of citrus trees.
3.       Build a dugout canoe from a tree
4.       Increase my local language capacity
5.       Carve from local wood a giant spoon, Salad fork and Bread Knife.
6.       Dig at least two garden wells
My garden is growing well; I have had some problems and have learned a lot.  I have realized that you can grow plants and trees very quickly in a sub-tropic climate.  I have more eggplant growing then I know what to do with.  I also wasn’t paying attention and planted what I thought was green sweet peppers but turned out to be more eggplant.  I currently have a bunch of 2-3” cucumbers growing.  My mustard is growing well and if I can keep the bugs away from it ill hopefully have home made mustard soon.  I have planted over 850 tree seeds in the ground; I know over 25% of the seeds have germinated.  I have over 40 papaya seedlings growing that are about 8-12” tall.  My host father came to my garden the other night and informed me that my papaya is not as sweet as the papaya he is growing and I can’t plant it in the compound.  So now I have to figure out something to do with them.  The tree nursery and garden are in the same place and I also have a small citrus nursery that includes grapefruit, orange, lemon and mandarin.  
I did not build a dugout canoe from a tree as I realized not being anywhere near water that a canoe would be completely useless.
My language skills have increased but it is coming slowly.  I can understand more than I can speak.  The volunteers that live farther upcountry have fewer English speakers in their village so they are forced to speak the local language.  In my situation I have many English speakers in my village so I am not forced to speak the local language as much, thus my language isn’t as strong as other volunteers.  
I have carved two spoons from African Mahogany wood and I carved a bread knife out of Melina. I have not used the spoons, but the bread knife is used and functional.
The goal of digging of garden wells was not accomplished.  
What I have been doing with my time…..I have build a large book shelf to hold all the crap I brought with me that I am quickly realizing is too much, I think I could be on a Gambian version of the show “Hoarders.”  I also have been spending my time on a project for my village that would bring more accessibility of water for the villagers.  This would bring a 10K liter water tank, a 5k/hr water pump and a Generator to an existing well.  This would replace an existing hand pump.  The project has opened my eyes to the way much of The Gambia private sector operates.  Last Friday we picked up the final paperwork for the project.
Some of my time goes into working with an NGO that works with villages that have community forests. My village has a large community forest that they use as a source of income for the village, thru bee keeping and non forest products and other income sources from it.  The NGO helps mediate prices and facilitate buyers of wood when the village wants to sell trees.  I also go on patrols with the villagers in the forests.  These patrols are meant to keep other people out of the forest and more so keep them from stealing firewood and seeds, and fruit from the forest.  This is one of the biggest problems they face.  This NGO is one of the main reasons why I was placed in this particular village, to help with their forest.       
I also have built a solar fruit dryer. This has been a long project coming I learned a lot and was very happy that it actually works.  The first batch of mangos I dried where not ripe enough so the dried mangoes were a little tart but I think it will be a good thing.
              I had a friend come by for a few days before we both came in for our week long training.  Here there is a huge ceremony when boys get circumcised. The boys stay in the bush for a few weeks while they heal from their surgery and learn about being a man. There is a mythical creature that keeps evil spirits away from the boys as they heal in the bush.  I have yet to figure out all the detail and am learning slowly about it.  He runs around with machetes slapping them together scaring people, all the kids run when he comes out.  So I wanted a picture and so my host brother facilitated it.  As you can see my sweet new mustache obviously calmed his machete wielding skills.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A quick update

I only have a minute online, but I posted some new pictures.  Things are going good here,  I will be coming into the city for a week long training the end of the month.  At that time I will post a more in-depth post, at that time my “3 month challenge/phase II” will be completed.  My health is good and I am almost down to high school fighting weight.