Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop

This week was the culmination of the last nine months of work.  Tuesday and Wednesday I had my fruit tree grafting workshop. This workshop was funded through a food security small grant from USAID that I applied for back in April.  The goal of the project was construct a fruit tree nursery and hold a two day workshop.  My plan was to bring community member to the fruit tree nursery for two days of training on starting a fruit tree nursery and best practices along with all aspects of fruit tree grafting.  Each participant received pruning shears, grafting knife, 50 polypots to start their own fruit tree nursery and a certificate of completion.  Participants learned and practiced multiple grafting techniques for different fruit trees, each participant grafted four mangos, five citrus and one avocado that they took home after the training.  All of the improved varieties of citrus and mango are varieties that Peace Corps The Gambia feel should be promoted for income generation and could be beneficial if they were more abundant throughout The Gambia.  The mango variety we grafted was Kent the citrus varieties were Nova, Clementine, Washington Navel, Valencia, Japanese and Tangerine.

The sign on the gate

Day 1

Avocados on the left and Cleopatra Mandarins on the right


The only person I caught sleeping the entire two days

Grafting practice
 I spent the previous week making final preparations and talking to all the participants.  I made it very clear to each participant that each day the training would go from 9am sharp to 4pm.  This was one of my biggest concerns because Gambians don’t know what watches are and have no respect for time.  It’s not that they are always 10 or 15 minutes late, sometimes you can call a meeting and they won’t show up until the next day and then complain because you didn’t feed them or they will sit in the back and sleep. 

My host father grafting
With this project I could only budget for around 25-30 people.  We sat down and talked about who would be interested and should participate.  I based this off of people I have helped with fruit trees or have large fruit tree orchards already.  Some of the people I have grafted for or shown them how to graft. 
A child among men

My village is large and word travels very fast, especially when the only white kid is doing something.  I can go eat lunch at any other compound in the village and when I get home my host mother knows where I ate, what I ate and who was there.  So as you can image within hours people were coming to me asking me if I had written them on my list to participate in the workshop.  It was unfortunate that not everyone could participate.  It started to feel like 5th grade all over, when you only tell 10 of the 30 kids in your class that they are invited to your birthday party.  The week leading up to the training I was nervous that people would show up that I hadn’t talk to and it would be awkward to tell them to leave or that they could stay but not get anything. 

Jenaba the shopkeeper
I had my program assistant Bah2 and another man, Gibi come and lead the two days of training.  Bah2 and I came up with the idea of a grafting training the beginning of this year.  After the training we both were very excited at the level of excitement that the participants showed during the two days of training. 

Everyone with their certificates
My host mother a few of her friends cooked our meals for the two days and it was delicious food. 
The cooks
Lunch being prepared
 Overall I think the two days of training was a success, many of the villagers I have seen and talked with were very appreciative for the training and learned something from it.  Ultimately I am happy with the results and in a perfect world the trees that are still in the nursery would be used for rootstock and grafting trainings in the future or sold as a source of income.  Having a source of improved varieties of citrus in the area will be a great resource for surrounding communities.   

Yaya and I
Just like any development work things change especially once the person involve leaves.  It’s the “sustainability,” issue that I worry about.  Yes, I have family and counterparts that have bought into the idea and helped me along the way.  They have all agreed to continue the tree nursery after I leave, but who really knows what will happen.  Everything I have done throughout my entire PC experience has been with low expectations as not to be disappointed.  Every time I do something I am impressed and excited at the results because it exceeds my expectations.  This could be a personal flaw of fear of failure or not wanting to disappoint myself but I think it’s more of a way to stay happy living in a developing nation…

The first picture with my host father ever, I told him not to get too excited
Diet Mike can still eat