13 September 2016

The highest point in all of Africa – I’m on my way there now. Today begins a two-week trip up to Moshi and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Six of those days will be spent climbing the mountain with four fellow volunteers. I am beyond excited to be on a trail for an extended period of time once again, even though it won’t be like real backpacking with the porters and cooks and guides present. Still, I need some time spent walking through the natural world. It’ll be a great vacation.

As I start this trip, I realize how long it has been since I last wrote a blog entry. The entire month of August has passed, along with the end of July and the first half of September. Oh time… I think some recapitulating is in order. When I last wrote, it was about my big water and garden project – the planning of it. Well, I am happy to report, as of today, that I have received the grant money. Yes, that means that I finished the grant, it was post-approved, sent on to the states, approved there by the government and the funder (Feed the Future), and now the money has arrived here in TZ. The project is official. When I return from my Kili climbin’ things are going to really take off.

The Ward Executive Officer and I have a meeting on the 26th with the water engineers who will be working with community members to build the seven new rope-pump wells. We plan to sign the contract that day, and then they’ll start work the following week (I hope). I will also purchase the drip kits and order them to be shipped from Morogoro to Njombe. We can then pick them up and get them to the village for the gardens. I will also, with the help of members from the water committee, buy all of the gutters, get them cut to the proper lengths, and then transport them to the village to be distributed to, and installed at, each household – once their necessary pipa (barrel) is acquired.

As for the garden portion of the project, I have already started training the group of community members who will take charge of the garden construction in the village. Once their training is complete (four training sessions in total), they will begin the task of training each garden group of 5 or 6 households how to build and maintain a permagarden, along with other sustainable agricultural techniques. They will also help to install the drip kits for each garden and teach fertigation techniques. It’s crazy that this will all truly be started so very soon. I have it all planned out and organized, so hopefully things will go as smoothly as possible. Below are pictures from the first training on different types of compost piles.

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In other news, I’ve been continuing with my environmental conservation and agriculture programs at the primary and secondary schools. We completed two lessons since my last entry: one on bag gardens, the other on garden planning and companion planting. At the end of the second lesson, we planned, as a class, the garden we will make in the next lesson scheduled for the beginning of October: basically small examples of permagardens. The students really seemed to enjoy sketching out their dream gardens, experimenting with imaginary companion planting, and even garden shape. It was a fun activity to observe.

The bag garden lessons:

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The garden planning and companion planting lessons:

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I also recently enjoyed teaching a few other lessons at the primary school: dental hygiene lessons. When my parents visited, they brought donated child-sized toothbrushes with them, and we did a short lesson with one class at the school. Afterwards, many more toothbrushes remained, so I finally managed to organize a time with the head teacher to teach the same lesson with other classes. The students thoroughly enjoyed, and I think even the teachers who helped me had fun. They were smiling more than usual at least.

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At the beginning of August, I left my village for a few weeks to travel up to Morogoro. I spent three days assisting at the early service training (EST) of the newest Health/Agriculture class as a Resource PCV (once again – super fun). I led sessions on the committees in PCTZ, and the USAWA Committee specifically and its programs (that’s the gender and development committee here in TZ of which I am a member), a water projects session, and a gender in our communities open discussion.

I also helped facilitate a visit to the NaneNane festival, a great agricultural showcasing event that happens every year on August 8th – 8/8 – nane/nane. Everything from the newest tractors, to foot pump water pumps, to fertilizing techniques that allow for some of the biggest crops I’ve ever seen, to the best of livestock, to charcoal refrigerator shacks, to the most recent in genetically engineered drought resistant corn, to the growing movement of planting vitamin rich sweet potatoes, etc. etc. etc. Needless to say the counterparts were blown away, and the volunteers were pretty impressed with what NaneNane had to offer.

After helping out at the EST, I stayed in Moro to participate in a week of in-service training (IST) on bees, goats, and pigs. My counterpart arrived and was endlessly studious. He absolutely loved the training, and since returning has proven how much information he was able to retain. We spent three days learning about bees, one day on goats, and one day on pigs. We made homemade bee suits and a modern top bar beehive, went to visit an apiary to set up some of the hives we constructed, and learned how to process the honey, and use the wax obtained to make candles and lotions.

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My counterpart – so happy in his homemade hood

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Squeezing out that honey

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Assembling a top bar hive

For the goats and pigs sessions, we learned about different breeds, proper housing, good mixes of feed, and then went on two field trips. When we visited the goats, we practiced administering various forms of medicines, including some simple injections based on girth measurements that allowed for weigh estimations. The pig visit involved a bit more invasive practices. We gave the injections as we had done with the goats, but we also took the piglets and 1) Clipped out their sharp side-teeth (those that turn tusk-like when they get older), and 2) Castrated the male piglets – that was quite a process that had some people squirming. Needless to say, it was a wonderfully hands-on training and I think everybody took a great amount of new knowledge home.

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A PCV friend, John. We sang lullabies to try to calm this little one before having its teeth cut out…

Upon our return to the village, my counterpart (so enthusiastic!) and I (admittedly greatly motivated by his enthusiasm) began to plan some bee trainings for the community. Bee keeping is a new and exciting venture in our village. Six groups just recently started up in April after the district bee expert visited to give a short training. Some of the very ambitious groups already attempted making their own hives and have some resident bees.

First, my counterpart and I visited one of the group’s hives to give some advice and just to see what was what. After that, we invited one and all for an in-the-classroom training on the life and biology of bees, the best environment for hives, the value of keeping bees, processing honey, and the market for bee products. This was well attended.

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The following week, we then organized a field trip to an apiary about an hour and a half away from the village. The owner of the apiary showed us around, told us his story, successes and challenges, answered all sorts of questions, and in the end, really inspired those attending. It was a really great trip.

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Our plan now is to do two more trainings on bees: one, a beehive building demonstration to teach how to construct the modern top-bar beehives that we made at our training in Morogoro, and two, a video viewing of a few Swahili videos that show the honey harvesting process, among other things. We also hope to have another training for those who want to learn about the more meaty livestock – goats and pigs. To be planned upon my return from climbing Kili.

I must say, it has been very inspiring for me to work with my counterpart on these trainings. He has a lot of talent for teaching and leading, and is truly realizing his potential. And the enthusiasm of the community members to learn about bee keeping is also very motivational. They really are putting their heart into this work, and I could ask for nothing more as I work to provide education for them – makes things very rewarding on both sides.

To wrap things up, here are a few pictures, some of the partial eclipse event that occurred on the 1st (truly amazing! like so freakin’ cool… **pushing my glasses up the arch of my nose**), and some shots of my garden harvests of late (lots of peas these days!).

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We used various pinhole methods to view the eclipse. Also, the clouds seemed to work in our favor, allowing us to take pictures.

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