Friday, December 9, 2011

Trainings and Such

Part of being a Peace Corps volunteer is finding that imperfect balance between the amount of work you execute (e.g. number of trees grown/planted) and the amount executed by host-country nationals (HCN). It would be very easy to grow a bunch of trees myself and then hand them out or just go plant orchards on my own. I wouldn't have the back and forth trying to determine what the HCN really wanted to do. I wouldn't have to make sure they attended the training at every step, and then executed every step correctly. But the more work I take on, the less likely it is to continue on after I leave or after Peace Corps leaves the community. Trees might be considered "Amadou's (that's me) trees" and won't be cared for. HCNs might expect from my replacement the same handouts I gave during my service. (To the left is my back yard and the trees I have in my nursery).

Over my first year at site I have really taken this philosophy to heart and insisted on not ever forcing doomed projects on people, handing out trees or tree sacks to anyone who stops by, or working in someone else's field without their help. I've also executed a number of trainings and demonstrations to get people learning the process work.
My first training was establishing a cashew tree pepineer (Pictured Left). This included preparing the soil mixture, filling the black plastic tree sacks, treating the seeds, and setting up a nursery site. With trees started in the nursery you can get them growing a month or two before the rains are established, so they are already healthy and strong before outplanting, when they can really take off.

I have since also completed trainings in citrus and mango rootstock bare-root bedding. This involves direct seeding citrus or mangoes in a germination bed to allow for adequate establishment and selection of the best seedlings to transplant into tree sacks before grafting the following spring and eventually outplanting. If there is a multi-step process, I give them the first step in a training and then tell them to come find me when they're ready for the next. This effectively weeds out those that aren't really interested in working on their own.
Malaria killed 780,000 people worldwide last year and continues to be a serious issue in Senegal. In my host family alone 6 people contracted malaria this year alone. PC Senegal has made great strides in bed net distribution and preventative action. I completed two trainings on preparing mosquito repellant based on leaves of the locally available neem tree. You simply boil the water; add leaves, oil and soap, and then stir to cool. The lotion is quite effective and inexpensive. This was my best-attended training.
The following day my host mother Jennaba (right), my friend and workpartner Moussa (left), and my namesake Amadou (center) got together to try out the process and make the lotion themselves. I'm told another who attended the training is now making it and selling it in the bigger city of Velingara.

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