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Archive for November, 2015

We made our 2nd trip this week to look at dry season farms that might be compatible with foot pedal irrigation pumps (no fuel needed, completely manual). The criteria are: farms of over 1 acre, a minimum of 3 years experience with dry season farming by using water buckets to dip in a well, some type of barrier to restrict livestock access, existing wells with ground water no more than 15 feet deep (the pumps can only lift water vertically 20 feet), and the apparent ability to repay half the cost of the pump by April – approximately $112. At market prices of $20/5gallon bucket for tomatoes (and more for onions), it’s quite reasonable for farmers to slowly accumulate money and repay the ½.

The wonders of the pump had preceded our visit. Two years ago a particularly muscular local farmer, aptly nicknamed Bruce Lee, had purchased a pump, with YWF paying half. Others with good ground water have seen it in action, creating anticipation for getting more pumps in the area. The pumps save hours per day of very physically demanding hauling of water buckets, allow farmers to increase production, and make it possible to expand their gardens. The farmers we visited are quite grateful to YWF donors for bringing this irrigation option to the area, in fact it feels like we just won a popularity contest with local farmers. We will distribute 2 pumps this week and may be ordering more. Here are scenes from the three most interested farms today:

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Agorug students (Zaan means “welcome”)

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Getting water at the borehole for Agorog School

Some readers might like a little background on how we got started with school feeding. It all began during an early trip to Ghana in 2005, when a committee was formed with a representative from each Nabdam village. The number one priority in this group was food for children to help get through the dry season and to encourage school attendance. After a little research into the incidence of under nutrition and the effects on brain development, we began the lunch program at Gunwagre School on our next trip.

As a small, homegrown charitable organization, donations have slowly increased over the years. A while back, we added feeding at a nutrition center for seriously malnourished, very young children. And this year, we are able to add a second lunch program at another remote school – Agoruk Primary. This morning was our chance to meet officials, parents, and teachers at Agoruk and do the necessary planning for food storage/security/transport, a makeshift outdoor kitchen, firewood, cooking pots, and etc. David in particular, reluctantly makes it through the planning meetings. In this case, however, we were treated to a wonderful traditional dancing performance afterward, making it definitely worth the trip. I tried unsuccessfully to load a video. Maybe later!

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All About Schools

David has been visiting the Ghanaian teachers he has befriended throughout the Nabdam school system. At the primary school level, he sees reductions in class sizes and increases in the proportion of trained teachers. And together, we have been to two schools and a nutrition center that  will receive donations from YWF (Yakote Women Farmers) for school lunch programs during this school year.

Monday began with a trip to Gunwagre Primary (a bumpy, dusty 3 mile motorcycle ride into the bush from Yakote) to meet with the headmaster, the head teacher, PTA chairman, Assemblyman, the chief’s representative, the women organizing the cooking, and others with responsibilities in the community. After the purchase and transport of food staples at the Bolga market next week, Gunwagre will be prepared for the lunch program to begin on February 1, about the time that food becomes scarce in the households of local subsistence farmers. For the past three years the community of Gunwagre has supported the YWF lunch program with a community garden for small, white beans. What I did not know was that the farmers walk 2 miles into the bush to reach the garden. There it is far from the unfenced livestock that would almost certainly destroy the plants. The beans are now harvested. After threshing, it looks like the yield will be a very significant 400 pounds.

In regards to the Gunwagre students, the childen that were grade 1 when the lunch program began, are just now of an age to have completed junior high in June 2015. Of those, three students successfully completed junior high (for which they must leave the village) and have qualified for high school. We are so proud of them and excited for their future. The photos are 2 of the students headed for high school, along with the Gunwagre headmaster.

The student photo below is a primary grade 4 classroom. The other photo is the  harvested beans (yet to be threshed) and our most helpful Yakote assemblyman Jonas Timbire along with two of the cooks.

 

 

 

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November 20

This morning we had a typical village experience, one which points out that there is no anonymity in a Ghanaian village. We were having breakfast at the lodging of two Estonian volunteers with the organization Mondo. Out of the blue, in walks a local boy hand-delivering a letter to us. We had quietly left our room at 7:30 am, not mentioning where we were going. And though it seemed that noone was paying attention to our quick moto ride, he was quickly able to track us down.

Would you like to know where we are? Go to Google Maps and type in Kongo Spiritual Renewal Center. Also try typing in Nangodi. Most of our work is in two locations: 1) The Kongo/Logre village area near the Spiritual Renewal Center and 2) Several miles south of Nangodi in the Yakote village area (not on the map).

We are beginning to feel “back in the saddle” the last 2 days. The time has been spent in discussing the needs for various projects with those we work with in the community. For Ghanaians, this has been a productive farming year, with the last bit of millet harvest underway. Though people look terribly thin to us, they are happy with the year’s harvest. Economically, families find life very challenging. Everyone is impacted by the lessening value of the currency (the Ghanaian Cedi), making it difficult to buy goods such as school uniforms, shoes, a new bicycle tire, fuel for a moto, even soap. For example, The Ghanaian Cedi was nearly even with the Euro and the US dollar 5 years ago. Currently the exchange rate is down to 3.8 Ghana Cedis per US dollar. To add insult to injury, the interest rate is 37%. Good luck should you wish to get a school loan for college, grow your business, or buy a motorcycle. As a result, it remains very difficult for people to afford education, and the villagers have hardly any material goods.

There are signs of increasing modernity. One change is the expanded availability of electricity on some of the side roads and an innovative payment system. To use electricity, people buy credit with the power company, the lights are shut off when the credit is used up. As far as water goes, Kongo has installed pipes from a water tower to those living within a short distance from the main road. As a matter of fact, the complex of nine rooms where we are staying is supposed to have water flowing to a single tap and a flushing toilet. In reality, the water was flowing for only a few hours on our first day here. We have managed to borrow two, 9 gallon jerry cans which David drives on the moto to a borehole and fills them once a day. The women at the borehole are amused that a man is fetching water, a duty very much considered work for women and children. And of course, they carry the amazingly heavy containers on their heads. This arrangement definitely makes us acutely aware of the copious amounts of water we use in our regular lives for showers, washing clothes, and especially flushing toilets. I would guess it takes 3 gallons to sufficiently flush the darn toilet. I’m starting to resent that flushing water hog. On the fun side of living here, a donkey just wondered over to look in the window, and we have a hen with small chicks frequently in the courtyard. Our neighbors are delightful young teachers and nurses, mostly with a penchant for either Christian or rap music. It’s definitely a contrast to the quiet of home.

And regarding actual work, there is a lot to report. We are working on that post for tomorrow.

The chicks at our door.

The chicks at our door.

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