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Archive for February, 2019

The complete lack of sturdy fencing for farm animals can lead to a charming first impression in rural Ghana. Mother goats with their tiny, leaping offspring outside your door, a dozen skinny cows SLOWLY crossing the road, donkeys braying at your window. Not to mention, manure randomly deposited on fields, thus enriching the soil. However, one soon realizes, these are hungry animals. The average “free range” cow needs 24 pounds of quality forage and grass/day and they would love to eat your well tended tomato, onion, and bean plants to meet their daily requirements. During the dry season, animals aggressively break through the rudimentary corn/millet stalk fencing used by farmers that irrigate. One cow can destroy 2 acres of garden in a few hours. When a farmer has spent two months manually irrigating his crops while also sleeping in the field to help keep out animals, a sneaky break-in and 90% loss of garden crops is beyond frustrating. This mother donkey and cow were  frequent visitors just outside our door.

 

Anything but innocent when it come to destroying crops

The remarkably low cost of food in Ghana means that farmers operate at a very low profit margin. Wire fencing is financially out of reach, and indeed, it’s extremely rare to see agricultural fencing in Ghana. The farmers we have helped with treadle pumps have begged for help with fencing over the years. This led YWF to dedicate some funds for a fencing ‘pilot project’ on two farms. In this case, the fencing is designed to keep out animals, rather than to keep animals contained.

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David Stone trained Kolbil Ziib and David Tobiga to install the barbed wire.

 

          David sawing a brace         Chareundi on site as a corner post is installed

After research and cost comparisons, David decided on 3 strands of barbed wire, like American rangelands, with chicken wire added on the lower half to keep out small animals and fowls. Barbed wire is by far the most economical type of wire fencing. Having grown up in farm country, David is well versed at installing barbed wire and did quite a bit of training during our January trip. Chareundi Vansi of Portland OR volunteers with us in Ghana to coordinate projects for the dry season farmers. Fencing work continues in our absence at the two farms, YWF should soon know soon if the barbed wire/chicken wire design is successful.

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A work in progress!

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Bolga Baskets

Always on our minds during trips to Ghana is, “How many baskets can we fit into our luggage as we return?” By purchasing baskets we help support forty women in two weaving cooperatives, one in Kongo and the other in Yakote. To make enough money for all of their children to attend school seems to be the collective goal. Though the baskets are beautiful, it’s time consuming and tedious work with a profit margin of $2-$3/day for the average weaver.

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Work in the weavers house is characterized by lots of chatting, some might say gossip, with small children playing near their mothers. It seemed obvious to me (Lisa) that some stretching would be healthy after hours of sitting on the cement floor. I’ve never heard so much groaning from a group of young women during back stretches! Yet, they begged me to come back, sometimes twice a day.

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The weavers are excellent at tightly packing the baskets into a suitcase and delivering them to our room. There are more than 20 baskets in this suitcase!

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With an HIV/AIDS infection rate among pregnant women of 2.4%, the Kongo-Logre Health Clinic now has a health worker, Olives, whose sole job is to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS by educating affected families and providing free, lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) medications. Mother to child transmission is the leading cause of new HIV/AIDS cases in Africa. When pregnant women with HIV/AIDS disease are treated, the infection rate of newborns drops to 2% and spread of the virus in breast milk is nearly eliminated. Additionally, newborns of infected mothers are now given a dose of ARV’s soon after birth that further decreases the chance of infection.

During our recent visit, the clinic staff learned the sad news that an HIV infected mother had died. At 19 years old, she married and became pregnant. During a prenatal visit at the clinic, it was learned that she was pregnant with twins and that she had HIV disease. The mother went on ARV treatment right away and delivered healthy twins. After the twins were born they received the ARV treatment intended to further reduce the chance of infection. The babies were nursing well. Clinic staff was optimistic that mother and babies would do well.

This is where economic and social factors came into play. Only recently have ARV drugs become available in the community. Without treatment, infants of infected mothers would most often die by the age of two. Infected adults had a lifespan of 5-10 years. And the deaths were associated with prolonged illness and suffering. Combine this experience of HIV/AIDS with the scarcity of food and lack of cash in households. The result is that those likely to die who are chronically sick and suffering are a drain on the very limited family resources. Many times they do not get an equal share of food and care. In this case, the mother was not getting enough food.

First, one of the twins died of starvation, then a few weeks later the mother. When the HIV coordinator heard of the deaths, he went to the family compound with Janet, the nutrition coordinator. They found that a sympathetic woman in the household had taken on the task of nurturing the surviving, 7 week old twin. She was borrowing money from friends and family to pay the $1.50/week for formula and the baby was responding well. In general, however, everyone in the household was noticeably underweight. Janet and Olives were concerned that the family would not be able to buy the formula for long.

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Surviving twin, 18 weeks old, with his “auntie” who will take care of him.

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More than adequately dressed for a 100 degree day.

Though not one of our planned expenses, YWF purchased 10 weeks of powdered formula and some bottles for $160. In all likelihood, this is a wise investment that allows a child to survive and have a normal childhood.

With the ARV treatment now available at no cost, I anticipate more Nabdam families will be treated. However, many do not want others to know of their infection. Similar to the United States of ten or so years ago, there is a lot of misunderstanding and stigma associated with the diagnosis. In an effort to encourage treatment and decrease the transmission, it is my hope to add the HIV center to our feeding programs. If funded, YWF would buy $1,000 of beans, rice, millet, peanuts, and maize annually. Olives could give several pounds to patients when they come for a monthly supply of medications. With more people getting treatment, transmission will significantly decrease, especially mother to child transmission.

 

 

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The first set of fifty desks will be transported to Piitanga on Monday or Tuesday, February 4 or 5. They are dual desks constructed by a talented welder in Pelungu with sturdy metal frames. Yakote Women Farmers was able to raise $3,785 to furnish the new school, these desks cost $3,110. We will next have some smaller wooden tables and chairs made for the 4-5 year olds.

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On January 22 we scheduled a 9 hour layover in Accra, Ghana to meet with recent medical school graduate Richard Naab.  He has now begun 2 years of “housemanship” (intern/residence rotations in hospitals). Richard’s medical school fees were paid thanks to David’s efforts and donations by some Portland area physicians. It was delightful to talk with Richard, a very resourceful and appreciative young man with a remarkable, humanitarian outlook. Richard is wearing one of the shirts that he made and sold to help cover his food, room, equipment and other expenses while in school.

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As with any big event in Kongo, the opening of the Piitanga School begins with words from the Kongo Chief. The building has 6 roomy classrooms, an office, and a storage room. This project was done in collaboration with fellow Oregonian Seth Prickett of Framework International and builder Kofi Nkrumah of BFG Ghana. This new school will allow Piitanga area students to attend school consistently, the access to school was often blocked during the rainy season. It will also take pressure off Kongo Primary School whose enrollment has exploded to 600 students, forcing the students there to attend in 2 shifts.

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The Kongo Chief 

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David and I were presented with a thoughtful certificate outlining nearly every project we’ve worked on in the area.

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Kofi Nkrumah on the far right was the builder, he and his crew did the construction which finished on time and within budget. Kofi, Claude, Ben, and Mark did the painting complete with an Africa map on the end of the building.

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In front of the beautiful new school with the Headmistress Grace (in dark blue) and teachers.

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