Friday, September 21, 2012

2 years later

Ive been in Togo for 2 years and some days.  Moving on.

well, so much for road construction.  the new road bed made it as far as Manga, which is getting nice gutters.  then someone didnt pay the road crews, so they dropped their stuff and left about 2 weeks ago. so far they work about one week a month.

the rest of the Kouka road got arranged for yam fete though.  its kind of amazing.  Boulder hill is gone, so are the 3 Great Lakes, the Pit, the Lake of the Little Mosque (ducks are weeping), the Grand Canyon, and the White Gorges.  However, as things go, the Badlands have re-emerged and the Sand Trap reconstituted itself.  but still, i made it to Bassar in like 1.5 hours.  it didnt feel like i was traveling.  almost. 

thus begins the exodus of my stage. 

Jenn and her replacement, Kevin, came out to Nampoch last weekend for a goodbye party.  the mark of good Volunteers isnt the projects that they've done, or the trainings they held, but the lives that they have touched, by the memories that they built up in their communities.  I sat on my porch one night last week and listened to Petite, Jacques, and a couple other people talk about how sad they are that Jenn is leaving.  Some communities dont care when their Volunteer leaves.  People all over west Kara, and throughout Togo, miss Jenn.  Thats the mark of a great Volunteer. 

So, I went to Senegal for a conference a couple weeks ago with my neighbor/colleague, Saye (Katie).  a PC-Togo car drove us to the airport in Cotonu, Benin.  Being in a car with diplomatic plates makes border crossings a lot easier.  We flew in to Dakar via Cote d'Ivoire, got in at 0030, then left at 6 am to go to the PC-Senegal training center in Thies (pronounced 'chess') to start the conference.  We spent 1 day there, then we spent 3 days visiting Master Farmer sites around the country, then came back to Thies to wrap up, and left the following day. 

It was a lot of fun.  I met PCVs from Guinea, Ghana, Benin, and Senegal.  They were a pretty solid bunch.  PC-Senegal is so big that a couple people asked me if i was a Senegalese Volunteer. . .

So, what is a Master Farmer?  One of the biggest challenges that ag PCVs face is getting people to buy in to the technologies that we promote.  The problem is this-- Togolese, and many sub-saharan,  farmers, can feed themselves.  If they change their techniques based on, say, what an American who has been around for a year tells them to do, and they dont work, people go hungry.  There is also the problem that lack of money makes it difficult to affect the real infrastructural improvements that lead to major changes in production, like wells for irrigation. 

PC-Senegal's ag programs have identified local farmers who buy into PC-promoted technologies, like grafting, alley cropping, windbreaks, mulching, composting, etc.  PC-Senegal sets these farmers up with a fenced in plot (the farmer has to provide this) with a water source, tools, seeds, equipment, etc.  The farmer works with area Volunteers to demonstrate different field crop, fruit tree, and gardening technologies.  That way, PCVs teach one person, who then spreads the knowledge to his or her community.  Language barriers, trust issues, etc cease to be a problem because people can come and see different ways to do stuff as practiced by one of their neighbors. 

Its a really good program that will endure long in these communities long after PCVs have left.  Its a good meld of resources (the money for the project comes from USAID) and local partners facilitated by PC.  Im a firm believer in sustainability, but you have to spend money to make money.  A lot of development simply is not possible for rural communities without external funding.  Wells and fences dont build themselves, and improved seeds dont spontaneously appear. 

Anyway, off of that soap box.  I also learned, with great precision, the exact off-road capabilities of a small bus-- much more than you would think, less than what we needed.  A Land Rover can pull such a bus out of mud.  But it can get stuck too.  Much more thoroughly than a bus.  I hope to post pics later. 

Speaking of gardening,  i went out to my garden for the first time in 3 weeks yesterday and found a green pepper the size of my fist.  It was the only i have.  But, it blew peoples' minds.  So much of what I do here is just getting people to see what is possible. 

Tadji is getting big.  He will sit in anyone's lap and he is a non-discriminatory biter when he gets bored.  "Tadji" means "ne mange pas," which means "do not eat" 

I got home from Senegal to N'tido sweeping out my house.  Which i greatly appreciated.  this, however, did not diminish the funky smell in my bedroom.  I eventually figured out that N'tilebi had fed him some mice that had eaten this one plant that smells weird, etc etc.  Anyway, end result was that I got pissed and spent a day deep-cleaning my house.  people thought it was christmas.  i threw out my jar collection (un-realized project), my comics collection (funny papers), and a bunch of other stuff.  women took the jars to store stuff in and the comics are probably pasted on someone's walls now.  There were papers drifting around my compound for 2 days.  But i found my ipod cord and some other stuff i forgot i had.  its amazing how much stuff i accumulated in a 2 room house in only 2 years.  I have so many books that i dont have the shelf space to categorize them. 

Little doggie had another litter of pups.  a hen just hatched a bunch of chicks and brought them over near the pups.  one of them came to see what was up.  the hen attached herself to the pup's nose and flipped it over on its back.  Little Doggie came running in response to the unearthly howling and chased the hen around the compound.  it was great fun. 

Jenn, Bry, and a couple other Volunteers did this program in Kara called Take Our Daughters to Work a couple weeks ago.  They took girls from villages around Kara for 4 days to show them the University, the radio station, and other jobs in order to encourage them to stay in school.  I nominated 3 girls from Nampoch.  Adah went.  I had the longest conversation with her in the past 2 years about it.  She wants to work for the radio now.  N'djounbi wants to be a genderme.  She'd be a good one i think. 

N'tido is super pregnant.  she has to wear a pagne wrap cause none of her clothes fit her anymore.  speaking of clothes.  send me baby clothes for the baby.   

the TV at this hotel/bar whatever is playing the obituaries.  33, 41 ,41, and 51.  people die too young here. 

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