I spent a few days out in the bush doing followup on our gravity-feed drip irrigated garden project. The bottom billion poorest people on earth mostly consists of subsistence farmers, 800-900 million of them, so really the best thing to help the poorest of the poor is to help them increase income with their small plot of land. Our drip irrigation systems are so simple and economical, at less than 50$ a pop per family.
We are not into complicated solutions (pumps, motors,complicated technology) It always fails, and the locals can rarely repair it once the NGO is gone. I personally am tired of that kind of work in all areas of my life. Why on earth would you begin to work in a way that you know will end like that?
Anyway, it was exciting because we saw Madame Ouattera and Madame Ballo, two grandmothers we taught to drip irrigate last year, train a dozen new young girls to do the same thing.
They set up the drip kits while we observed. We had to tweak a few things, but very little. The grandmothers got it last year. We did not want to stay too long and run the risk of being involved too much, so we left them to finish, and scheduled a follow up visit.
We returned in a few days to only four irrigation systems planted. They could not get seeds to plant the whole garden. They had to send someone to the market in Sikasso to buy seeds to plant. Hard to believe there can be a shortage of vegetable seed. Who would have thought?
Each year we have been adding a new component to their understanding. We began with the drip kit, then introduced them to making organic compost tea. It’s free to make, all you need is animal dung in a rice sack, and a barrel. You make a dung tea bag and soak it for five days in a barrel of water. Add it to the watering can or drip irrigation kit, 1 part tea to 9 parts water, and presto! No more buying fertilizer. They were very impressed with that last year.
Building on last year’s knowledge and success, we will be introducing the concept of ground cover over the whole garden. Exposing soil to the sun’s rays is actually very detrimental to the soil’s healthy organic microbiological structure, especially here in Mali.Ground cover will revitalize the soil by restoring a healthy natural microbiological cycle in the soil, a cycle that the organic tea enhances by the way. The ground cover material helps hold moisture, protect microbes from the UV rays of the sun, and begins to slowly decompose over time as the microbes revive themselves. It is a simple, but very powerful revitalization concept. (Do a search)
This is actually leading up to next year’s phase: introducing locals to the “No Till Farming-Gardening” concept. Next year we will really blow their minds as we teaching them NOT to plow or hand till their garden at all. Save your back.
Harvests seriously increase when soil is not plowed, and ground cover is maintained. Look up “No Till Farming” and it will introduce you to some simple sustainable farming practices. These concepts are needed in Mali, because we are fighting the effects of the Sahara desert, extreme heat, strong sun rays, and little moisture; the land needs all the help we can give it.
These concepts work in Canada too; try them in your own garden. We have been using them successfully in Canada for several years now.
Anyway, I am very proud to watch these grandmothers working with the younger girls this year. I hate to say it, they are growing up into a very hard, demanding life. They have many challenges ahead of them. At the very least, we will give them a means to make some income, and promote some future health for their future family. Who knows, maybe they will make enough money from gardening to assure their daughters can go to school. There is hope for a better future.
- A Second Generation Cycle In Community Development (theinvisiblehumanitarian.com)