A Cheerful and Undefeated Mali

I am cheerful, and undefeated.

Ninety two… yes, remember the number Ninety two……..92…….

“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.” (Earnest Hemingway. The old Man And The Sea)

Some great things happening. Here are some of the great women in our lives.

Beautiful Malain Women.

I help women set up drip gardens to easily grow food through nine months of drought, just south of the Sahara, in the Sahel. Child malnutrition, and stunting statistic are off the charts here. It is as bad as it gets on the globe here.

I visited two groups of women in our drip irrigation work here in Mali, and they were doing the best work I have seen in years.  I arrived to do a site inspection with forty six families, where we will have veggies for about five hundred people this term.

The women were checking their drip lines properly, finally. These women are working together on a huge garden plot that we are expanding in phases. They began with thirteen drip irrigation kits.

I will be honest, at that time, things were going OK, but not stellar. My desire is not to discourage them, but their plants were not being watered quite enough, and it showed. The drips were not flowing as they should have been, because they were not following the simple procedure. They seemed happy with the results, and so am I.

However, I know the full potential of the system, and the bumper yield it can produce. They have never seen the results yet, so they are unaware. So I just kept reminding them of what to do, and demonstrate it week after week.

Even with this satisfactory work, the ladies were still on track to have a good garden, by local standards. But not what they could have achieved, in my thinking.

However, this week, I arrived to see women at work, with a drip irrigated garden running like a well oiled sewing machine. This bumper crop is on track to arrive now. They got it!

Proper purging for the drip irrigation lines from time to time is necessary with the brackish water supply they have, to assure all plants are watered with a drip.

What changed? I think, two of the women, whom we have been working with for several years now, must have given these dozens and dozens of new women a good talking to. I came back to plants bursting with vitality, and the drips working like never before. They even noticed the difference, so are encouraged to keep doing what works best.

Drip irrigated cabbage. It has not trained in four months now

This thrills me as the first thirteen gardens we set up.

“If these people are unable to understand how to do it properly maintain thirteen gardens,how are they going to handle this huge garden as we grow it to forty six garden kits?”, I was saying to my self.

But they got it, and we are already up to thirty eight  gardens being drip irrigated now.

I went from there to another village, where, two weeks ago,  we set up five families in a small camp. I would not accept a huge number for a first time, until I see how they work. Lets face it, everyone wants the stuff, but not all want to do the work of growing a garden in drought season. Some people are not hungry enough for that, while other people are.  We need to work with the people who need it most.  I can assure you, this remote camp is about as poor as they come.

I have never, ever, no, not once came back for a first inspection to find a group of ladies doing perfect work after initial setup. But these women had five perfectly functioning drip system going. I was stunned.

I told the original five women, that if they demonstrate to me they will work at it, and take it seriously, I will add more women to the program.

When I saw these  perfectly running drip gardens, with healthy green beans growing….. WOW!

What is more, in anticipation of a good report. They traced out thirteen more 15 meter long straight lines, where future irrigation lines could  be run. They dug a small trench  and filled each with compost, and planted seeds, keeping in mind of the 30 cm spacing of the drips on the  irrigation lines, and they were watering these thirteen lines by hand, in expectation (Hope) for the program growing to more families, and that they would be given kits to water these lines too. How is that for vision? They were killing themselves with the volume of water needed to hand water those extra thirteen rows they made. One drip kit will water on 6 buckets a day, by hand watering the same 15 Sq meter plot they need  60 buckets of water. Imagine!

I was so happy with their work that I told them I will bring more kits immediately,. The women were dancing in the field. They had already panted the equivalent of 6.5 more drip kits. I said I am leaving now, and will be back with ten more kits. They were dancing again.

We drove the motorcycles 45 km back to town, loaded up the needed supplies, and my wife and I drove them right back out to these women,  a 80 km round trip.

When we got back to the village, the ladies were all smiles.  They should be proud of themselves. They did exceptional work.

You guessed it. They had gifts for us before we could leave. These poor people gave us as sack of green beans a man was growing somewhere, and a chicken, both of which we could not refuse.

The generosity of the poor is overwhelming to me.  No, it is down right humbling!

We have done water filtration work with this camp as well.

We drove back to town with a chicken on the handle bars and then I blew a tire on the motorcycle on way home. But the motorcycle story is coming tomorrow.

It was a good day.

Anyway, why the number 92?

Well, each year we are able to add 35-50 families per year to our garden development work with about 500 people benefiting.   It takes a lot of followup work to help people succeed.

I arrived this term with the crazy goal of working with a minimum of 100 families. Just today I added up what we have going right now, and we are at 92 families… I did not realize we were that far along.

Anyway, it is the magic invisible humanitarian cape that enabled all this. It gives me special powers, and transforms me into some super human garden and food security machine. 🙂

Hear me roar! No, wait, that roar is not me, it is the motorcycle engine, or my flat tire.

“For most of us it takes a long time for the Spirit of freedom to cleanse us of the subtle urges to be admired for our studied goodness. It requires a strong sense of our redeemed selves to pass up the opportunity to appear graceful and good to other persons.” (Brennan Manning. Ragamuffin  Pg 153)

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