Redheads, Roosters, Wife Abandonment and Manioc


 I was called “Redheaded Rooster” in elementary school, as most redheads were. That is what came to mind because of a Rooster.

I was given peanuts and a rooster as a goodbye gift by a remote camp of people in Mali, West Africa. Imagine the poorest people on earth giving chickens to us, for the third time in a month. They heard we were heading back to Canada in a few weeks, and that our work  in other camps would mean this was probably our last day with them this term. 

I told the Chief about their gift rooster,

“It’s too much. All your chickens are in Sikasso now.”

They have been one of the most appreciative, funny, kind and generous bunches of people I have ever worked with. Yet, of all the camps we work in, this is also one of the most needing of better food security development.

It is still a gut-wrenching and humbling experience to have to hang that chicken upside down on the motorcycle handlebars and drive out of the village. Protein their children need.

They are all Traore, I am a Coulibally, and my friend is a Koné.  I tease the old man that his village is no longer, T……bougou, but it is now Konédougou – Village Kone)

All part of the “Joking Cousins” cultural tradition in Mali

“Coulibally, you can go back to Canada, but your wife has to stay in the camp here with us,” teases the old man in the camp.

Oh, that was a good zinger. We all laughed over that one. Brilliant!

“If she was a Koné, and not so pretty like Koné women, I would leave her here with you. However, she is a Coulibally, and so beautiful, she is not staying here. She is coming with me,”  I replied, to more hysterical laughter.

 The laughs and giggles we had today.  I love this small camp, men and women. They worked hard this term. And they have been the village that caught on to drip irrigation of vegetables with the most ease in all my years here. They were the only village I went for the one and two week followup inspections and found no technical issue. NONE! And one month in, they are still doing flawless work, and their green beans are growing. I began with five families, and after such excellent work we went to fifteen. 

During yesterday’s inspections, we saw:

  • Clean water containers.
  • Filters with not a speck of debris on them, they had been cleaned seriously.
  • Of the thousands of drips I inspected on hundred and hundreds of meters, I could not find one plugged drip. Every single drip was working, t because they had been dong the proper maintenance.
  • I checked the lines for sediment. Perfectly clear water gushed out, with not a grain of sand, indicating they were purged regularly.

Last week I told my humanitarian agency that we are unable handle any more gardens this term, as we reached 102 drought season drip irrigated gardens this year. We more than doubled our capacity, from 500 to about 1200 people benefiting from fresh vegetables.  

However, after yesterday morning’s inspections, and the flawless work I once again witnessed, the women reminded me that there were still five more families in this small camp without a garden, and they asked if we would consider adding these families too. 

How could I say no? There was no reason to refuse, as these women have understood the task so well, they can set up and train these families without my presence at all. I no longer need to inspect anything.

Bluntly, and successfully put,  they don’t need me anymore. 

I informed them that I had two more remote camps to get to that morning, but when I arrived back in town I would load up another five kits for the remaining families. They cheered.

“How come you did not teach us about that organic compost tea fertilizer?”  they asked.

“I only began work with you folks a month ago, and we simply did not have the time to schedule that yet,” I replied.

“Well, we walked to Madame Coulibally’s camp (8 km away) and noticed they were using this tea in their irrigation. She said it works very well as fertilizer so we asked her to teach us how to make it, and how to use it in the drip irrigation.  We are going to do this. However, we do not have any barrels in the village to make the organic tea in, could you bring us back a barrel from town? You don’t need to train us, Madame Coulibally already did that. We just need a barrel.”

“It just so happens that I do have one barrel under my stairs, I will bring that out also,”  I offered, to more cheers.

Folks, I assure you, I am stunned. This never happens here. We usually have to do serious follow up and it regularly takes several months of weekly followup visits before things begin to click for most groups of women.  Some groups it takes two crops before they have enough confidence.

Before I left the garden, I told them the story of the women in M…… village who used Manioc sticks stuck in the ground to keep the lines in place, one on each side of the drip line.  None of us thought about it at the time, but with the water the manioc sticks sprouted  because of the drip water.  So not only did they get two harvests of vegetables in drought season, the manioc grew beside the vegetables until rainy season, which was when mother nature took over. By the end of rainy season they had this unexpected harvest of manioc too.  I told them to consider doing this, and I showed them how the women in this other village did it. Those other women stumbled on this trick themselves,and I teach it to others now as a result of their ingenuity.

That evening, when I returned with barrel and garden kits, they had already cut and placed hundreds of manoic sticks in the ground by the drip lines.  They will begin showing signs of sprouting within a week, and will stand 6 feet tall by summer.

This is the village that I taught about eating squash flowers.  They never knew, but ate the whole field clean when we told them.

Anyway, it took me longer than expected to get back, because, once again I blew a tire in the bush. I will share that story later, so check back.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Crystal McD says:

    A Happy Story of Success


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