So Little Time, So Much to Learn

Bailundo October 26 and 28, 2010

I’ve decided to take it slow and only conduct four training sessions with the Ekelelo or Hope Association. Besides the fact that it is the beginning of the planting season and everyone is busy, there is only so much new information that can be absorbed. I’m hoping that by focusing on less more is remembered and thus used and passed on to others.

working hard with only one hand

I’ll probably never find out if my strategy has worked, but at least I will get to check during the second practical training if the Ekelelo Association has completed their homework and finished the compost pit system and filled the first hole.

I’m also going to do my best to make sure they know their vegetable familes and understand the concept of crop rotation especially for the important Solanaceae Family that includes some of their major crops: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.

Mulching eggplant

As in Mozambique I’ve heard some complaints about how they don’t have enough money to buy chemical fertilizer and there is no possible way they can grow good vegetables without it. Since they have no money to buy these chemicals anyway it seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce organic growing methods. Some are skeptical but most appear to be enthused. Some already know about compost and manure, but I’ve been unable to determine why they aren’t using these techniques if they know about them.

I’m hoping that by giving them options that only require hard work and organization rather than cash they will adopt them.

the president of the association also works hard

Although the complaints and the “we can’t do that” comments are far less than in Mozambique I know they are there and I’ve tried my best to keep things positive. I’m wishing I had spent some time to locate and scan old photographs of my farm in New Hampshire so I could show them how I spread manure by hand over one hectare using only a wheelbarrow . I can tell them this again and again, but I am sure some have doubts. A picture would be remembered.

So far we’ve had one classroom session and one hands-on training covering topics such as using manure as fertilizer, compost, green manure, mulching, crop rotation, and succession planting.

We’ve pretended to be different vegetable plants and sorted ourselves into families.

We’ve discussed how to estimate distances and measured our hands and feet and found where one meter is on our body so that there are no excuses for why the crop spacing is irregular or completely inaccurate.

Estimating depth

Tomorrow I will present specific crop information on four of the crops they are currently growing- tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and kale and attempt to introduce new ideas such as small scale machinery options such as rototillers as opposed to tractors, including animals such as chicken or goats in a field rotation (for example pastured poultry),

creating fencing with a nitrogen fixing tree such as Leucaena, and show them pictures of a bamboo bicycle cart they could build as a first step to solve their market transportation issues. As they are only 3.5 kilometers from a main paved road and only 9 kilometers in total to the Bailundo market they should easily be able to get their produce to the customer. Last week we did not have electricity during the classroom session. For tomorrow’s session it will be crucial as I have many pictures to show which I am simply not talented enough to draw. At this point all I can do is keep my fingers crossed for electricity and hope that the things I show them give them new hope and energy.

Collecting compost material


Filed under Angola 2010

2 responses to “So Little Time, So Much to Learn

  1. Emma

    That is such a great job that you do, Kathryn. Very inspirational. Did you end up having electricity to show your pictures? Will you have a way to know if the farmers could implement at least some of your suggestions upon your return? xoxo

  2. Kathryn

    Thanks Emma! Yes we did have electricity, thank goodness!
    Hopefully CNFA-Angola will follow up and visit the cooperative in the next three to six months to see how they are doing. If they have made some changes and some of my recommendations are begin implemented (especially crop rotation) they will likely receive another volunteer to work with them on other issues.

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