Sunday, April 24, 2011

Projects Accomplished!

The Goundaga Latrine Project was officially completed April 8, thoguh most people finished digging and covered their latrines before the deadline. Now every compound has a latrine! The village is very happy about the project and proud of their new latrines... so I got a couple awkward photos of people posing in their bathrooms. However, my counterpart recently visited Saare Naapo, a village just a couple kilometers down the road, and word is that in their village of 300 there is just one latrine at the Health Hut, which is usually locked unless somebody is sick and using the facility. So we are looking to do some more latrine projects in surrounding villages in the near future.

Maria, the awesome Agroforestry volunteer in Jaxanke land, and I almost completed a project in just 2 days - until it all fell apart... I went to visit her in the village of Madjaly to help build a solar fruit drier. Madjaly is in the Tambacounda region, which just happens to be one of the hottest regions in Senegal. Nevertheless, we sweated through it, brought all the materials out to the village and set up shop. First, we had to saw. The good hardware stores usually do this for you, but we're still new to the area and didn't know where the good hardware store was. So we cut two 4m long boards in half, long ways, and then into the right length planks. Drenched in sweat, coated in sawdust, and dizzy from dehydration, we were pround to see all the pieces cut and ready for assembly. So we took a break for lunch and a short siesta, and then jumped back to work: her family thought we were crazy.
Apparently, the quality of wood and nails available at the not-so-great hardware store in Tamba is pretty low. Every nail hammered in, hammered another one out somewhere on the frame. We've both built some things in the US before and the solar drier project seemed like it would be a quick job. It turned into a never ending Looney Tunes-esque fiasco, with us pounding away only to destroy that which we were building. Frustrated and overheated, we hid the evidence in her backyard and headed to the orchards to snack on cashew apples and collect seeds. But seed collection is very important agroforestry work so we still felt accomplished, though definitely humbled. And tired that night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of corn leccere (fine grain couscous) and peanut-bean sauce. And for dessert: melted chocolate Lindt truffles! Thank you Maria's mother!

Finally, I must mention the Kolda Food Transformation Fair, which is really the work of three gifted Peace Corps volunteers in the city of Kolda. The rest of us volunteers in the region came oout to support them and help out at the fair. I'm not sure if I was much help, seeing as I couldn't even convince my coutnerpart to come to the fair, but I did enjoy sampling all the food products. I brought a bunch back to village show the could see (and taste!) the wonderful food transformation ideas for themselves. Unfortunately, as enthusiastic as they seemed about trying the products, no one seemed enthusiastic about trying to make them for themselves. Frustrated! Some days it seems the village will forever grow only millet, cotton, peanuts, and okra to be sold at the lowest prices and everyone just losing money: absolute lack of motivation! Most of the motivated people are so overbooked, busy, and overwhelmed outside of the village; the people left behind seem content to keep living their lives the way they always have, just barely getting by and sticking to dilapidated traditions - villagers readily admit the elders had a ton of knowledge and agrocultural skills that they never passed down.

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