Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fundraising campaign is up and running

A few days a go we launched a fundraising campaign to support the compost program we've been running, to pay for a new pump, and to expand the Fankanta Agroecology Center's training operations.  If you'd like to watch a little video to learn more about the composting program (or even donate!) you can visit the campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/senegalese-compost-program/x/8802010

Here's an update which I also just posted onto our indiegogo page about what has been happening lately at Fankanta.

The organic waste keeps coming in by the cartload.  We recently started a third windrow.  Here is Gabu, in front of Lat Dior the horse as his father Mr. Diouf unloads the day's delivery.

You can see in this picture we're just starting the new windrow.  In the foreground is a recently turned windrow and in the background on the right is part of another windrow.

Three weeks ago we had a meeting with a group of citizens concerned about the state of the environment in Keur Massar, the community where we are located.  
The very next day several community members came by to learn about sustainable farming methods.
Three weeks later we usually have a few community members coming by every day to learn about how to farm without needing to buy expensive inputs.  
Today, Mr. Ndyere and Mr. Ndyalo cleared a bed to plant corn.  Mr. Ndyere raises chickens and Mr. Ndyalo is a market farmer who is growing mostly peppers and cabbage at this point.  They are both interested in learning new farming techniques and have been coming by the Fankanta agroecology center several times a week.
Here the bed is being moistened in preparation for the corn.  Two other communty members who have small farms are helping out.
Yesterday Mr. Chendou planted out this nice bed of corn:

On Saturday we were at the 2014 Africa Social Forum where Lamine was on a panel discussing the role of youth groups in education, skills training and youth development.  Lamine talked about a boy/girl scout trade school and how the Fankanta Agroecology center is training youth in sustainable farming.  Youth unemployment is a problem here in Senegal but with trade schools and programs designed to give people the skills they need to be market farmers, youth groups are working to address the issue.
After the Africa Social Forum we also attended a Scouts meeting to discuss the results of a program where a dilapidated building was restored and compost training courses were given.
Between running the demonstration farm, the composting program, training visitors to the demonstartion farm, and going to various meetings we have been very busy!  With your support of our fundraising campaign though, we will be able to develop our young organization and demonstration farm into an even more important community resource.
A last note about market farming in Senegal.  The last blog post recounted how we sold 120 kilos of radish for 4800 CFA Francs.  Well just today we finished selling a mere two beds of mint for 5000 CFA Francs!  This mint was only transplanted from cuttings about a month ago.  If it was a more mature planting with denser foliage the two beds could have sold at 10,000 Francs.  At $20 USD, that's an extremely lucrative proposition here.  It goes to show that the Senegalese like their mint tea and mint is not as easy to grow in the Sahel as it is in the temperate US. Here's Lamine with the bana bana market woman cutting the mint bed.
Stay tuned - I'll hopefully have an update soon about the crops and trees we're growing at the Fankanta demonstration farm.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Big Money and the Bana Banas

So, you want know how to rake in a cool 4,800 CFA? Radishes, that's how. (Do yourself a favor and don't worry about the exchange rate there.)  Market farmers on the periphery of Dakar generally don't sell their produce themselves.  Instead bana banas, market women, come to the farms, buy what they think they can sell, and bring that produce to market.  Bana bana is the Wolof term for any small retail vendor, vegetable sellers included.
Last week a group of bana banas came by the Fankanta agroecology center.  They asked me, "Do you have any... " and then said something in wolof which meant absolutely nothing to me.  "No", I replied, "but we do have radishes!"

In fact we had several hundred kilos of radishes in the ground and ready to be harvested.  Now radishes are great and all, but it's hard to get excited about eating your way through even ten kilos.  I was so very happen then, that the bana banas wanted to take them off our hands.  The women even wanted to buy the whole crop - perfect.

The women went through and picked the radishes they deemed acceptable.  They ended up pulling out 150 kg.  Afterwards they crammmed an impressive amount into buckets which they carry off on their heads.  The rest they stuffed into sacks and hauled out on a donkey cart.  In all I estimate they actually ended up taking around 120 kg.

Sometimes the radish market is up and sometimes it's down.  If you went ahead and converted the CFA to USD like I told you not to you know where the market is now!  This brings to mind the following Mitchell and Webb Situation sketch that one Mr. Brett Blake showed me years ago.  A note of caution to our more respectable readers; there is a swear word!

In other exciting news, the organization I'm working with is now online! www.oasisgrowbiointensive.org. It's a bit like the death star in Return of the Jedi - still under construction yet fully operational.  Check it out. If you don't like to read, there are pictures!

Check back in next week and I'll have an important announcement for you.  Thanks for stopping by.