Monday, June 30, 2014

Malawi - June 30, 2014

On Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 2:08 PM, Lonny Ward <> wrote:

To all,

Today we drove to the capital, Bamako. We met with scientists and staff at ICRISAT, which is a research institution that works across western Africa. They said that they would be glad to assist with any agriculture projects. Anounou's wife works in one of the offices.

We also visited a very large "women's garden" project that has over 100 garden plots that can be used by poor women. Each plot has water available to it. It is a cooperative project with CTB, the Belgium Government.

We went to the school in Tamara (sp?) and evaluated the possibility of having a school garden.

It has been a very good trip. Anounou and the others have been great hosts.

I will include more detailed information in my report.


Lonny J. Ward
Director of Operations
Feed the World/Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture
M: 801-404-4483  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crops that I saw in Mali: Maize/Corn, Rice, Vegetables, Sorghum, Millet, Soybean

On my first day in Mali with Anounou we went to visit a successful farmer near Selingue in southern Mali. He took us to see his corn fields. I was impressed with what I saw. Most of the rural farmers in Africa, that I have seen, plant a hill of five plants about a meter apart from each other. I am not sure where this technique originated and I have not been able to find out why they do it this way. The best answer that I have been able to get is, the five seeds are in case some of them don't germinate and the spacing is so that it is easier to get between the plants to weed when they get bigger . This farmer planted his corn in rows with the proper spacing between rows and between plants, 60-80 cm between rows and 15 to 20 cm between plants in a row.

Looking at recently planted corn fields in Mali

Rice fields ready to harvest near Selingue, Mali
The farmer then took us to his rice farm near the Niger river. He was in the middle of harvesting the rice. These fields are flood irrigated from the river so they can grow rice all year around. Typically, they plant in July and harvest in December then plant again in January and harvest in June.

With added water almost any vegetable is grown in these gardens in Ouelessabougou
In this community garden I saw a very wide variety of vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes, spinach, onion, kale, sweet potato, corn, beans, soybeans, and many others. The climate is very good for growing just about anything here. The challenge comes during the dry season when everything has to be watered by hand. This community garden has five hand dug wells.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
In Bamako we stopped at ICRISAT, The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and met with Eva a sorghum scientist from Germany that works here to develop better varieties of sorghum and millet. 
Mali has a climate that is conducive to growing a wide variety of produce, from cereal grains to soybeans to vegetables to fruits. With improved cultivation and processing techniques, Mali could produce plenty of food to meet the needs of her population and could export also. I look forward to using the Feed the World program to help the Ouelessabougou Alliance teach improved farming practices.

Rice production on small rural farms in Mali near the Niger River

Rice is a very important crop for the farmers in Mali and is one of the principal foods of the Mali people. In this post I will describe using text and pictures the fascinating process of rice production by the rural farmers in southern Mali.
Rice fields flooded by the Niger River irrigation canals
Because these fields are flood irrigated from the river, they can grow rice all year around. Typically, they plant in July and harvest in December then plant again in January and harvest in June. The farmers purchased the immature rice plants from the nurseries and plant them by hand in their fields.

Rice fields ready to harvest near Selingue, Mali
The rice takes four to five months to mature depending on the variety. During this time the fields are flooded several times depending on the weather and the needs of the rice. The Mali farmers pay the government water office for the water that they use.

The rice is harvested by workers with a hand scythe and gathered in bundles
This rice field has recently been harvested. The rice plant is cut and laid on top of the remaining stalk for several days to dry out. It is then gathered in bundles and carried to the road ready to be threshed.
A portable rice thresher that goes from field to field doing custom threshing
Portable threshing machines are hauled around the valley from field to field to thresh the rice. The rice straw is either burned there in the fields or taken back to the villages to be used as animal feed during the dry season. The rice is spread out on the ground and allowed to dry before being milled, cleaned, and sold in the market.

Rice drying on plastic tarps near the farmers home
This farmer spread his rice on large tarps near his home. The roads make a nice flat place to lay the tarps to dry the rice. Occasionally I have seen the grains spread out on the paved roads even without a tarp. Sometimes the traffic will attempt to avoid the grain, but sometimes they will just drive right over the top of it.

Using the breeze to clean the chaff from the rice before taking it to market
Once the milling has taken place the rice is cleaned by pouring it out onto a large tarp while a breeze is blowing. The lighter rice chaff will be carried to the side, leaving just the rice itself. It is not uncommon to see chickens, goats, or other farm animals helping themselves to the chaff. The rice is scooped into 90 kg bags and hauled to the market using donkey carts or various other forms of transportation. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mali trip to the Ouelessabougou Alliance

(You will have to change the sharing options before publishing)

The Ouelessebougou Alliance has been blessing the lives of the people in Mali for over 20 years. They have developed strong relationships in the communities and have garnered the trust of the people in the villages where they work.
Government structure:
Democratic government that changes every 5 years in a peaceful transition
The main offices change but the lower levels stay consistent
114 political parties
President appoints mid level officials
Mayors are elected
Villages have chiefs that are positions passed from father to son
There is little interaction between villages and other government levels
Very little money trickles to the villages
There are government extension workers that go to the villages but they are not consistent

The Alliance supports 11 primary schools and 25 villages ( down from 72) about 75% of the students that started finish through 6th grade.
There are secondary schools in the area that have a similar completion rate of about 75%

The country is 95% muslim. The church is not officially in this country but there are members. Anounou is not a member but he wants to become one. Several of his children are members. There is no terrorism except to the far north of Mali.

The diets are very poor and consist of millet and okra. There is no milk, eggs, meat, etc., on a regular basis. Some gardens are grown.

In the lowlands by the river rice is grown is flood irrigation. They have about 14 varieties available to them. The farmer that we talked with uses three of those varieties. The rice is harvested and left resting in bundles on top of the rice stalks for several days to dry. Portable rice processing machines travel around the area pulled by donkeys. Small gas engines power the small machines that extract the rice from the rest of the plant. The rice is bagged up and sent to be dried hulled and sold. The stalks are often burned near the edge of the field. The ones that are not burned are used as animal feed.

Corn/Maize is grown away from the river and becomes the basis for one of their main meals, To, which is a corn flour dish. This is very similar to Nsima of Malawi and Ugale of Kenya.

There is a large variety of fruits available here, some of them are cultivated and some grow wild. I am familiar with some of the fruits such as mango, papaya, banana, but others I have not heard of or tasted before such as;
  • Zebon is about the size of a lemon and very sour. The outer shell is cut open to reveal a brain like fruit, the fruit surrounds large pits. You suck the fruit off of the pits and spit them out. It is like eating the sour patch candies, sweet and sour.
  • Tongue is a small found yellow fruit about the size of a bing cherry. It grows on bushes in the wild. There is a large pit inside and the fruit is somewhat sour.
  • Shea is a medium sized fruit that looks like a small light green pepper. Inside the fruit is a large nut a little smaller than a pecan. The nut can be hulled or peeled and the meat has a sticky milky substance. The oil is used in lotions and the nuts can be roasted and eaten. The fruit was not ripe so I could not tell what it would taste like. It was like a very young green apple.
  • Cashew is a funny looking fruit about the size of a green pepper with the cashew nut stuck tto the end of it. The fruit itself is bright yellow and very fibrous. It is extremely juicy and drips all over you as you eat it. The cashew nut has an acid inside that can burn the skin. The nut has to be roasted before it can be consumed. (Before Anounou told me about the acid, I tried to bite open the cashew to see the nut inside. After he told me about the acid that can burn your hands if you are not careful, I went and washed my mouth out several times. About half an hour later my lips began to burn. I rinsed them several more times. Later that evening they felt numb and were a little sensitive when I touched them. The feeling was similar to the feeling that I feel when the deadening agent that the dentist uses is wearing off.)
Ouelessebougou has a large open air market every Friday. We went to Selingue which has a large open air market on Saturday. It is similar to the other markets that I have seen in developing countries. This one had small shops with all sorts of food items both prepared and raw. We purchased chofufu, which were small deep fried balls of soybean dough. They were very tasty. In addition to all of the local products there were many vendors of clothing, sunglasses, jewelry, cds, and other items imported. The market was quite dirty and very crowded but people were used to it. In the shops that sold food they often had ways of washing your hands before eating. The little chofufu balls were made with a little tail so that you could pick them up by the tail and eat them throwing the tail away so that your hands never touched your food.

Tamala school:
We visited the Tamala school to investigate the possibility of setting up an agricultural training program that would include a garden area and classes in nutrition and gardening. This is a very desirable program because it infuses the students with a very practical education that will help them throughout their lives and also give them skills that they can teach to their families.

There is adequate area around the school to plant a garden. Setting up the garden would require several steps. The more the students and parents are involved the more successful the project will be. They should feel ownership of the school agriculture program.
  1. The first step is to select an area for the garden. Right between the schools might be the best place for it. If everyone is constantly seeing it, the garden will get better care and it will become a source of pride for the school.
  2. The selected area needs to be fenced off and strict rules as to who can enter, have to be enforced. Many trampling feet or hungry animals can quickly destroy a garden. The community can decide what kind of fence they want and how they will go about putting it in place. We have found that our project are more successful if some sort of work is required before we start the training.
  3. I would recommend that a water storage tank, fed by gutters from the school roof, be constructed. The school session does not correspond with the rainy season so the garden will have to be continually watered. (This is actually very good because they will learn that they can grow food even during the dry season if they develop their water sources.)
  4. The soil is very deficient in organic matter. The students should be recruited to bring leaves, grass, manure, and any other organic matter that they can find to be mixed into the soil. Without the organic matter the soil does not have sponge activity and the water that is put on the soil either leaches through or runs off. This is a great way for the children to gain ownership and to learn about organic matter and composting.
  5. The soil is very hard and will need to be tilled. It may take several times to loosen the soil up deep enough for some of the root vegetables. This is also a great opportunity for the students involvement, parents would be welcome also.
  6. Training for the students and teachers that will be working in the garden will then be carried out so that they can start the project. Expectations should be set and explained and a plan for follow up should be set up.
The other part of the program that is equally critical is the nutrition classes in the school. The students need to understand the importance of eating the vegetables that they are growing. Aquiring a taste for some of the vegetables may take some focused encouragement.
  1. The first step in the nutrition program is to do a 24 hour recall study with a significant group of the students. This has the students tell us what they have eaten in the last 24 hours. With this data we can work with Dr. Paul Johnston at BYU to determine the nutrient deficiencies in their diets and put together a plan for increasing their level of nutrition.
  2. It is not critical but highly recommended that at the same time height and weight measurements are taken, as well as somehow documenting their scholastic performance. The parents and teachers have to be convinced that this program is helping their children at school and will help their children at home also.
  3. With the help of Dr. Johnston and his students at BYU, we can develop lesson plans for the teacher that will be specific for their needs.
  4. The lesson plans need to be translated into Bambara? for the teacher to present them to the students.
  5. It is always helpful if the parents are included in the learning process. Classes could be set up after school or in the evenings for parents to attend so that the teachings are reinforce.
  6. TO encourage the families to learn and implement the lessons that they are taught, a home garden program with a contest and prizes could be implemented. A successful garden reqires a lot of work. An added incentive or competition can make the work more desirable.
In summary the Tamala school could greatly benefit from a nutrition/gardening program. It would take work but it would yield great results.
This has been a great opportunity to see the work that you are doing in Mali. May lives have been blessed by your service. Thank you for allowing me to visit you operation in Ouelessebougou.
Going forward I recommend that at the next leadership meeting of the Alliance, I have an opportunity to talk with the group and answer any questions they have regarding my evaluation. This would also be a great time for them to ask questions about our program and for me to get a feeling for the direction that the Alliance would like to go with these recommentations.

Mali is added to my list of countries

The Ouelessebougou Alliance asked Feed the World to evaluate the opportunities that they have for introducing gardening and crop production into the villages where they work in Mali. I was asked to meet with Anounou, their in country director and have him show me what they had in mind. I spent four days in Mali looking at the country's agriculture and talking with the staff and the villagers. Mali is a delightful country. I will probably have several posts about Mali agriculture.

Weekly market in Selingue in southern Mali
One of the days we went to the local open air market. It was much like the other open air markets that I have been to in Africa. We bought some deep fried soy bean scones, chofufu, that were quite good. I was looking for the way that the local people traded their agricultural products.

We enjoyed some chofufu at the market.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time management- finances

Do something even if it is wrong. When I am overwhelmed I should plan and work intelligently, often I burry my head in some menial taks and forget about what is important.

Nest egg- Joseph's success in getting our chickens to lay eggs.

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