I’m BACK!!! Wow, what a long stay from writing a blog. This blog is a Market Garden training I completed in March-April with 50 attendees. The farm is 100% chemical free! Talk about fresh produce! Thanks to Bonnie Plants and Alisha Foxworthy Finlayson for the three years of employment to get me interested in fresh produce and gardening! And I can not forget Adam and Issac Moody at Lone Pine Farms, Moody Meats! What I learned there from a summer internship has helped me tremendously as I teach. They taught me crop rotation and the necessity of sustainable farming.
Back to the Garden…The project was a 10 day, 5- week course explaining all the steps to have a successful garden; beginning from the nursery, teaching on compost, natural insecticide/pesticides, transplanting, to finally the harvest. I received a grant from the West African Food Security Project (WAFSP) sponsored by Feed the Future (FTF), and was the first person for this fiscal year to finish the project. What is great about FTF is the recipients CANNOT use in-organic fertilizers or pesticides with their projects. Farmers around me unfortunately, LOVE using fertilizers and pesticides, which can be expensive! In addition, many do not know how to properly apply either and often kill their farms/crops. Thus, teaching them a very CHEAP and EASY way to apply in-organic manure, fertilizer, and other means of keeping the crops pest free was a big hit and 25 have continued the practice on their own garden. The land was used as an agroforestry demonstration plot by the first Peace Corps Volunteer (’08 /’09) because of his training the ground under the growth was very fertile and produced healthy crops. The locals were amazed. If that is not sustainability, I do not know what is….! What you will read under this paragraph is the Success Story I sent FTF, which they published.
West Africa Food Security Partnership
Upper Moghamo Market Gardening
Garden to Business to Market: The road to Sustainable Food Security
The truly remarkable aspect of the Upper Moghamo Market Garden is the community involvement. Watching my idea literally take root and blossom in the hands of my community was immensely rewarding. The training consisted of a 6-week 12-day course and finished with 45 trainees receiving certificates. Each week began with the technical training followed by fieldwork with all of the trainings taught by Cameroonians working with the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MINADER). The following is a list of the classes taught: Why is gardening important, how to handle nursery, improving the soil naturally, Week Food Security, Week 5: Marketing, Week 6: evaluations.
First, the training was designed and facilitated almost entirely by MINADER staff. All of the knowledge and expertise existed in the community already, it just took me to organize the key players and unlock it. Now participants have a network of stable, permanent community members they can turn to with problems, ideas, and plans for the future to ensure sustainability. Furthermore, the participants themselves are now experts in gardening, food security, and agribusiness. One of the wonderful things about Cameroon is that people are not selfish with information; once other people see how successful gardening can be and start asking questions, this information will proliferate throughout the community and benefit anyone who is interested in generating more income or putting better food on their tables.
My community is full of hard-working people who simply have not found a way to transform their labor into a sustainable livelihood. Seeing the power of vegetable gardening, with low costs, huge profit margins and more than enough surplus to cover recurring expenses, stirred them to action. When you are out in a community watching people struggle just to maintain a bare minimum standard of living day in and day out, seeing that kind of reaction tells you that you are doing something right. These people know the community better than anyone does, and if they think this is something that will help supplements their diets and their wallets, they are probably right. This is the kind of project that can continue indefinitely. The farmers formed into a profit margin cooperative one-mother garden. After the training, they received seeds and nursed seedlings they transplanted into their own for the home consumption. To date out of the 45 recipients of certificates 22 have maintained and harvested from their own garden. That is nearly a 50% success rate after the first harvest. To date the mother garden has profited 45,000CFA= 90USD. One major aspect of the high response is the garden is 100% chemical free. When we told them, we would not spend money on chemicals, but make our own natural pesticide/insecticides even the poorest farmers turned up to learn.
A small story about the success of the garden is from a grown man who received his first certificate. For many of the farmers this certificate was their first, but this story will forever be with me. A man age of 32 came to me after the graduation ceremony with tears in his eyes and thanked me over and over again. He did not graduate secondary school and when he graduated primary school, they never gave a “diploma.” After dropping out of secondary school, he got a trade in mechanics, but the day of his graduation his father died and he never received the certificate. This man is a successful/respected farmer and a very hard-worker in my village, and to this day he does not have any signed documents representing the work he has accomplished. He told me that the day of graduation was the greatest day of his life and he will never forget by framing his certificate and hanging it for his children to see. These are the stories us PCV’s strive and live to hear.
Finally, the community took charge of its own future and organized around this project. This is not a disparate group of individual farmers; this is a community coming together to build something real. With the cooperative, farmers have a support network they can go to for any issue that might arise, be it technical or commercial. They can work together to maintain fair prices and reduce costs. Perhaps most importantly, they have created a network of like-minded people that can work together in the future to meet the growing needs of a developing community and increase their food security while making a small income.
I will post another blog soon on a separate project I completed during LAST Thanksgiving when my mother and sister came for a visit. It was a wonderful visit and I will equally post a blog explaining how they spent their time in Cameroon with my new home and family.