Saturday, December 18, 2010

Moringa oleifera

Here at IST we’ve been studying many different agroforestry technologies.  But one tree we’ve focused on has been the Moringa tree.  It’s almost worshiped here in Peace Corps Senegal with all sectors: health, agriculture, environmental education, small enterprise development, and of course agroforestery, encourage moringa plantings.  It is a tree that is super healthy for you, is a nitrogen fixer, and grows really well here in Senegal.  Here are some of the reasons it is such a wonderful plant
  • Vitamins in moringa leaves: proteins, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium
  •  Parts of the plant you can eat: leaves, flowers, seed oil, young seed pods aka pretty much the whole thing
  • Uses of moringa:
1.  Leaf sauce (side note: it’s delicious and probably my favorite meal here in Senegal) and powder
2.  Intercropping
3.  Cooking oil
4.  Animal fodder 
5.  Foliar fertilizer for plants

Here’s a link to another site praising the virtues of the almighty moringa if you don’t believe me:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Service Training

Here at IST I’ve been learning some pretty interesting information.  We’ve discussed topics such as field crops, integrated pest management, seed collection and storage, and grafting.  I grafted my first mango trees the other day and so far my scions have not died.  I tried both the whip and tongue method and the budding method of grafting.  The basic premise is to combine a strong local rootstock tree, which usually have less desirable fruit, with a scion of a fruit variety in higher demand.  This is a way to increase the survivability of the tree while still producing higher quality fruit.  Here are some how to videos about grafting, led by Denba, the same teacher I had here at the center, if you’re interested.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tabaski and Thanksgiving

Happy late Tabaski and Thanksgiving to everyone!
I know you are probably all getting into the festive Holiday spirit now that Thanksgiving is over with and you are allowed to play Christmas music.  Senegal just finished its biggest holiday season, celebrating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.  God intercedes right before Abraham kills his son and tells him to use a sheep instead.  To celebrate this holiday, Tabaski, the Senegalese kill and eat a goat, get dressed up, greet all their friends, and dance at night.  Unfortunately I had a fever during Tabaski and so I ended up sleeping most of the day, but much like our Christmas, there is a very festive season leading up to the day itself.  It’s interesting because we had been harvesting peanuts by hand for weeks before Tabaski.  We would dig up the plants, carry them to huge piles under a tree, and then sit and pull the peanuts off the plant.  For those of you who are unaware of how peanuts grow (I had no idea before I came here) it’s pretty neat, here’s a link to the wiki peanut page:   After lunch and dinner we would usually sit around and shell peanuts.  It was a very labor intensive process  but not knowing how to harvest peanuts I thought it was how it was done.  After Tabaski my family told me they were going to start harvesting peanuts with the plow.  It’s much faster, and so I asked why before Tabaski why we did it the other way.  Their answer was that the peanuts were not actually ripe enough before Tabaski for the plow to work.  They went through the labor intensive process of hand harvesting peanuts only so that they could have money for Tabaski.  I was surprised that they would invest so much time and energy into preparing for one day, but then I thought about what we do in the United States before Christmas.  Much the same holiday frenzy.  I happened to go to the market the day before Tabaski and it was absolutely crazy.  People were everywhere, clamoring to both buy and sell everything they could.  People were buying gifts for their families, fabric for new outfits, bags of food to cook, henna for their feet, extensions for their hair.  All this costs money, so we had to sell peanuts before it was most efficient to do so.  I had wanted to pick up a few things but it was too crazy for me to think about how to speak in Jaxanke and I just wandered around wide eyed and enjoyed the atmosphere.
I was not sick on Thanksgiving and had a great time.  I went to Kedegou, the region below mine, and we cooked a big dinner there.  We killed 10 chickens and 5 ducks, had a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cornbread, and sweet potatoes.  We even boiled raisins in bissap juice and made something like cranberry sauce and then made squash and apple pie.  I ate so much I could barely move, it was great.  Of course I missed my family a lot, but it spending time with American Peace Corps friends really helped.  Now I am back in Thies for both the all volunteer conference and my in-service training.  All volunteer conference is a place for all the Senegalese volunteers to talk about projects we’ve done that worked and didn’t work, technologies and strategies we might be interested in, and is just a great way to share information.  We also invite some volunteers from surrounding countries such as The Gambia, Cape Verde, and Togo to learn what works there.  In-service training is where I will learn a lot about and practice agofo technologies, since we focused mainly on language during pre-service training.