Wow, so it has almost been three months since my last post!! I really apologize for that but things have been busy and computer time has not been the easiest to acquire. That should be changing since I am having one sent by the end of June!
Since my last post, I wrote a proposal and secured funding from the PC and USAID Small Project Assistance fund. I worked closely with the women to design the project and create a budget. Project funds of just over $2,000USD will go towards buying metal fencing that will prevent the cows from eating their vegetables, digging two wells, cement, well covers, seeds, and water cans. The women will also each be contributing the equivalent of $4 USD each towards the project and have already provided labor by clearing the land of trees, providing food and pulling dirt for the well digger. They will soon be digging holes for the fence posts. Me and the school director (also writer for the women’s organization) bought all the fencing materials in Bamako last Saturday. It was an experience for sure but he went into the market first to bargain and we ended up coming under budget which was a relief.
So far I have a learned a lot from this first project. Project timelines are really difficult to follow here. Unfortunately, the well digger we hired is not very reliable and will not be able to complete the second well before rainy season. We will have to wait until next January or February to dig the second well so the women will not be able to garden next dry season. However, they should be able to garden during this rainy season.
Meetings and work continued with the WATSAN committee I started with my homologue. We completed the participatory , learning activities (PHAST) and made a three year plan for WATSAN projects and behavior change.
We began and mostly completed a soak pit and pit latrine in my host families concession. My latrine and his will feed into the same soak pit. This usually would be a relatively quick project but has taken now going on two months to complete since things keep getting pushed back with lack of planning, funerals, or my travels. However, we should finish soon. Most of the rocks have been put in the soak pit and the latrine slab has been made.
As I mentioned last time, I would be traveling to a fellow volunteers site to help him with a water project. Currently there is a water system in his village consisting of a water tower and 13 tap stands. It has been inoperational for several years since bandits stole the solar panels that powered the pump. However, even before then, water did not reach all the taps since the tower is placed at a low elevation in the system. My second vist, me and another WATSAN volunteer administered a topographic survey to get the elevations of the different parts of the system. Currently I am working on calculations and mapping to fix the system. Ni allah soonah (god willing), by October/November we will have submitted a proposal to fix the system and will be asking for donations to the project. So far this has been a very exciting project to work on since I didn’t think I would get the chance to work on one so technical in Mali.
Me and two women from my village attended a conference sponsored by PC on shea butter networking. The women from my village were really excited to learn about shea butter improvement and marketing. They also came from the conference really desiring to read and write and hope to go to classes with a NGO working in my village. Since we have returned from the conference, we have met twice with interested women in the village and will soon start to collect money and elect officers of a shea association.
During April I attended a regional IST with my homologue. Presentations were given by NGOs for potential partnerships and we learned more about food security and how to address the problem in our village. We also explored ways to improve our working relationship and wrote action plans. Since then, me and my homologue have begun to form a food security committee (yes, another committee) where we hope to address some of the food security problems in my community. Already people in my village have run out of their millet (main grain) including my host family and are forced to buy mass amounts at inflated prices until their harvest comes in.
Currently my homologue came up with a great idea to create one cooperative that includes 4 committees (WATSAN, garden, food security, and shea butter) to lessen the paperwork and funds to officialize the organization through the mayor and higher government officials. This will be complicated to do but I think it will really help my village develop in the long run.
ERAD(Equipe de Recherche et d'Appui Pour le Developpement)
This NGO has been working a lot in my village with baby weighings, literacy training, improved stoves, and installing a large diameter well in my village. Unfortunately the well project is not going well and has been difficult to dig despite the daily usage of dynamite that usually makes me jump. Some people in my village say it is because the devil does not agree since the well was placed closed to a fetish.
So, those are the main things I have been up to the last several months. It has certainly been a busy time, not without challenges but still gratifying. I have really learned a lot which will help for my second year of service. It is still mango season which has been amazing to have delicious fruit everyday. I actually bought a solar dryer from a PCV during regional training and have been drying some slices that I may send back to the states. It is the hot season and, as expected, it is really hot but not as miserable as I thought it would be though I have been sleeping outside. I think I prefer hot season and mangos to rainy season with mosquitos but it is nice when have gotten sporadic rains.