Monday, September 3, 2012

What I've Been Doing

Wow. It's September... Just two more weeks and I am a real PCV!

For the last two weeks I have been working hard on the technical aspects of training which we are now immersed in. I know some people at home are interested in knowing what exactly I have been up to.. so here is the run down of what training has been like since I returned from my post visit.

For the Environmental Program we do all of our training at Songhai... I know I have mentioned Songhai a few times on here, but here is the official description:

Centre Songhai

Created in 1985 by F. Godfrey NZAMUJO [google him]... Songhai's purpose is to draw Africa into a development mentality which consists in developing new strengths in spite of socioeconomic, cultural and environmental constraints.

The Songhai model is based on interrelationships between environmental resources, agriculture, technology, services and industry. It also includes a component of human capacity development. This is as an integrated set of management techniques, based on the values of leadership and development of entrepreneurial skills. In practice, the model encourages the use of local resources, the combination of traditional and modern agricultural practices, the adaptation of technologies and the diversification of activities. Through these practices, Songhai integrates concepts of “zero waste” and “total productivity” through the use of biological and ecological farming practices. Providing opportunities for rural communities to use and manage in a sustainable way their resources while promoting local economic development.” [description from my post assignment]

Basically.. it is a self sustainable eco-utopia created with the purpose of teaching the people of West Africa work ethic. It has been recognized by the UN as a “center of excellence” And it is a really.. really impressive place. They even recycle plastics.

We arrive at Songhai every morning early enough to water our planches (garden beds... but way more fun to say.. its pronounced plonches) before class commences at 8... Our various class sessions are over at 5.. and then we have an hour of tutoring in our local languages (I can now count to 10... saluate.. and tell you what I ate today). Usually I make it back home around 630.

The first week of tech training was mostly gardening and agriculture: I learned how to build a planch, Plant things... and also transplant things. All about soil structure, How to tell which disease/insect/deficiency a plant has, All about composting, How to prepare natural pesticides, How to collect and save seeds from various vegetables. We covered a lot of things I knew and a lot of things I didn't know... a crazy amount of stuff was packed into the first week. Early in the week we had a special session on the Food Security program here in PC Benin.. which I am very excited about.

This week (week two) was more of a melange of bigger projects. We spent one whole day learning about food processing and then canning tomatoes... it was a very long day.. but we had fun. Two days were spent with a local gardening group practicing PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action).. and then teaching them how to prepare a natural pesticide. Also.. it was tree week. We learned our local Tree IDs, grafting, how to plant a tree plantation, and how to collect seeds/plant seeds for said tree plantation. Most importantly we learned how to dig a hole with a machete. 

On a Funny Note: Starting this week, Mama is teaching me to cook [Rumor has it while we were gone PC told them all a story about a volunteer who never learned to cook.. and then got really sick and had to go home because they starved. Now all the host parents are convinced that none of us know how to cook].... today I learned how to make a salad.

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