It’s showtime! For the next few weeks, I’ll be helping to build a demonstration garden with the community.
First Things First: Listen and Learn
Within these first three months, I have been observing what the people around my village does on a daily basis. Their activities and their vision for the future. It all sounds kind of stalker-ish, now that I’m typing this to myself, but it’s all for a good cause!
From our Peace Corps training, we were told that some volunteers failed to integrate and were not able to work well in their community. In most cases, it was because they had spoken before listening. Can’t solve a problem you don’t know about, right?
Our main guideline is this: understand who your community members are and address their needs based on their actions.
Now, as a volunteer involved with my community, I was taking note of what seeds they used, their plowing and planting methods, spacing, and amount of sunlight the seeds will be receiving. With this knowledge, I’ll be able to assess what things can be modified to help improve their garden.
Great! So what’s the plan?
Well… I had dilemma making that plan lol.
As a new volunteer I think there are two things that have been crossing my mind while we were talking about this demonstration garden:
Should I speak up about the new techniques I’ve learned from training and incorporate new practices? Or should I bite my tongue, and instead listen and learn about what the community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, our job is to be able to assist and support the community in ways that fit their needs. Thinking about my purpose here and going back to my days in training, I chose to bite my tongue for the mean time.
Some people might be eager to jump in to action and get the ball rolling as soon as possible. But knowing that I’ll be here for two years, I think it’s more important to listen and learn about the community’s farming knowledge and vision for this particular project.
The community knows a lot!
When I say I’m here to teach the community, I feel like they’ve been teaching me a lot more than I ever knew.
The community of farmers in this village know a lot. They know about the seasons, they know how the condition of the soil has changed, they know who and where to get their supplies from, and more. It’s all the knowledge that I can’t just get from Google.
And they have a vision.
This is going to be the proverbial Garden of Eden that everyone will see after church service. It’s meant to be a showcase of what a great garden can look like.
They want to build this demo garden to teach others about gardening as well. They want others to see what’s possible with good planning and spacing of plants, and I really want to be part of this project.
How will you move forward with this project?
There were many things that I think can be slightly modified to improve the demo garden, but the main ones that I noticed that can make the biggest change are:
- The soil was tilled only to about 10cm
- The only soil amendment they added was manure
- Seeds were simply broadcasted across the planting bed
From my observations this is what can be improved:
- Deeper soil tilling for deeper root growth
- Add more other organic matter like dry grass, egg shells, and banana peels to the soil for better water retention
- Triangular spacing of seeds to optimize the amount of land used
In the end, people just want better crops. They want better, healthier plants. Whether you’re in Africa, Hawai’i, Asia, or anywhere in the world, a great garden is universal dream.
These are the small steps that I want to take in the next few weeks, to talk about why we should till the soil deeper than 10cm, why organic matter improves water retention, and why spacing is important.
New plans for the website!
I’ve been planning a lot of new things for the website!
I’ve received a bit more attention from other incoming Peace Corps Volunteers and have gotten questions from them asking about what it’s like to be a PCV in Uganda. With this in mind, I’ve been working on a small guide to explain:
- What is Peace Corps Uganda like
- What kind of food, cultural, and social norms to expect
- How I manage my financing
- The mentality to volunteer for two years
These topics come from questions and topics that my colleagues, incoming volunteers, and even myself, wanted to know about how to prepare for service.
I’m hoping to get this out in the next week!