I can’t believe another month has flown by! IST (In Service Training) has long passed, having been rammed full of animations ranging from composting to tree grafting, from HIV/AIDS to malnutrition in Mali, and from tree nursery management to how one starts a (here we go with the important 4 S’s) sustainable, small, simple, and slow development project that can mature in complexity and grow at a healthy rate rather than start out to big for it’s britches and collapse like so many development projects unfortunately. Such as, for example, the projects that bring in newer technology like tractors which is all just fine, dandy and helpful in improving the speed of planting until it breaks down and the villagers have no means of fixing it. And often there it stands in the middle of somebody’s field a testament to a development project that did not start out small, simple, and slow. With this in mind, I have been currently working through potential projects that factor in these necessary components. So far, the Moringa tree planting is moving steadily along, with moringa trees having been planted in some of the the women’s gardens. Now it’s a matter of making sure everybody understands the leaf drying process and the Moringa leaf’s nutritional benefits. I’ve also got a village analysis project to determine and rank the villages needs to find a feasible and sustainable project for this coming year. Also on the agenda is the planting and testing of new millet and sorghum varieties to determine if the new varieties are a viable option for the region in increasing crop productivity, resistance to drought, etc.

The traveling adventures continue to always keep me on my toes…or off them rather (and more sprawled out haphazardly on my back in the mud). Rainy season brings its traveling challenges in my neck of the sand. My dirt road to the village turns into one giant 15 kilometer mud slide. Don’t get me wrong, it’s AWESOME!, except for when you need to somehow traverse from one side of the mud/water slide to the other. This traveling predicament raises several logistical challenges, chief among them being the lack of a boat. However, having a bike introduces the possibility of traversing before said muddy water slide and having a 15k ride of your life in which you try not to make a muck of things  as the road goes to great lengths (and depths i had the unfortunate and muddy experience to discover) to make a muck of you.  My case in particular, the road really mucked me up so to speak. I left my village in the morning after two intense thunderstorms (didn’t know thunder could get that loud or dynamite-exploding-next-door-to-you sounding) which dropped a lot of rain. Great for my garden, bad for the road. (brief tangent: my garden has zucchini and tomatoes already, woot woot!) So me on my bike, I hit the road, quite literally as a matter of fact. I hit the road in one long slide with bike alongside, perhaps foretelling how truly muddying this trip was going to be. But to make a short story even shorter, I made the rest of the 15k trip without another slip, with mud splattered up to my ears and my bike getting a nice new earthy toned paint job.

But the onset of rainy season brings a slight reprieve to the heat, and with the increase in rain, farming is taken up by pretty much every villager in my village. A perfect time to do test plots and get a sense of Malian agriculture and farming practices. My in country work partner aka homologue has already sown millet and next week will be my first true field work experience sowing corn and peanuts. Looking forward to it! Aside from the tarantulas which apparently both are in Mali (quite a shock when I discovered that one…) and like to be out in the fields (similar shock as described before when discovered). So wish me luck (to never ever see one again!)

Hope all is going well with everybody. Feel free to update me on the going ons when you can! Talk again soon!

Mario

P.s. HAPPY 4th!

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