August 2015 Project Roundup: First VSLA Group Launches, Pineapples Approach Harvest, Mulch Proves Its Worth
August 17, 2015
Our first VSLA group has been launched! The group is called Sesa Mu VSLA, and it consists of nine women and nine men, who are mostly pineapple and corn farmers in the area around the town of Berekuso.
Demonstration Plots at Sesa Mu
Since our last report, four additional demonstration plots have been planted, bringing the total to five. Two were planted each with a single variety of corn, and another was planted with three different varieties of corn, with several rows of beans as well. Two separate 18’x18’ plots were planted with moringa trees. The area hasn’t had rain in about two weeks, and the team recently had to water the moringa trees, which were not heavily mulched and were starting to wilt. However, an inspection of the corn, which had been heavily mulched, revealed that even without rain for so long, the soil was still damp underneath the mulch!
We were disappointed to learn that cows invaded our first two plots of corn. Fortunately, they ate mainly the tops of the plants, and we are hopeful that most of the crop will grow back. We have installed a temporary fence to secure these plots against animals, and are working with Sesa Mu (a local university student group committed to assisting farmers with improved techniques) to install a permanent, robust fence.
We are excited about the hire of another farmer advocate. Joseph Appiah, a Ghanaian with a background in agriculture, joins Just Hope this month to work with farmer groups.
As of mid-August, weekly reports of new Ebola cases were as low as they have been since March of 2014, with only a single case in each of the last two weeks. Praise God! However, one of those new cases was in Tonkolili, a district that had not had a case of Ebola in 150 days. Unrelenting vigilance will be critical if the country is to fully rid itself of this disease. The World Health Organization reports 13,470 confirmed cases and 3,951 confirmed deaths from the outbreak in Sierra Leone.
We still own the fifth and last ambulance, and are in discussions with a potential buyer for it.
The pineapple harvest is still on target for harvest in early September. The crew continues to weed the crop, and we look forward to visiting our friends during a trip there next month and being present for the harvest, a moment so many of us have long awaited! We are hopeful that Africa Felix Juice, the owner of the processing plant that agreed to process the pineapples before the Ebola outbreak hit, will be able to purchase all of the pineapples and process them into juice.
Our partner in Togo, Jesse Shanks, has located a site for a demonstration crop with a new group of farmers who are excited about trying conservation agriculture techniques. A bit of site work will need to be done prior to planting, including securing the area from animals with a sturdy fence.
We received a blessing from the schools in which we will work with young women to prepare them for life after the orphanage. We are currently working on staffing the life skills and English classes.