Raising Expectations and Yam Mounds

31 Oct

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As I indicated during my Radio Kpandai broadcast last week, I was feeling a bit tired going into this week.  Thankfully I was able to spend this week catching up and getting on top of things in the office. 

The big focus this week (and probably for the rest of my placement) was how to empower the middle managers in the office (District Agriculture Officers)  and in turn have them support and empower the field staff (Agriculture Extension Agents).  As you will hear in this week’s attached broadcast, we’re making some good progress.

After working in the office all week, I felt the need to get my hands dirty, so I went back out to Nchanchina and helped Paul and Reuben raise yam mounds.

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The mounds we raised will not be used until next year’s growing season, but doing it now at the end of rainy season when the ground is still soft will give Paul and Reuben a good jump on planting next year and allow them to complete more mounds.  When they plant next year, they will put a single seed yam into each mound that will sprout and grow into a new single full yam at the end of the next growing season.

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I am proud to say that I managed to raise 65 mounds before I collapsed in the late morning heat.  If all goes well, my mounds will yield 65 yams next season.  I told Paul and Reuben that they could mail them to me in Canada. 

For reference, the evening before Paul’s wife used 3 yams to produce enough Fufu for five adults and three children, so my 65 yams should be good for about 22 dinners.  Of course, there’s still plenty of work to do (planting, weeding and harvesting), but clearing the field and raising the mounds are the hardest two tasks. 

Paul and Reuben are hoping to have at least 2,000 mounds in total next year.  They will consume roughly 1,000 of them and sell the other 1,000 at market.  If they are able to get around $1,000 for their 1,000 surplus yams, they will probably have to spend about half of this ($500) on other food (tomatoes, onions, fish, cooking oil,vetc…) and essentials like clothing.  So if all goes well, they may generate $500 of discretionary money for their immediate family of seven and to help support others in the community.

Sitting under the mango tree resting after our work on the farm, we had a good discussion about the logic of hiring labour to work on your farm.  Apparently you can pay someone $2-$3 to raise 100 mounds for you.  As you may be able to sell 100 yams for $100 or more depending on the market conditions, this sounds like a pretty good deal to me!  Hopefully Paul and Reuben will be able to turn the corner soon and save some money so they can start hiring labour.  If they do, their farm output will no longer be limited by what they themselves are physically able to accomplish.

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The evening before farming, I showed the movie HOME on my little laptop in Paul’s compound.  Nchanchina does not have electricity and few people have seen a computer up close, so the spectacle quickly attracted around 25 people.   I continue to be impressed by the power of movies over here.  Hopefully I will be able to arrange a couple more bigger movie events before the end of my placement…

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