Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guié: Part 2

Hello again, this post is the second in the Guié series- Here's the first if you missed it. I want to just delve a little deeper into the work there and share some of the function stacking and some analysis of their work and systems. 

First off, it's worth mentioning that I was very very impressed with the caliber of the people out there and their work. The Pilot Farm at Guié is a part of a larger effort - AZN- Association inter-village Zoramb Naagtaaba- which brings together ten villages (such collaboration is quite rare and took a long time to get off the ground) and whose work includes -in addition to the farm- an orphanage and centers for education and health care, as well as the directing of the organization and it's administrative side. Each day, visitors come from other villages and regions, Ouagadougou, and Europe and the world to tour the place and see how it's done. The staff is young, highly committed to their work and lots of fun to be around. 
My friends and me in our shared courtyard in the morning. These guys work in all aspects of the organization AZN.
Paul Kibsa looks pretty happy though he doesn't like washing clothes. He works with the young people here, training them in sustainable food systems and regular school subjects like math and grammar. 
The bocage stacks so many functions- soil retention, water retention, leaf litter and mulching, windbreak, timber, food production, aesthetics, temperature and carbon mitigation... that it's really more of a design paradigm than a design element. You don't hear the word "permaculture" daily here (though some of the staff is really interested in it) but a look at the systems shows a thoughtful observation and interpretation of natural systems, recreated to retain and accumulate energy, cycle nutrients, and self-regulate with flexibility. 

In the big picture, the folks at Terre Vert are working to bring back the vegetation that holds the earth and water together in this vulnerable landscape. This is to counteract the attitude of taking from the land without putting anything back. When you bring cattle to a place one day and leave it the next, you're not replanting what the cows ate, and that bare soil is easily washed away, leaving behind the lower layers which lack organic matter and the capacity to hold water.

so the desert spreads.

So the ethos at Terre Verte is one of stewardship and the daily work is revegetation. Another strong component is one of outreach… Each year, Terre Verte helps folks from the villages set up productive fields and potager gardens with gifts of fences, labor, and advice. They also offer a special discount to people from the ten villages at their wonderful plant nursery- in french, la pépinière - in an effort to encourage, share, and dissipate this concept of le bocage
Daily watering sets the rhythm of work à la pépinière
Blandine shared her plant knowledge with me generously and patiently answered my ten thousand questions.
One of four full-time employees there, she and her daughter Brigitte spend their days in the nursery starting seeds.

AZN hosts a contest each year- the village family with the most productive bocage/Zai field wins a motorcycle. I think that's rad. I'd like to see more motorcycles in the sustainable food realm at home… that is an edge worth working. 
Training young people in sustainable food systems: Here we are vaccinating chickens against Newcastle disease.
Apart from that, there are a thousand little details I could share. Each day something impressed me that I wouldn't have thought of. For example, when digging a trench to plant a haie vive, you put the top layer of soil on one side and the deeper, less rich layer on the other. But instead of putting it back the way they found it- like any good double digger- you put the rich topsoil on the bottom, and mix compost into the more sparse soil to form an even richer soil for the top. Why didn't I think of that? Keep up the good work, y'all.

Baby baobabs à la pépinière.

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