Thursday, January 08, 2009



Lambutan nanar means "our garden" in Tamasheq (actually garden-ours).

SO what have we been up to lately? A few things. One of the major projects that has been taking our time both for research and implementation is that of a community garden in front of our house. We got permission from the mayors office to use some of the empty space between our wall and the road (about 25 feet by 35 feet square) to make an enclosed garden space. Here are our ideas and goals

  • We want to do a trial run size of a community garden where people have to work together and get to eat the fruits of their labour
  • We want to improve their nutrition by introducing more vegetables into people who eat mostly rice and millet with weak sauces. Adding tomatoes, herbs, carrots, cabbage and onions can improve their health and diet and hopefully they will like the variety!
  • We want to try several ways of watering. We made mound indents around some plants to capture water to the roots while only losing minimal amounts elsewhere, we are also planning to implement a drop irrigation system in the next few weeks in one part of the garden to test it out.
  • Hopefully while we are teaching, this can inspire them on low-cost, low technology ways to start their own small gardens where they live, thus improving the nutrition of their whole family in a long-term and sustainable fashion.

Problems and hurdles we might encounter

  • From what others have told us, the nationals are not a fan of drip irrigation systems. They think if you can't see the wet ground, it is too dry and won't work. The part of educating them on wet roots, dry top might be a tough battle.
  • We have 4 or 5 users who want to be a part of the garden project so far, and they come from 3 different tribal groups. This can create its own hierarchy, stress and cultural head-butting
  • We are late in the season to plant - but we think that's not a problem since we have enough water and the season is stable for months to come. We are determined to prove them wrong in this!
  • Theft from others, especially during the night. We built a substantial fence, but poverty and hunger are strong forces
  • Giving away. hard to get a handle on this one. One guard asked what he should do if we had good food growing and people came up and asked for it. For us it would seem easy I guess in our culture to say No , but they live in community and you always give to the one who has greater need. They would have a hard time ever saying no and thus the veggies would dwindle fast and they wouldn't benefit as much if they were spread over many people.
  • Division of labour/reward. Again, this is a hard one where our culture and theirs see differently. We understand justice in a different light. We think that he who does the most work should benefit the most. We think he who plants, waters and works hard should gain according to that work. If someone else rarely comes, never waters and lounges around, why should they get the most? Their culture is based on need and community and likely they will share equally or just give it away. Do we even want to change this? How do we make sure the benefit goes to the intended people and not spread out (and thus diffusing any real impact) to everyone and their goat.

So that is the garden project. Thank you for those of you who sponsor our work. We hope it is projects like these that will teach and improve the health of the people we work with. And if this project goes well, we might see it in a larger scale in a village next year! And as an update on our own garden behind the house- we have homegrown tomatoes and homegrown sweet potatoes tonight at supper!

Here is Bennett helping me plant tomatoes!


New Years Day

On New Years Day we had a wonderful town going to the big sand dunes out of town with our good friends the 5 Nomads.

Scenery at the Dunes

Sanddunes-Jan 1

We had a wonderful time playing in the thick sand. The kids went to the top of the dunes and tried to sled down! The soft sand traps the sled with the weight of an adult, but our friend's teen's had more luck! The climb back up the dune is REALLY steep and poor Bennett and his little legs couldn't make it without me half carrying him. A good workout for us both! Arielle chose to stay at base camp and blow bubbles with her little friend instead.


Then we started a fire under a little tree (in its shade - not actually setting the tree on fire!) and had a good old fashioned cookout with chicken hot dogs, potato salad, chips,etc.) The sun went down around us for some gorgeous photos and we chatted away.


Beth was such a good sport. Who else would be a new friend and let me take pictures of their face close up from 10 inches away? The is my eyebrow model ;) While we were talking I noticed I was getting cool reflections through her sunglasses so I asked her not to move and started snapping away while we talked. Here is the result Beth !


When it was good and Dark the 5 Nomads set off a few bottle rocket fire crackers into the night sky around us and we packed up.

When we left, we took the dry riverbed route out , and in some parts the sand was REALLY deep. Our friends, who drive a Toyota Hilux, got stuck three times. (Check out below how deep the sand was at times, swallowing half the tires!


We backed in and pulled them out and to harder ground every time without getting stuck ourselves. The African guide with us was duly impressed with our vehicle and said -That's not a truck-that's an Elephant! Meaning nothing can stop us! I didn't get any actual photos of us pulling them out. It was dark and I was too busy helping push their truck.

While we were out there I set up my Panoramic tripod head and took series of shots in different light. Here is my handsome technie/roadie setting up the gear.


Me in action (while Paul has my small camera).


One of the final results in a series. (8 separate photos to make this one). Sorry you can't really get the effect here on a blog. In reality it is 10 feet long full size :)

2nd panoramaworking

A stinky situation:

We had some major repairs to do to our septic tanks outside our house. They had been poorly built originally (less than a year ago) and were crumbling in. Not a good feeling when you wonder if your truck (they are under the driveway of sand) is going to fall into your septic tank! We did major excavation (all by hand of course!) and rebuilt the tops of 4 tanks. Smelly work!



Well, that's all for now. Maybe next time I'll let you in on the latest in the fight to learn Tamasheq! Take care!

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I'm always inspired, amazed and excited when I read your entries. I find it difficult at times to imagine you're so far away - yet I feel most times I'm really there with you guys...THank you for keeping us updated on your definitely draws one closer to your circumstances and needs. Love you - heather