Friday, June 23, 2006

Projects (continued)

Experimental Demonstration Fields
Another project involving ICRISAT ( ). I will be testing 4 pearl millet cultivars, 3 new varieties and the local one, each in its own 10 meter by 10 meter plot. With the help of the government agriculture agent in my market town, Gidan Iddar, I will (hopefully) find farmers in my area who wish to participate. Together, we will submit our observations for scientific exploitation. The possible benefits to these varieties (openly pollinated, of course) are 1) a shorter cycle, 2) greater yield, 3) more disease resistance. Also, this field will give me the opportunity to practice making zai holes and demi lunes, two popular and simple techniques used to tranform hard pan soil into a magical, fertile, Sahelian wonderland.
A Pepiniere
"By and by the boldest stole out of his covert,
to see if time were there.
Nature was in her beryl apron,
mixing fresher air"  
-Emily Dickinson
I cannot exalt trees enough. Just like a picture says a thousand words, a tree solves a thousand problems. In what is quickly becoming desert, tree cultivation provides solutions to a multitude of problems facing Niger today such as the rapid wind and water erosion of arable land, lack of nutrients in the soil, the vitamin deficiency experienced by most of the population, and even just not enough shade.
The people here have an intimate relationship with their landscape and I'm nothing short of amazed when a four year old names the tree I'm pointing at and tells me its uses. Heading towards a bigger city last month, I asked my chief if I could bring him back anything from the city. He said trees. How lucky am I? Of all the things to want, he wants me to bring trees, grafted mango trees. So it's decided. I'm going to start a small scale tree nursery.
We will seed mangoes, ta'makka (moringa oleifera), date palms, and limes. The kids will help me fill the pot plastics with compost and sand and on August 3rd, Nigerien Independence Day, where the tradition is for every person to plant a tree, we will be able to distribute trees to everyone in Gidan Aduwa (my village). By the way, "aduwa" is the local name for Euphorbia Balsamiferous, a tree! That's the good news; the not so good news is that this tree produces a poisonous milk  that has been known to be used for criminal purposes. So the translation of the place I will call home for the next couple of years is "home of the poison milk tree".
If this is a success, we will think bigger at this time next year and maybe plant some gum Arabic (acacia Senegal). 90% of commercial gum Arabic comes from this tree, indigenous to the Sahel, and is used as an emulsion stabilizer in products ranging from (ironically) toothpaste to hard candies. 


Blogger Mike Sheppard said...


Here are some Peace Corps / Niger blogs that I have found. If you know of any others that I have missed please let me know. Thanks!

-Mike Sheppard
RPCV / The Gambia


2:37 AM  
Blogger MikeP said...


Nice work on reforesting your town - and with some edibles no less. Who would have thought you would end up a forester in Niger?

Thanks for what you are doing!

Mike Petersen

1:55 PM  
Blogger Stewart Maxson said...


I hadn't checked your blog in a while. The stuff you're doing sounds really interesting. Keep up the good work.

Stewart Maxson

11:31 AM  
Blogger deb said...

I would like to see pictures of the trees. How are they doing?

12:59 PM  
Blogger kandedela said...

This is an amazing blog to me! I was in Zinder 1986-88 at Forets et Faune, and my husband was in Belbeji. We were the two forestry volunteers in the area. We got married in 1988. Are there any volunteers in Forestry that we could correspond with? I was wondering about some of the staff at Forets et Faune, like Maman Sallisou, and my house in Zinder.

11:22 AM  

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