Guest Post: Travis Silveus - Peace Corps Volunteer, Tanzania
Travis Silveus is a Peace Corps Volunteer who is extending for his 3rd year in Tanzania by working with ECHO East Africa. He did his two year work in Kijunguvillage, Kiteto, Manyara Region, and here he shares some honest experiences of that time.
"In my village, deforestation is a problem. If a tree doesn't produce edible fruit or look beautiful with showy flowers, it's usually on its way to becoming firewood. The two years I lived in Kijungu I saw the tree line slowly creep up the mountain behind my house as families would send girls to cut and collect tree branches. I talked with the environment group, a small group of concerned villagers, but our plans to start a tree nursery were put on the way side until the rains came and then eventually forgotten.
The villagers tried tree plantings at the secondary school and another tree nursery at the primary school as well. We had mixed results. The primary students were able to sprout a few seedlings but they were taken out by the goats after transplanting on the school grounds. The students at the secondary school were in charge of planting seedlings at the school. Most students worked hard for their seedlings but even still, the success rate was rather low with just over half surviving after the first month. The students became rather discouraged and not much was kept up.
However, my cohort from the environment group helped me hold a training on Moringa with materials provided by Strong Harvest. We discussed it's uses, management and pruning and passed out seeds to villagers. We had a good turn out at the sub village office, dispensary and school where we taught short lessons. The people were glad to hear about its nutritional benefits but the planting demonstrations we gave were unsuccessful in germinating. It was frustrating when even the group planting we did wasn't productive.
But, the work goes on. It takes the few involved and patient villagers to make the changes. Sure enough, a year after the initial training I had three people call me to come visit their houses. There I found a few lonely Moringa trees usually only one. They were already taller than me! I beamed when my friend showed me leaves he had dried and ground to use as a nutritional supplement in his diet. I came back to find another student from the secondary school who took care of her avocado seed we sprouted in class and had a nice seedling. She was excited to see the growth and was proud of her accomplishment. Changes usually come in small ways, in the few who grab hold to the practices, who are willing to fail, and in relationships built. Not much was improved in regards to tree management when I left Kijungu. But, I hope the few who got it before I left will continue to care, continue to plant and continue to lead."
Since joining ECHO, Travis has learned some new technologies such as the importance of using grafted avocados to get quality fruit in a short time, and the potential for FMNR to re-establish forest on denuded hills. He is planning to revisit Kijungu village later this year to share again some of his learning.