My job is to help develop capacity for my Farmer’s Association. My secondary job is to help with community development. My third job is to work on environmental education with the community and more importantly school groups. Wow that seems to be a huge set of goals. In reality they are, but more importantly it is really difficult to define how to achieve these goals. When you wander around the community uncertain as to what your real “job” is, it is time to think of projects! I am very good at projects. I am so good at them that most of my days are either filled with doing projects, talking about them or planning them. I have had two days of potato box building, a day of showing how to blend the compost and manure to apply to the potato box, two biochar burns and two days of herb spiral building. Today is the my third day of herb spiral building.
There is much guilt in feeling useless, so then desperation sets in. Desperation is the most wonderful ally a PCV can have. It puts you in the position to desire to do something, anything! Fortunately for me, the farmers and students I have been working with are excited to see an experimental farming technique. Considering my education and passion is sustainable urban agriculture, how does that spill out into large-scale farming? It doesn’t exactly, what it does is spark an idea in a farmer, who thinks that I am not utilizing my space properly, or that I am to stuck on my design. Good for them. The goal is not to make them dependent on me, but to help them find their own strengths. This is an amazing thing to see. Imagine telling American school children that we will be planting herbs in a bottle and then nailing them to a few sticks to hold them up while they grow. Most kids would be like, no it is not pretty, younger kids would be fine but high school kids not so much. Even here my supervisor wanted me to paint the stand and the bottles. I told him “no, I want people to see how it was made and to know that it took very little materials. ” It seems that by hiding the basics you lose the idea. As it stood, yesterday an interviewer asked me about it, and I explained how it worked and the ideology behind it. Then I realized that right on top the farm group had displayed a “hemp” plant in a larger bottle. I looked at the interviewer and informed him that was not actually part of the project, but was just sitting there.
Here in Jamaica if you mention herbs they automatically think marijuana. I keep explaining that where I am from herbs mean fresh green plants used to season food. Oh the craziness of trying to explain a herb spiral. I really wish I had another name for it. In the end, people are genuinely interested in the projects that I have come up with. More importantly they have started requesting certain things. Things like: solar dehydrator, grow boxes, soap making, herb drying and composting. Soon I will try to work up a demonstration garden and building up soil while saving water. But these are future projects, I cannot do all my ideas in one month, what will I do for the next two years when I am feeling lost if I do everything now? I currently need to set up a new potato box building project, and have the farmers design their own ideas. This is really how things should proceed, but the outcome is that I feel useful, they feel empowered and the kids are getting included, so it is ultimately a win!