American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU)

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe.
Sep 27, 2011

Iron sharpens iron

The dead peppers
The dead peppers

Shalom!

I am writing this from Jerusalem as Sari and Nuria and I have just arrived yesterday from Zambia to Israel. We are looking forward to re-gathering strength after a long 8 months in the field. Since the last update, many new challenges as well as exciting developments have taken place. For one, many of the pepper plants that we lost to the frost have actually re-germinated, and are doing quite well in the field.  Through the painful process of watching the peppers die, we have seen how important it is to believe with the community despite setbacks, and to never give up. We continue to believe that even as we are leaving, the project will continue to take root not only in the soil, but also in the hearts of those who are involved.  The church members, who have partnered with us in many ways, encouraged us when we wanted to give up. One pastor from Zimba, a nearby town, led a prayer for the garden with the church:

"Your word, my Father God, you said in your word," in ALL these things we are more than conquerors." The Bible says, “in All these things.” In every problem, in every situation, your word says, “in All these things.” So thank you my Father God in the name of Jesus for the seeds, and therefore, we thank you that you are the God of weather, you are the God of seasons, and we thank you that remain the same, and your word remains the same. You are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and we thank you for that weather, but still my Father God, you revive things, you bring things new...So therefore now, in the name of Jesus Christ, you who lives in us, Father we pray that Lord you revive, you revive, you make those seeds germinate once more in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again."

By seeing their faith, our faith was encouraged.

I have spent most of the time choosing and training local project leaders to take over the work. The main job titles are:

1) Project Supervisor
2) BioSand Filter Construction Team (2)
3) Well Driller
4) Garden Managers (3)
5) Agricultural Supervisor
6) Night Watchmen (2)
7) Administration

As I write, these staff members are operating every aspect of the project, and sending me weekly updates.

Despite the support of such a large staff, I would say 4 main challenges remain:

1) It has been difficult to find faithful workers to come to the garden, as it requires more commitments for full cost recovery, and it is a very small church membership. We have invited other non-church members to join, and it appears that there is certainly enthusiasm for the program not far from home. More importantly however, the vision of empowerment is not easily grasped, especially in a culture normalized to aid through even generations of the "charity mindset" that reaches almost every sector of the community, from cattle dipping tanks to water services. It is hard for individuals to work toward a common good unless there is some specific reward for them. That is why I am promoting household water improvements within the financing structure for the community gardens - people can choose to work for a treadle pump, a water filter or a hand-drilled well while at the same time generating revenue to pay for a new or improved COMMUNITY water source.

2) Despite being paid in April, Zesco, the electricity utility, still has not installed power to the Sibunimba Village garden, causing us to rely on a diesel generator which costs $100 in fuel per week for watering the garden.

3) While many of the peppers survived, many did not, so we replanted those empty spaces with various tomato varieties.

Also in Sibunimba and Simakalanga, we have planted various vegetables including:
Squash, Beetroot, Peppers, Tomatos, Cabbage, Onion

4) Connecting with the markets in order to sell these vegetables, generate revenue, and pay back these water investments has been slow. Like any start-up business, the first stage is exploratory and often the riskiest. We are investigating every market possible including both hotels and agricultural cooperatives.

This has been a tremendous learning experience for myself, as well as for others involved. At this point, I am not sure if or when I will be going back to Zambia. It largely depends on the academic requirements and schedule as I finish the PhD by October 2012. But the project will continue to grow. As time goes by, I see this project less as a research program, and more as a start-up, socially-minded business model. As such, I can appeal more to investors than to philanthropists, and hope to see this eventually grow into a regional tool for development and both community and household empowerment. But the fledgling program needs more support, especially now that I have left, and due to the above challenges.

That is why I am closing by asking you to consider investing in these communities by either a one-time or ongoing donation, or by sharing this project on Facebook or other social media. The project needs to raise another $10,000 by December in order to bridge the gap between operation costs and the slowly growing revenue. Sari and I have invested our past year in a very direct way, and have also contributed $700 when funding became low recently. I believe that as the gardens grow and households begin to improve their lives, more and more members of the communities will catch the vision.

When Nehemiah was re-building the walls of Jerusalem, he said,

"Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses."

These challenges, too, will be overcome even as these households learn to fight with the weapons with which they have been entrusted.

God bless,
Adam, Sari and Nuria (with #2 on the way!)

Slowly coming back to life
Slowly coming back to life
Alive!
Alive!
Seeding beetroot and squash in Sibunimba
Seeding beetroot and squash in Sibunimba
Sibunimba Village garden
Sibunimba Village garden
Our squash for sale in Livingstone
Our squash for sale in Livingstone
Training staff
Training staff
Another Hand-drilling approach
Another Hand-drilling approach
Saying Goodbye,,, for now
Saying Goodbye,,, for now
Jun 29, 2011

Many steps forward, a few steps back

Miyanda - the local soil science graduate
Miyanda - the local soil science graduate

Hello again!

We have made many exciting steps in realizing the dream of empowering local communities to finance their own water improvements through irrigation. Currently, three community gardens are now under way to help residents finance various water improvements. This is best summarized by downloading a PowerPoint presentation on the project blog (see link below).

Unfortunately, there was just last week a surprisingly extreme frost that killed the 15,000 pepper plants that were planted at the first garden. This is discouraging for all of us, including the community, but we are determined to re-plant and continue the efforts.

We have started to implement the BioSand Water Filter program, and have all of the materials now to construct them in Simango.

We are also ready to begin drilling wells by hand with a drilling kit from Water4, and hope to begin that soon.

We have surveyed over 150 residents and are interested in how they make choices regarding water improvements, including several alternative financing approaches which are in fact a central part of the research program.

Thank you again for your support of this project. The community is beginning to see the vision, and getting more and more behind the work.

We also say thank you to Tom and Moriah for their help in getting things started, and welcome Miyanda Moombe, a soil science graduate from the University of Zambia who is helping with the agricultural experiment, and with other agronomic issues.

Thanks again,

Adam, Sari and Nuria

The experimental plot
The experimental plot
Sibunimba Village preparing the field
Sibunimba Village preparing the field
Simakalanga Dam - the site of Garden #3
Simakalanga Dam - the site of Garden #3
Fond memories of our peppers
Fond memories of our peppers
Stepping back and watching the community work
Stepping back and watching the community work

Links:

Mar 23, 2011

Testing the Waters

Removing a hand pump in Simango
Removing a hand pump in Simango

Ma puna buti!

Thanks for your support.

We have been in Zambia since January 20, over 2 months, and have been busy getting things in order in Simango. The major accomplishments so far:

1) We have received over 40 Family Drip Irrigation Systems from Netafim, Israel's leading irrigation company. These will be used in 3 half-hectare community irrigation schemes currently being organized in Simango Center and the neighboring Sibunimba Village. Each of these schemes will allow about 50 households to earn income in order to finance their own water service improvements. We hope to reach about 150 households directly through the community irrigation schemes, and another 100 through promoting household irrigation packages. In addition, we are constructing a nursery in order to plant half-hectare of bell pepper seedlings.

2) We have identified a market for the vegetable produce for this year: City Fruit & Vegetables of Lusaka. Each week starting in June, they will buy half a ton of bell peppers, half a ton of zucchini, and up to one ton of beet root from these irrigation schemes. This should provide enough income to recover the costs of both the irrigation equipment and other water service improvements over 2 years.

3) We have finished writing surveys to be conducted in the coming weeks in order to find out what people in this area value with regard to water improvements, and how they prefer to pay for those improvements. Over 175 questions have been translated into Toca Leya, the local dialect. These surveys will be used to plan the irrigation and loan program, which we hope to begin next month.

4) We have conducted several pumping tests on local boreholes and the results are encouraging. It looks like there will be enough water at each of 3 boreholes to irrigate half of a hectare as well as provide domestic water for the surrounding households.

5) We have ordered a mold for making BioSand filters, which are a low-cost approach of purifying water that can be made locally with minimal capital expenses.

6) We have ordered a manual Well-drilling kit from Water4, a water organization based in the USA. This should arrive next week and we hope it will allow us to drill low-cost wells for households in the area.

7) We are all healthy! Thanks for all of your prayers :)

8) We are deepening relationships with the locals here, and are encouraged by the enthusiasm that they are showing about the upcoming water and irrigation program.

Conducting a pumping test
Conducting a pumping test
The plowed field, nursery and water tanks
The plowed field, nursery and water tanks
Installing 4 field lysimeters for research
Installing 4 field lysimeters for research
Enjoying the abundant water
Enjoying the abundant water

Links: