Oct 27, 2020

The Agronomists as Educators and Planners

The training session's in-the-field discussion
The training session's in-the-field discussion

A team of local agronomists have played an important role over the last couple of months as educators and planners for the garden project at NY DINA College.

First, as educators they facilitated a three-day intensive workshop to introduce new farming techniques to fifteen people from NY DINA. Over the three days a range of topics were covered from crop rotation, water management, plant care and soil management.  The workshop was comprised of hands-on activities as well as classroom discussions and served as an excellent launch for the next phase of the project. Overall the feedback was excellent, and the agronomists will continue to act as educators to the school team and students to ensure the long-term viability of the gardens.

Secondly, as planners the agronomists have now completed the overall plan based on the soil analysis they conducted. They have decided to bring all of items needed for the garden planting including the seeds, fertilizers and equipment to help the school save time trying to source the individual items themselves. While the agronomists wait for a few final items, the local project team dug out the trenches and pools which will aid with the collection of rainwater plus the holes for the new trees.  The project team was keen to complete the trenches and pools before the start of the rainy season in Madagascar, which is between November and the end of March, so that the water collection can start almost immediately.

One other item on the project list is also finished and that is the building of the designated compost area which in this picture series is the open-air building with the grass roof.

The time and expertise the agronomists provided is truly invaluable and their continued guidance will ensure the project continues on course to help the school reach their overall goal of becoming completely self-sustaining. 

To all of the donors around the world that have supported this project to date we want to say thank you.  Your contribution is having a tremendous impact not only on the school and students but their families and the greater community.

The argonomist facilitators classroom session
The argonomist facilitators classroom session
The facilitators and the school founder
The facilitators and the school founder
The garden plan courtesy the agronomists expertise
The garden plan courtesy the agronomists expertise
The trench digging and tree holes
The trench digging and tree holes
The compost area
The compost area
Sep 18, 2020

The School Is Reopened and Students are Back!

Mandatory Temperature Checks
Mandatory Temperature Checks

We are delighted to share that the Thai Child Development Foundation’s school for special needs students has reopened and is welcoming back students!

For the past 6+months, TCDF's social programs remained open but the non-emergency house visits and hospital visits were postponed due to the pandemic. With the area reopening, one of the biggest challenges lies in visiting all schools and village healthcare stations and reacting to their emergency needs. TCDF is expecting an increased demand for their medical care program and the home outreach programs.

One of the biggest obstacles moving forward for TCDF is the loss in revenue as their Ecologic resort for charity is closed and we will not have any visitors for at least a year. The revenue loss is two-fold: first the loss in sales of the farm produce due to closure of the restaurant and secondly the significant decrease in new small sponsors coming from visitors who have witnessed the power small donations can make and became part of the monthly Friends program.

What TCDF benefits from is low overhead costs and the proactive, flexible and creative approach they’ve adopted to meeting the challenges from the pandemic and accompanying Thai economic crisis. An example of this creativity is while the school was closed, the teachers changed jobs and worked in the garden every day! Composting and mulching the young trees, digging the water gutters, putting in water drips and making staircases for the students to easily walk uphill after the reopening of the school. The thousands of fruit trees are too young to bear fruit but the farm did provide the team with plenty of organic vegetables, fish and eggs. At the end of the day the produce would be sold at the gate to local people who ordered via Facebook. While this revenue stream doesn’t offset the losses from Ecologic, it certainly carried TCDF through the pandemic!

Now that the school is reopened, young adults with disabilities are able to return and continue their occupational training program. TCDF is currently tapping into new markets to sell all the produce the students work on every day. For 2020 the plan was to expand the occupational training programs in order to increase their local sustainability and create solid jobs for the young adults with disabilities. However, like so many others this years plan as well as 2021 is being revised to adapt to the changing global climate.

The water management system plans are also being revised to meet the new global reality as our key partner is unable to travel from Australia for the implementation. Fortunately our corporate partner has several suppliers with operations in Thailand that have stepped forward to fill the gap and help the project continue. After receiving special permission by local authorities to visit the region during the lockdown, a report was issued examining the planned project for viability and to problem solve two challenges regarding water storage.  Pending availability of the teams in Thailand and continued access to the region, planned implementation is for the upcoming dry season which will run into early 2021.  As the timeline is confirmed short project updates will be submitted to keep all of our donors updated.

While this year has been filled with many ups and downs, it has also made us even more grateful for our incredible network of supporters… the donors, volunteers and mentors. Thank you!

These photos are courtesy of TCDF in Thailand.

Workgroups are 5 to 6 Students
Workgroups are 5 to 6 Students
All Precautions Have Been Taken for Entry to TCDF
All Precautions Have Been Taken for Entry to TCDF
Aug 26, 2020

Preparing for the New School Year in Madagascar

NY DINA and the New Wall
NY DINA and the New Wall

October will see the end of the summer school break in Madagascar and schools around the country are scheduled to reopen.  For NY DINA, they will be welcoming back 150 children... full capacity!

While the students have been on their annual break, the team has been working on phase one of the school project which is building a wall around the school’s perimeter. The goal is to have the wall finished by the October reopening and they are on schedule to do so as they are currently finishing the gate. Completing the wall will be an important achieved milestone as it will ensure the security of the property from animals and thus give the gardens a chance to grow.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the project leaders took some time to re-evaluate their original priorities and determined that in the new reality setting up the permaculture project as phase two would be the most beneficial because it will:

  1. Provide fresh produce for the children’s school meals;
  2. Create a revenue stream by selling the extra produce in the local market to pay the teachers’ salaries;
  3. Support the development of the greater community. 

The school gardens will give students a chance to learn new and effective farming methods and have a “hands-on lab” to put into practice what they learn.  In return, the students will be able implement these new techniques, as well as share their new knowledge, back home.  By increasing the family’s farming production and income the parents will be in a position to continue to send their children to school.

Another benefit from the re-evaluated strategy is that the garden compost will help regenerate the soil which has seen a depletion in recent years of much needed nutrients that will be required for long term soil health.

Under the new strategy, the chicken and egg production will be scaled back and will focus solely on feeding the school children.

We’re also very excited the share the details on a new initiative for NY DINA when they reopen in the autumn. Several young Malagasy from different fields of work have agreed to come to the school to meet the students as well as plant some trees around the school. Meeting young active Malagasy is a powerful form of mentorship that will open the children's minds to what is possible, inspire them to continue their studies and bring hope. 

A Different View of the New Wall
A Different View of the New Wall
Another View
Another View
Working in Madagascar's Summer Heat
Working in Madagascar's Summer Heat
Thank You for Your Ongoing Support
Thank You for Your Ongoing Support
 
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