Thursday, November 10, 2011

On to Liberia

On Friday, November 11, I will be departing Ghana for Liberia, along with Rick Slager, who has been working with Hopeline Institute for the past two weeks.  We will be joined there by Dr. Todd DeKryger, who works as a senior scientist with Nestle in Fremont, MI, and specializes in many agronomy fields, especially pest management.  We will be spending our time visiting farms, conducting workshops for farmers, and working on LEAD's research farm.  (For more information on the research farm, please visit  There are some exciting things happening there!)  In addition, I will be performing audits on the various LEAD county offices, checking in with staff and interns, working with LEAD's board on strategic planning for 2012, and visiting some old friends in Thinkers Village.

This week has been one of careful monitoring of the situation in Liberia, with the run-off election on Tuesday.  On Monday there was a large protest which broke down into some violence, but election day did proceed peacefully.  There was a very low turnout of around 37% (the turn-out for the first round was just over 70%).  Speculations are that the low turnout is because many people assumed President Sirleaf would win, however since her opposition decided to boycott the election, some people supporting Tubman decided not to turn out either.  They will be announcing the results in the next few days; early predictions have President Sirleaf at around 90% and Winston Tubman at 9%.

Introduction of farmers to the concept of hoop houses.
It is exciting to have Rick Slager here in Ghana and soon in Liberia again.  Rick leads the program called the Rural Empowerment Initiative (www.ruralempowermentinitiative), serving small holder farmers in West Africa, through Partners Worldwide.  The focus of this trip to Ghana was to visit the agricultural members of Hopeline, to see the challenges facing the farmers, to get a sense of the market demand, and to work alongside several farmers in erecting a hoophouse next to the Hopeline office.  This hoophouse will be used for demonstrating the effectiveness of this structure in tripling yield, as well as reducing the need for pesticides, chemicals, and herbicides.
Mosquito netting provides ventilation and bug protection.

Nicholas (right), farmer & owner of hoophouse.
I have included some pictures of the building of the hoophouse - this particular one was build for about $800 US, with all materials being found in country. This hoophouse will be "sold" to one of Hopeline's members, Nicholas, who will be using it for growing tomatoes.  We expect that his loan will be able to be paid off in 120 days (after one harvest), even though the Nicholas will be given a year to pay it back.   Hoophouses are great because they help to control the amount of water a plant gets, as well as the way in which the water comes; it protects from the sun, allowing in the rays that are good for the plant and keeping out the UV rays; the hoophouse is lined along the bottom and on both ends with mosquito netting which is buried into the ground, which helps to keep out many pests; there is a drip irrigation system that delivers the appropriate amount of water to the root of the plant, which can also be hooked up to a fertilizer drip to make sure that each plant gets enough fertilizer.  Nicholas will be mentored by Rick as well as Cynthia, the SME coordinator for Hopeline.  We hope to be able to prove the effectiveness of this in the next year and improve on local resources to make this even more affordable for farmers.

Rick and the construction crew - a job well done!