“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3
Throughout our region, many families rely on a diet of white rice or tho, a flour-based staple, served with vegetable sauce. While the sauce provides nutrients, the rice and tho are of less nutritional value, losing much of their substance in post-harvesting production.
One way to foster a more balanced nutritional intake is to integrate whole grain rice into the diet. However, widespread adoption of this method by producers and consumers is unlikely to be sustained at this point, as brown rice is not yet popular in our area. While this is something to work towards in the long run, it does not provide a short-term solution.
Another approach is to work from the basis of what is already in place. What if, instead of changing the staple diet, we could radically transform it by the addition of a single ingredient? And what if that ingredient could be locally sourced and universally available?
Enter the Moringa tree. Known as Moringa oleifera by scientists, Drumstick Tree by Indians, Benzolive Tree by Haitians, and “Mother’s best friend” by mothers in the Philipines, this single tree has been known to boost the health of entire communities. At ODD, we want our area to be one of them.
In our experimentation field maintained by the agricultural students, we have two plots devoted solely to the propagation and harvesting of moringa. The trees are seeded in our greenhouse and eventually transplanted to the fields, where they grow rapidly. Left on their own, moringa trees have been known to reach up to 4 m (15 ft) in a year. Before they grow this high, we prune them into shrub form and harvest the leaves in continual cycles. This intensive cultivation transforms our moringa into a “perennial-vegetable,” producing year-round, high quantity leaf yields. Once dried and crushed, the leaf powder is sold to the community as an affordable dietary supplement.
Especially rich in Calcium and Vitamin A, moringa powder can be added to food or beverages to boost nutritional value. Because the leaves’ nutrient content decreases with heat, all meals should be cooked prior to addition of the powder. The following table from ECHO Global Farms shows the value of moringa powder based on FAO/WHO’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA):
Moringa powder is made by drying leaves in a dark environment, crushing them into powder, and sifting the final product to eliminate remaining stems. Surplus powder can be stored, as long as containers are airtight, dark, dry, and kept below 24°C (75 °F). One hardship of producing powder year-round is that our dry storage areas, such as screened-in porches, often reach maximum capacity before all leaves have been dried. Thus, during rainy season, we have had to cease production despite having an abundance of leaves ready for harvest.
Since beginning production this year, we have sold about five kilos of moringa powder each month. We hope to continue refining our process and providing more powder in the months to come. Feedback from customers has been positive, and we are pleased with how well the trees are producing.
Note: The source of much information in this article is a technical note by ECHO Global Farms. To learn more about ECHO, click here.
The main road that connects Mahadaga with neighboring towns faces regular beating during rainy season, often resulting in treacherous travel conditions. While the government has aided in previous repair efforts, there has been no sign of official intervention for the past few years. In the spring of 2016, ODD began facilitating community road repair.
Our first work days took place in May before rainy season. Several hundred people were involved, including the chief of Mahadaga and the chief of Nampounsiga, who came out to see the completion of the project. The intended repairs were successfully carried out, and we were blessed to take part in the experience! Sadly, the torrential August downpours have since had their way, eroding most of our work.
At one neighboring town, Nampounkori, a concrete spillway was hit especially hard as rains compounded the effects of runoff water from the cliffs. Constant erosion of the surrounding road rendered the bridge virtually impassable, leaving travellers with the decision to turn back or risk damaging their moto, bicycle, donkey cart, etc. Our own truck did not escape damage along this road as we hauled it to and from Ouagadougou. We knew something needed to be done before the path washed away entirely or caused more significant damage.
On August 23rd, ODD staff arrived at the site around 7:30 AM to begin road repairs on both sides of the spillway. Unfortunately, a rainstorm claimed the morning before we could make much progress. When rainy season is in full swing, even a short downpour can turn trickling streams into forcible currents. The pictures below show the entrance to the spillway at Nampounkori shortly after the storm.
Thankfully, we had a great community turnout when the rain ended and work restarted around 3:00. Dozens of people from Nampounkori came out to help! With all hands on deck, we divided up tasks and began work on both ends of the spillway. Since one side was particularly damaged, we focused most efforts there. Our goal was to fill in craters, reinforce the road’s edge, and raise the ground level to ensure the concrete spillway was the lowest point for drainage.
The first step was to build a retaining wall that would be less susceptible to erosion than loose dirt. To do this, we doubled up grain sacks and filled them with soil from the surrounding area. After sewing them shut, we stacked them in a line along the road’s edge leading up to the spillway. We then added another row of sacks aside the first and a second layer atop this base, creating a sturdy berm above water level.
To keep rain water from flowing directly across the road during storms, we dug a trench parallel to the road on the same side of the sack berm. Where the berm ended, the trench began — continuing about ten feet past the spillway.
On the other side of the road (same side of the spillway), storm water rushing over the edge had formed craters that ranged from 3 to 8 feet deep. We used dirt from the resulting peninsulas to fill more sacks and lay them along the road’s intended border. After the border was established, we filled in the road space with rocks and loose dirt. Once a layer was level, another line of sacks was laid on the first, overlapping by about 10 inches. Stepping up sacks in this way and filling the remaining space with soil and rocks, we continued until the new road was level with the old one.
Once finished, we patched areas where uneven rock arrangements created dips in the road. To alert drivers of the road’s edge and prevent damage to the sacks, we inserted Neem branches every few feet along either side of the road.
The complete process took two days of work, dozens of workers, and over 100 sacks of soil. We were blessed to work with the people of Nampounkori and to accomplish a task for the good of the whole community. Please pray that the repairs will hold and provide a lasting solution for travellers along the route. Meanwhile, the other side of the bridge is still in need of repair, as are other sections of the road. We need prayers for continued safety and resilience as repair efforts continue.
There is never a shortage of adventure during rainy season!
ODD is working with the mayor’s office in Logobou to install small FM radio stations in the villages of Mahadaga and Logobou. These radio stations would primarily be used for sharing community announcements and information but the radio station in Mahadaga would also share the gospel.
We are looking for a couple of technical people to help us with some of the initial research. We do not know what the current options are, how much things costs, what kind of equipment we need exactly, etc. We need some people to figure out what are the important questions and design specs that we should consider when making our choice.
Any help is appreciated and you won’t be responsible for our final decision. We are looking to figure out things like what is the minimum amount of equipment necessary? Do they sell pre-fabricated units or all-in-one boxes for radio broadcasts or do we need to get several individual pieces and connect them together. Are there certain price points where the price or quality jump significantly? Is there a “standard” kit that is used by missions or in developing countries for rural radio broadcasts?
If you are interested in helping, please contact me for more details: email@example.com
As local land becomes less and less able to support crops because of unsustainable farming practices, lack of rain, and land erosion the people of Mahadaga are farming fields much further away from their compounds than is desirable. This creates a need for local gardens for women who have responsibilities at home to allow them to also, provide food for their families.
ODD recently was offered a plot of land by some locals. Currently ODD is going through all the necessary steps in paying the land taxes and has clarified with the previous owners the land boundaries. New fencing has been installed around the 2.8 hectar plot. The fencing not only clarifies land boundaries, but more importantly protects the crops from grazing animals. This first year, Cassava also called Manioc (similar to a potato but long and cylindrical) is being planted. Cassava takes about thirteen months to mature and is harvested during the next sowing season. Because Cassava is a deeper root, ODD is planting a white bean over the top of the Cassava. These beans have a good leaf cover that spreads over the surface of the ground, providing shading and reducing the moisture loss of the soil. The beans also are nitrogen enriching to provide more fertile soil for the coming years.
In the future, the purpose of this land is to be divided up into small 25 by 25 meter garden plots for local women who do not have land to garden nearby their homes, allowing them opportunities to better provide for their families. Each garden will have its own water spigot, through branch lines from the Village Water System. There will also be a small gardening outpost that will sell tools and farming supplies including agricultural inputs (Bokashi, compost, etc.) and a farmers market where the produce can be sold. The vision is that this land would be a gardening complex for the surrounding community - providing local space for those with limited nearby access to land, sharing new techniques and resources, and revealing the love of God through caring for our neighbors.
A small-scale well is a shallow and less expensive well, typically around 40 ft deep; deep wells are typically around 150 ft deep. The water from a shallow well is not as clean as the water from deep wells, but the shallow wells provides accessible water for households where the equipment and resources needed to dig a deep well is expensive and/or not found locally. The shallow wells are priced low enough for families /compounds/ neighborhoods to afford, enabling them to have access to water closer to their homes. Some are even built in the middle of a compound.
Traditionally, these shallow wells are large open pits with a stone or concrete wall. The open-hole structure is both unsanitary and unsafe because the open design exposes the well for debris to fall into, and sometimes people (especially children) as they pull up the water.
ODD has partnered with The Collaboratory at Messiah College to design a hand-dug auguring system with a pump instead of an open hole. The drilling method (auguring) makes it more affordable and possible for residents of Mahadaga to order a well, and the pump closes the well, solving the sanitation and safety issues mentioned earlier. These wells are priced comparatively with the existing design for shallow wells, while offering a cleaner and safer alternative. Brendon Earl, a Short Term Associate (STA) during 2011-2012, trained three men how to use the equipment and to set up the well drilling as an enterprise. Since he left, these men (Bouba, Ali, and Tiabli) have continued to drill wells for the clients in the region. Not only does this offer a needed service, but it also provides good jobs for several men.
This past May, Brendon returned to Mahadaga with another design. This design is intended to relieve the physical strain on the driller's bodies. As the augur system is manually powered, it takes significant labor force to work on a well. This new design is mechanically assisted and greatly reduces the stress on the body while remaining a cost effective and simple machine to set up and operate. It also uses a percussion technique rather than auguring. There are different bits designed for various soil types. These bits are attached to the rope and are pulled up and dropped down repeatedly from a tripod to dig the bore hole. The tripod has a gas engine connected to a transmission and then to a capstan. The capstan rotates and the rope wraps around it when the operator pulls and creates tension.
For two weeks, Brendon worked with Diada (a local welder) to construct the new equipment and also worked with Peter Haugh, an STA from Cedarville University, to teach him the new design. Now Peter is continuing to work with the well drilling team to test the equipment after Brendon has left. There are also a few members of the well drilling team from Messiah College Collaboratory here currently. They are also taking time to better understand the auger and percussion methods.
Right now, the new method is in a prototype stage. The students and STAs are collecting data to see how it performs in different conditions such as varying soil types and water levels. We have a testing location in the fields behind the station where the team has practiced drilling. As of this past week, they reached water! Now they will take the tripod to a well they started earlier and continue drilling with the new equipment. Ali, the team member trained on it the most so far, is optimistic about the equipment and likes to work with it.
The system is simple enough to operate that it takes only about 10 minutes to understand how to use it. One potential issue is the clip used to hold the bit and rope. There is a lot of pressure on the clip and it may need to be replaced with a better clip or may require an edited design. The rest of the equipment seems to be handling the pressure of drilling well. From here forward, the engineering and design goals will be to make it more efficient, structurally sound, and sustainable to maintain or replace.
The old auguring system works efficiently for up to 10meters (approximately 30 feet) but then is very slow; as the depth increases, the amount of work and time it takes to raise and lower the bit increases substantially. The percussion method works at a more steady rate, even at greater depths. Because of this, part of the experimenting and testing will also involve exploring operations. It may be better to change the drilling teams from working on separate wells with different sets of equipment, to the set up the teams to have one team start with auguring and then another team follow after with the percussion method. We will be working with the drillers to explore and suggest the best way to implement the new equipment.
It's Mid May, and there have been steady rains in Mahadaga since the end of April. This is unusual, as the rainy season does not usually start until June. Last year there was a time of early rain. The farmers planted their crops only to have a period of no rain follow shortly after, damaging the crops. So it is with caution that the farmers are trying to decide when to plant this year, and so far the rain is staying consistent.
We've had an accidental crop of rice this year in our demonstration field. The rice husk we used to cover the ground ended up planting the field with rice without anyone actually sowing the seeds! The results are such that even where the workers left a trail of rice husk from moving it, there rice is growing, within an otherwise empty field. ODD plans to continue looking in to this happy accident to see if it can be a reliable way to plant rice, and even more, a way to plant at harvest! (It can be difficult for farmers to be able to save money from harvest to buy fertilizer and seeds at planting time, so to plant during harvest season could be very beneficial.) Otherwise, if rice is not desired, there is also the option of still using it as a field cover and then letting pigs or other animals on the field to eat the rice, leaving natural fertilizer on the field as they clear it. It's a new idea to think over.
We also just started the Foundation For Farming training. (You can find out more about FFF on their website.) There are 5 churches participating this season and possibly a public high school as well. Our first church demonstration was this past Monday, May 19. There was rain over night and into the morning, so we had a late start. After everyone was assembled, Matt started by talking to group about the method. He spoke in French, Sabine translated to Gourmanchema, and Diamoadi came to learn, as he will hopefully take over the training seminars. All present sat under a tree as Matt asked them whether they thought there needed to be change or if the traditional method was working. They agreed the traditional way needed to be improved, and so he went on to explain the FFF method. Some topics of discussion were possible income potential, the story of the man who started FFF, how FFF protects against the encroaching desert, the tools they need, and the attitudes needed to succeed: To work remembering that the earth belongs to God and to work spiritually and faithfully, to take this seriously and to work on their fields professionally, and to keep in mind if they want to continue struggling or if they want to have things be different for them.
The number of participants varied depending on the time- as people joined in throughout- but at one point there were 24 men, 21 women, and about another equal portion of children who were also around. (Not including those from ODD)
After explaining FFF, there was a demonstration at the local church. Beside the church was a fenced-in plot of land where Matt showed the technique and then the participants tried it for themselves. They were shown 2 styles: one for crops like corn that need more space for the seed and another style for crops like beans which are planted closer together. First the ground was dug just where the seeds would go, then compost was added, the loose ground was placed back in, and then the seed was planted in those prepared pockets. Finally, stalks and other organic matter was placed on top to catch rain water and nourish the soil. On the other side, the same crops were planted with the traditional method to compare side by side during the season.
Some of the main differences between the traditional method and FFF are:
1. No-til method. In FFF, the idea is to plant in the same pocket over the years and to allow the ground to build and keep a supportive structure. Tilling destroys these natural structures.
2. Compost. Compost is added but only used in each pocket, so it is not wasted where the seeds are not. This allows for more efficient use of limited resources.
3. Planting underground. The traditional method here involves making alternating miniature hills and valleys (as shown in last photo). They plant in the soft dirt of the "mini hills". This creates water pathways which can wash away their seeds and also takes the valuable top soil with it. Over years, fields actually sink lower and lower down as their ground is washed away. In FFF, the soft soil is kept underground and remains in place.
4. Adding organic matter above. Typically, after harvest farmers clear all plant matter and burn their fields. Here, a good field is considered to be a clean, bare field. This helps discourage scorpions (for the sake of the laborers) but also destroys the ground's nourishment, leaving nutrient-poor soil.
It is our hope that FFF becomes a tool to not only practically help farmers and protect the land, but that it can be a way to help the local churches engage and serve their communities. These seminars are taught at the churches and it is their responsibility to invite their community. Please pray that the participants would take what they learned to heart and apply it well, that the church members would do their part to invite people, and that the good news of Christ would also find good soil in the hearts of the people who hear it.
Or, as Matt Walsh says, "Lots of things are happening, and they're all happening at once."
On Wednesday, April 23rd, ODD sat down with key members of the community for a day-long brainstorming session. This not only was a time of discussion and clarification, but also a critical step in the continued development of ODD as an organization.
The beginning of ODD's first activities can be traced to side projects of Matt Walsh and Dale Johnson while they worked at the Center for the Advancement of the Handicapped (CAH). In 2011, Matt left the CAH to work on these projects, and so began ODD as a separate organization. That same year, Matt left Mahadaga for a home assignment which was extended for a total of 10 months. Some projects continued during his absence, and from 2011-2013 ODD mainly focused on technology experiments and a few projects. The end of 2013 into 2014 began the administrative phase of ODD. Now with a new office the return of our agricultural technician (previously worked on the CAH's survival gardens) and a newly-employed office administrator, ODD is moving from it's technology-and-project-focused startup phase into a more strategic, comprehensive, and organized phase. The meeting on Wednesday was a time to stop, reflect, and ask for input from the community before continuing this next season of ODD's activities.
There were eleven participants: Mambagari Lompo – Director of the SIM Mahadaga Medical Center, Ounteni Ouoba - Director of the SIM Center for the Advancement of the Handicapped, Diada Couldiati – Local Christian business man, Thomas Nadjimadji Tamdji – SIM human resources consultant, Ali Ledo – Fulani bible translator, Sabine Ouoba – ODD administrator, Diamouadi Lompo – ODD agricultural technician, Dianenli Lompo – Pastor of an EE/SIM church in Mahadaga, Alan Dixon – former SIM director and Leadership consultant, Andrew Betteridge - STA, and Matt Walsh- Director of ODD. These participants represented various key leaders or community partners who were able to provide a range of professional advice to "on-the-ground" perceptions of ODD and community needs. Their input was helpful to clarify or bring to attention expectations the community had of ODD, and provide ideas for future projects, hires, etc… ODD also had a chance to clarify its mission, organizational focus, and goals to them, and it was overall a good time of exchanging and sharing knowledge regarding development needs for our region. One repeated element from the meeting was a desire for ODD to provide more awareness and education for the community and not only technology or community projects.
There is another significant administrative development for ODD; his name is Thomas.
SIM Ouaga has graciously sent us a local Burkinabe man, Thomas Nadjimadji Tamdji, to stay in Mahadaga and work with ODD for the next month, and to continue acting as an occasional consultant. Thomas works with SIM Ouaga as a consultant regarding compliance documents and practices and also teaches English. He is to work with Sabine, helping her to create work contracts, job descriptions, and other essential HR documents in compliance with the labor laws of Burkina Faso. The structures and laws regarding organizations is overwhelming to navigate for someone who grew up outside of it, so we are very thankful to have Thomas to help us.
The timing for his input is a blessing, as ODD is in the process of planning how to manage the water distribution points and may also need to bring on more laborers, partners, and employees for future projects. With Thomas's help, we will be able to do so more sensitively to local expectations and language and with assurance that we are in compliance with Burkinabe laws.
Please pray for wisdom as ODD uses these recommendations to continue planning; pray for open doors, for vision, and for ODD to be able to see and help meet the real needs of the community, and that God would be glorified in and pleased with the work and the workers.
We have successfully pumped water up the cliffs and into the water tank! The retained water (approximately 8 in high) was used to clean the inside of the tank and then was drained. Meanwhile, we checked the line for failure points and potential problem areas and are working to reinforce them.
During, and possibly because of, the pumping, we may have fried a couple capacitors in the inverter. We need to take it apart and may need to replace some of the control boards. This means we then needed to take a few days and refocus from the pipes to the solar station in order to figure out how to maintain the energy required to start pumping again. The goal is to start pumping water through the pipes again tomorrow (Thursday, April 24) and continue pumping over the next few days until the water reaches the level of the tank's outlet pipe and slowly fills the pipes. We will then check the outflow pipes for failure points and continue connecting pipes along the backbone trench.
So far pipe was laid between the station and the water tank, and from the church-under-construction to past the handicap center. We back-filled the trenches where the pipes have already been tested and will continue back-filling as each section passes testing.
The main backbone has been completed! It took about 3 months for the community to complete the 4+ kilometers (2.5 miles) of trench that run parallel to the cliffs and to the village. This trench will hold the larger diameter pipe that will distribute water throughout the village. Now, individual neighborhoods will be working to connect their water access points and metered services to the main backbone. We have about 2 months before the rains will become consistent enough to make maintaining the trenches difficult before installing the pipes. We hope to be able to finish about half of the remaining 8km of trenches before June.
We have started the process of installing the pipes going up the cliff face. We are attaching pipe clamps to the cable tray system while also preparing the cliff surface for the installation of the horizontal sections. We will connect the water tank to the pump on the SIM mission station first. We will then fill the tank and pressure test all the connections back to the main distribution manhole. If there are no leaks than we will be able to refill the trenches that have the pipe. We will then proceed from manhole to manhole, installing pipe, testing and back filling as we go.