Saturday, May 06, 2006

and now for something completely different

As the story always goes, I had this long letter typed up to send, and
we lost power. So here is a shorter version.
So exciting part of my month…making a carrot cake with carrots that I
grew myself. From scratch without an oven. And to take it a step
further…I even grew the carrots with compost that I made myself. So
Martha stewart go back to jail..we don't need ya here!

A little house cleaning…note address change:
Jane LeGrand-Peace Corps
Mafinga, TANZANIA, East Africa

Hopefully this will make things less confusing for the post office. I
would dare say a fool proof system, but I will refrain from making
comments on the fool status of the Tanzanian postal service.

Next. Peace Corps has starting allowing blog sites like this one from
volunteers…that me, always by the rules! But I need to say…hemhem:
Now I am legal. I am glad, living on the fly was stressful.

So briefly on what I have been up to. Kazi. I am the proud mama of 15
new piglets. I think I already explained the process of my pig grant
in a previous post (perhaps aprils). But the grant is now approved and
I am now working on what could be the highlight of my peace corps
experience. Due to time shortage, I will just take a bit of grant
write up to explain. This grant also has been approved.
This project started off as a small endeavor to introduce people to
new vegetables. At the beginning of the year, I established a
demonstration garden at my home. People came by and asked about the
different vegetables that were growing well such as cucumbers,
watermelons, carrots, and a variety of leafy greens. The previous
volunteer in my site had done a project on vegetable diversification
and I had assumed that people within the village would be at least
familiar with these vegetables. However, that is not what I was
observing. Many of the women would look at my cucumbers and ask what
they were and how to cook them. In response, I started showing
individual women at my home how to prepare and cook these different
The problem with most vegetable diversification projects is that many
villagers do not know how to prepare and cook these vegetables once
they are grown. There is also an element of pride among the women
where they do not want to confess this ignorance. While they do not
mind acknowledging it amongst themselves, they seem reluctant to admit
it to me. Therefore, to reach a greater number of villagers in their
comfort zone, I took my cooking to the streets, or in this case, the
kilabuni. Or where people hang out and drink.
The first experiment involved a large pot of kachumbali. This is
something that many of the women make already but includes a
combination of tomatoes, onions, and sometimes cabbage. I took this
familiar food and added carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cabbage.
I then went to the local kilabu and set up a table where I had
containers of the separated ingredients and then a large quantity of
the more nutritious kachumbali. People were able to taste the
ingredients and I was able to explain its preparation. I was amazed at
how many people had never tasted cucumbers or even carrots before.
This was a huge success (I laughed so hard at some of the older
women's reluctance and facial expressions to the cucumber in
My hope is to conduct bi-monthly taste tests at various kilabus
throughout the village. I want to introduce different foods that
utilize ingredients able to be produced within the village, and
prepare them in ways that are familiar to villagers. For example, I
might introduce eggplant by combining it with leafy greens and
creating an improved mchuzi for ugali. By taking a local food and
adding a new material, people are more willing to attempt to prepare
it themselves.
The project will also include the introduction of seeds. I will buy
seeds from town in large quantities, bring them into the village, and
sell them by the spoonful. This helps subsidize the price of the seed
by avoiding the cost of individual transport to town. In addition,
many people are unable, or unwilling, to purchase large quantities of
seeds when they are unfamiliar with the vegetable and are unsure if
they will be able to successfully grow the new vegetable. By selling
the seed by the spoonful, there is very little lost investment if they
are not satisfied with the new plant. By buying large containers, I am
able to sell the seeds for Tsh100– Tsh200 per spoonful depending upon
the cost of the seed. Requiring villagers to purchase the seeds
creates incentive for people to take care of this investment. Also
giving a value to the seeds will encourage the harvesting and saving
of seeds for future plantings eliminating the need to continuously buy
So yeah..that is it…I have two more grants in the process…but these
will be asking for some financial support from my friends and loved
ones…as well as any stranger that might want to donate…but more on
that later.

So anywho..better jet back to village now..i have a couple of more
pictures I want to put up..but the network is running SLOW and I cant
get them loaded…hope all is well…send letters…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The outfit.... A very intersting choice for you Jane. Not your normal hippy attire. LOL! Anyway, your site is inspiring to me. I always update the girls at work. We loved the latest blog and pics.


12:23 PM  

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