Monday, February 28, 2011

Packing complete and Barrelponics?

I leave for DC on Saturday March 5th, and I'm all packed up (thanks for the help mom)!

I really wanted to keep it to three bags, but my stuff kind of overflowed. Against strong warnings from current PCVs I packed more than "a few" books (about 10). I'm having too much fun with my guitar so that's a keeper. I have lots of spices, tea, nuts, dried fruit, and I'm waiting for to deliver a huge amount of Pretzel and Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms.
I'm also bringing a nifty solar charger to charge my mp3 player and to charge batteries. I really hope i can wheel this big bag around most of the time or I'm in trouble...

There may be a good amount of biking over there, but I've decided not to pack padded bike shorts or gloves. I think that may be overdoing it and I have to stop packing somewhere! Current PCVs working in agriculture (AGs) or environmental education (EEs) have to bike from village to village, usually 5-10 km away, over dirt roads, over sand, through grass and bush and rivers to speak to farmers about their crops and offer suggestions on improved farming technique, among other tasks. I am not going to be an AG or an EE, but rather a Water and Sanitation/Health Volunteer, so I may not have to bike as much. I really hope I don't regret not taking padded bike shorts...

I've been researching potential sustainable/easily replicable secondary projects to do. People do many fun things as their secondary projects such as beekeeping, raising chickens, building houses (just one guy pulled that off), etc. A few months ago I went to a party celebrating Jimi Hendrix. I sat on the couch because in my state it looked very comfortable and spoke to a girl named Amy for an hour or so. She told me about what she does in Colorado, something called Aquaponics. Aquaponics is a system for growing plants organically using the waste fish produce as food. You feed the fish, they poop and pee, and their waste is absorbed by the plants as food. The water in the plant bed gets to a point and flushes back into the fish tank. Recently she has hooked me up with an aquaponics guru and he has given me a pdf guide on building a "barrelponics" system. The guide is written by Travis W. Hughey.

This image is from the pdf guide written by Travis W. Hughey.

This particular barrelponics system shown above is used to grow vegetables organically, although not enough to sustain a family alone. You can also use it to raise fish at the same time. The system shown above has held 4 tilapia at a time that Mr. Hughey has grown up to 1/2lb. in size. Depending on the fish you raise, you can eat the fish once they've grown too big. The soil quality in Senegal varies region to region, but among major national concerns are soil degradation, soil salinity and desertification. If it's sustainable, relatively easy to build and maintain and thus relatively replicable, I think a system like this has potential. Scaled up to the size of a greenhouse this system could hit those two marks that allow all projects success; it would look cool and it would save/make people money.

I have another idea for a solar powered water pump, but I'm trying my best to hold off my research until I conduct my needs assessment at my volunteer site. I shall sit tight and practice my Wolof and guitar until Tuesday when I arrive in Senegal and learn more about what's I'm getting myself into.

If anyone knows anything about aquaponics or has a sustainable and replicable project to suggest please don't hesitate to contact me!

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