Too Big To Fail

The money just came in for my big project as a Peace Corps volunteer. Many members of my community and I have set out to conduct a 21 week long educational course on gardening, which I’m calling the “Garden School.” The Garden School project aims to install a productive and profitable garden in my village, to be used for educating the public at large. Each growing season a handful of village young adults will be brought on as apprentices to learn from a knowledgeable villager who recently completed a two-year educational program for gardening, in addition to the local Agricultural Agent, Veterinarian, Forestry Agent, and a village mechanic. My project aims to prepare a new group of villagers each year to begin their own gardens.

Each Saturday during the gardening season, the ten students and three garden managers, along with an appropriate guest lecturer, will meet for three hours of combined classroom theory and hands on experience. The women’s group I work with has contributed a classroom for the project. The Banzon community is providing the fence post as well as the work to install the fencing and the water pump irrigation system. The garden school will last for 21 weeks, following the seasons activities from nursery preparations to field maintenance through harvest. In addition to gardening skills, Garden School students will be trained on basic business techniques (bookkeeping, budgeting, management, and marketing) in order to insure that they are running a profitable and long-term business.

The financing from the project comes from USAID with a 25% community contribution. As an agribusiness/community development volunteer, I’ve been trained on more things than I can remember. Those skills that I do remember, I’m cramming into one project. Up until this point, any community projects I’ve done have spanned an afternoon at most (baring my karate classes). Additionally with this project, I’m putting a lot of the teaching load on villagers. Of the 21 weeks, I will be absent for at least seven weeks, requiring a lot of work upfront to make sure my counterpart for this project, Rasmane Lega, is prepared to handle it solo. Yet, this is really how it should be done. This isn’t Tyler Lloyd’s project but the Banzon community’s project. I see this 21-week project taking a lot out of me mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is a big project, but I’m hoping it’s too big to fail.