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May 2006: News

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The Former Soviet Union
            The following article was taken from the Biointensive for Russia Fall 2005 newsletter (831 Marshall Drive, Palo Alto CA 94303-3614;; and also includes sections from the report of the expedition send by Igor Prokofiev, co-director of Viola:
            A report came from Ludmilla Zhirina, co-director of the Viola organization, which mounted an expedition last fall to Russia and Ukraine to check the radiation content of the fall harvest in areas which had been contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. “We traveled for three weeks, instead of the two we had planned. We were welcomed warmly by the people in each little village, and every family wanted to invite us to their home. We couldn’t take uncontaminated food with us, since we had no car. We ate food purchased from local residents in markets and in stores (food from the local food processing plants).
“We traveled via … train, bus, minibus, motorcycle, and on foot. Our original plans and proposals were curtailed a little. We visited radioactively contaminated regions in Russia and in Ukraine, but due to a budget reduction we were unable to conduct studies in Belarus. We worked in 20 inhabited localities. We took radiological measurements of the 2005 harvest (fruits and vegetables) from farmers and private growers, and brought some of it to Bryansk [Viola’s home base] for analysis at regional laboratories. We performed soil analyses on fields and vegetable gardens, indicating at what depth a particular concentration of radionuclides is present. We are now processing soil samples in laboratories and assembling maps of locations showing the different levels of contamination.
“We conducted a study of background radiation in the forest, where the local residents store mushrooms, medicinal herbs, hay for the animals, and wood for burning and construction. We also monitored the health of children and teenagers, using health records from local schools, which we are now analyzing. …
“We brought back more than 150 samples of vegetables, mushrooms, soil, seeds, ashes, compost, timber, and drinking water to obtain a more accurate measurement of the radionuclide and heavy metal levels in each zone.”
In the 20 years since the Chernobyl nuclear accident “forced and voluntary migrations of people have taken place. A hundred thousand local residents have left the contaminated territory, while at the same time inhabitants of regions with local military conflicts in the countries of the former USSR have come to the same contaminated place. Only from 1986 to 1994 were there empty houses and apartments here. Members of Viola often asked visitors: ‘Aren’t you afraid to live with radiation?’ But the answer was always the same: ‘There they will kill us today, but in radiation, we shall probably live another 10-15 years.’… Furthermore, in the radiation-contaminated territory the number of inhabitants has increased, especially with children, since the families that come from southern regions … [have] 7 to 12 children.”
“Members of the research group of the expeditions [were] Dr. Igor Prokofiev, Dr. Ludmila Zhirina, Oleg Zavarzin, and Natalia Karyagina.”

Carol Vesecky, Director of Biointensive for Russia recently sent us statistics about the number of people taught Biointensive practices during 2005 and 2006. There were a total of 3,371 taught in Uzbekistan and 8,336 in Russia.

Common Ground Project
Director Joshua Machinga sent a report on the second year of a project in Teso, western Kenya, which also serves people from Uganda.
            This year’s project served 1567 farmers who were not organized into community groups, as well as continuing to work with groups of farmers from the first year. Ten 7-day workshops were carried out on different farmer’s land. Tree nurseries were established in 3 communities and 300 homes. Farmers were taught all the steps of GROW BIOINTENSIVE, as well as business management, food and nutrition and health-related issues. Joshua reports that most farmers had adopted the use of compost on their farms and were also practicing soil conservation through the use of terraces and cover crops. There was active participation of both men and women, “as compared to the past where women were never allowed to express themselves before men.” Women were also encouraged to form groups of 5 people to help one another accomplish heavy tasks such as compost making and land preparation. As a result, there are now 150 such groups with an average of 15 compost piles per group. Most farmers have increased their farm income and are now netting about 3 times the national average.
Joshua also stated the project has attracted the attention of British America Tobacco Company which has established a tree nursery with over 900,000 tree seedlings that will be distributed free of charge to farmers. The Kenyan government allocated more money to repair the roads around Teso, due to complaints from NGO staff working in the area. He includes a quote from a woman in one of the self-help groups: “It’s all really starting to work! … We can see the system in place and the cycles of production. Dozens, and soon hundreds of women and men are starting to gain a dignified income for their families in a way that respects mother earth. Within a couple of years, I think it will be working like a well-oiled machine and we expect that this will be a bigger part of making the Kamunyong’le [her group] economically self-sufficient.”

Manor House Agriculture Centre (MH)
This is taken from the 2005 Annual Report sent to us by Nicodemus Nyongesa, acting Director of the Centre. (Emmanuel Omondi, the Centre’s Director, is currently studying at the University of Wyoming in the US to receive his Masters Degree.)
            In December MH hosted its third annual Symposium in conjunction with the Forum for Organic Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies. There were over 50 presenters and exhibitors for the 2-day event covering topics such as soil fertility management, organic waste management, environmental conservation, and nutrition and health using herbal medicine. During the same time period MH held its 20th graduation, which was presided over by Kenya’s Minister of Agriculture. Two more community groups also graduated as Mini-Training Centers, bringing their number to 27. MH also trained 8 farmers’ groups during the year, in collaboration with other extension organizations, and these groups will also become Mini-Training Centers. One item of special interest: MH has not had to buy seeds of local vegetables for the last 2 years. They are growing their own.

Kilili Self Help Project:

        Kilili Self Help Project (KSHP) sponsors farmer-training in GROW BIOINTENSIVE for Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) graduates in Kenya.  Sandra Mardigian, KSHP Director, sent us a report on the activities of Festus Wakhungu and Jane Joseph. This is the third year of their project, designed specifically to support programs organized by women MHAC graduates, and funded by a grant to Kilili Self Help Project from American Jewish World Service,
       They have completed programs for 32 of the women graduates, training more than 2,200 farmers in six-day workshops.  Festus and Jane's notes on follow-up visits consist of observations like these:
       "One farmer, from Mothers Union, had 50 double-dug beds.  Between June and August he harvested 1,200 kilos of carrots from 12 of the double-dug beds... He earned 24,000 Kenya Shillings, which is enough to pay school fees for his daughter.  The rest of the beds had indigenous vegetables."
       In another group, "The 55 farmers had each double-dug between 5 and 20 beds.  The secretary of the group said, 'We thought farming was for women, but not after the Biointensive training... It pays even more than commercial farming because of lower input expenses.'"




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