Well this weekend I had another déjà vu moment in the campo, when my life felt exactly like an episode of The Simple Life. Another day, another 5:00 am wake up call. This time, my host dad and brother took me to learn how to herd and milk cows. Now, on my resume under special skills I can put expert at killing chickens and milking cows. Basically, post Peace Corps I am going to be ready to start my career as a farm hand, maybe assistant farm hand. I was, as usual, in for a few surprises on this little outing. First I discovered that milking cows is not as easy as it looks on tv. It took me three times, and three different cows, to finally get it. I also assumed that the family had one maybe two cows and that this little outing would last no more than a half hour and then I could go back to bed. Wrong. 15 cows and two and a half hours later we were done. I really should never assume anything here, since I am always wrong.  My favorite part of these early morning outings is getting the chance to watch the sun rise over the rolling hills of San Nicolas- something you miss out on when you wake up at 8:30am. I don’t know if this scenery will ever get old. It is also really nice to spend time bonding with my host family outside of the house. They always get a kick out of teaching me how to do something new, and it is nice to interact with my host dad out side of the ADESCO/ Peace Corps realm. Everyday I am starting to feel more at home here and more so apart of the family. It truly is the people that make a place, and I feel fortunate to have such welcoming and warm people to work and live with for the next two years.

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Cashew nursery at the primary school cashew farm - Reality, most of these kids may become farmers or inherit the land of their fathers and mothers. Might as well start easy with some hands on lessons in tree nurseries and grafting. My hope is that the school cashew farm can be a leading example in the village for other farmers. We will see!  

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The Saddlers Herbal Project in St. Kitts  

Twenty-three years ago, Stennett “Kwando” Harvey was a rising athlete star in the small island-nation of St. Kitts. Highly gifted in Tae Kwan Do, he was quickly becoming a regional star in the sport with the potential to take the international stage and represent St. Kitts all around the world. All of this tragically ended with a motorcycle accident that required the amputation of his left leg. Not willing to give up on his potential, Stennett retreated to his family farmland high in the hills of Saddlers in the countryside of St. Kitts, where he spent the following months teaching himself how to do daily activities with his one leg. All on his own, he rehabilitated himself to work on his farmland (another passion of his), continued his Tae Kwan Do training, and discovered within himself a spiritual side that he didn’t know he possessed.

Now, Kwando (as he is known throughout the island), a beekeeper, farmer, and spiritual healer, has teamed up with his significant other, Dr. Elisabeth Karamat, to establish the Saddlers Herbal Project. Dr. Karamat, a former Austrian diplomat who was sent to St. Kitts four years ago by the Vienna Archdiocese to promote agriculture to the youth of St. Kitts. Together, they are striving to work with both youth and local farmers to establish organic and more productive farming practices in the face of a devastating pest in the form of the invasive Green Vervet Monkeys found throughout the island in large numbers.

 The Saddlers Herbal Project has three main goals:

  1. Plant medicinal and aromatic plants in monkey-infested agricultural areas around Saddlers as alternatives to food crops
  2. Work with youth to transmit traditional plant knowledge and offer hands-on agricultural training together with international volunteers and advisors
  3. Gather international university cooperation for joint research to occur on the farm

Currently, with the assistance of Peace Corps Volunteer Andrew Davis, the Saddlers Herbal Project is partnering with local schools and community-based organizations to provide opportunities for both students and at-risk youth who express an interest in agriculture. Through the use of summer camps, extracurricular activities, and mentors in the form of Kwando himself and international specialists, the Saddlers Herbal Project is taking vulnerable youth off the streets and giving them an opportunity to develop real skills and help them achieve something more meaningful.

Learn more about the project on their Facebook page

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"I think these photos sum up the Peace Corps Aquaculture Program, in that by teaching people how to raise fish they are able to provide themselves with a sustainable protein source that can increase health."

Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteer Chris Kelly, who served in Zambia from 2001-2003, helped his community build these fish ponds to help introduce more protein into their diets. The child holding the fish is most likely suffering from Kwashiorkor Syndrome, which is a severe protein malnutrition that affects children.


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