The village is eerily quiet tonight, this New Year’s Eve. After being away all day on a long motorcycle trip to the far north of Sierra Leone, I came home to a deserted community, with only young children, some elders, and people from away around. Even the goats and sheep were absent. However, the sounds emanating from the sacred forest suggest that people have not gone too far and hopefully will be back soon. And the mystery of the missing goats was resolved when I found a number of young boys with most of the ruminants on ropes, leading them safely away for the night. I think yesterday’s admonishments of the elders were taken very seriously.
The motorcycle trip north was to Kabala, to discover the secret of the vegetable farmers there, who supply the whole of the North and Freetown with vegetables and to visit Asher, another Canadian cdpeace volunteer, who arrived there yesterday. As always, the landscape was breathtakingly beautiful. The north is mountainous, and the mountains are dramatically steep, reminding me of some of the most renowned peaks I’ve seen in other parts of the world. The few villages we passed were comprised of small clusters of mostly round, thatched, mud plaster houses. During the six hours on what I believe is the only paved highway north, we saw no more than ten vehicles on the road. Before and after visiting an amazing array of abundant gardens owned cooperatively, collectively, and privately, we stopped to greet the headman, elders and farm leaders (women and men) and exchanged farming information, seeds, jokes, and plans to bring farmers of our two communities together. I wondered afterwards about the impact of isolation (lack of transportation and communication) on the farmers of Paki Masabong and whether having the opportunity to visit and know about successful models in other communities would spark more innovation in this area. Perhaps our project video camera and internet and the cdpeace agricultural coordinator can address this. Possibilities are swirling in my head (only slightly interrupted by the eleven children on the floor next to me, “reading” books) and I think I’ll switch gears to planning now, before heading out to the New Year's drumming dance. Wishing all my friends here and there the best that the new year can bring!