Saturday, December 17, 2011

... and let there be progress!

We are now in Ghana, and have been at the Dagbe Cultural Center in Kopeyia for about a week. It was been wildly productive, in my opinion. We've spent a fair amount of time working with Emmanuel and Christian, the hunter who will help us procure the breeding animals as well as the general contractor who is helping to procure the supplies for building the enclosure. I am excited about the plan we've put together for the enclosure: We will construct it right across the trail from the Center and the existing poultry farm, so regular access to it will be easy. It is currently unused, so no land is being taken out of food production. Also, it is only about 100 meters from the elementary school here, and Emmanual wants to make the facility available to the school to help teach the children about their own wildlife. As a biologist who teaches local natural history to my own students in the States, I absolutely LOVE the idea that we are able to build in an educational component to this project. The enclosure will be about 80 feet on a side, constructed of concrete blocks up about 2.5 feet, then continued upward about another 6 feet with galvanized pipe supporting chain link fence, and topped with rolls of razor wire for security.

We hope to begin construction on the enclosure this weekend. We have procured the chain link fence and razor wire; now, we are just waiting for a deliver of sand for the concrete. Apparently there is SO MUCH construction going on in the Volta Region due to economic expansion that getting a dump truck delivery scheduled takes time. Once we get the sand, however, we start digging.

Based on my research, we ought to be able to house as many as 20 small antelope in the enclosure to begin with. That number might grow or shrink based on what we learn from our initial results over this first year, but I think it's a good place to start. We'll have mixed species, but all of them will be of the small antelope, which are refered to just as "antelope" in Ewe (the large antelope being called "deer") and as "duikers" in English.

We completed the digging of the well to supply water to the enclosure this week. It took two men three days to dig a 30+ foot deep well. I'll post pictures of it as soon as I can, but for now I just want to say how impressed I am at the capacity of these men to drive a straight, narrow-bore (about 12 inches diameter) hole down deep through clay and mud. We've placed the well inside the compound so that the pump can be secure against theft, but this means that we'll also need to dig a trench from the well out to the antelope compound to hold an underground pipe. The distance isn't far (about 100 feet), but it's a good example of how the on-the-ground realities of what has to happen to make this project work grows and evolves over time.

So ... progress is being made. So far, we've had no bad surprises, and everyone we've talked to here about the project is excited about its potential. I've seen more and more drums at ceremonies here with broken heads, so it's really true that the future of the music here depends on some attention to sustainable agriculture, conservation biology, and ... as Emmanuel likes to say ... a vision of the future.



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