John Harper

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John R. Harper


Guinea (1988-90)


Fangamandou, Guéckédou Pref


Horticulture (Water well improvement)

I served in the 'parrot beak' region of Guéckédou prefecture in the years immediately preceding the Mano River War. When I was there Fangamandou was a quiet, peaceful place where not very much ever happened. I have since learned that this all changed soon after I left thanks to Mr. Taylor and his forces. Fangamandou became a refugee center for ethnic Kisis and others fleeing the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Guéckéedou-centre was attacked by the rebels and several Guineans were killed.

The AFSI program was not really very successful, having been designed for the Fouta region and then relocated at the last minute to the Forest Region. There was little or no interest in what I had to show, and my project garden was seen as something imposed on the local women's group by the government. The women there were already very capable of producing the kind of vegetables that were consumed locally, and I had little to offer them in the way of technical support. The methods we were taught in training were not really applicable to the crops and did not take the cultural environment into account. My agricultural efforts were for the most part useless.

When I saw that the agriculture aspect was not going to be successful, I identified a need for water well improvement. I obtained funding from a local NGO, Plan Guinée (Foster Plan International), and purchased cement, rebar, and lumber for forms. Several families and groups were willing to supply the necessary labor to pour a concrete slab around the top of existing water wells and attach a hinged wooden cover. This protected the wells from contamination by surface runoff.

I made many good friends while I served in Fangamandou, and learned a great deal from the people there. I'm very thankful for the opportunity I had to live there and get to know these kind and generous people.

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