The Greenhouse Project - 2014

The Last of the Greenhouse Project, International Development and the Future

Hello everyone –

Thank you for all of your support. We are very proud of the work that we have been able to accomplish in Khongor, and could not have done it without the support of the Davis Projects for Peace, the Center for Global Engagement at Kenyon, the 14th School students, teachers and staff, the volunteers and citizens of Khongor, and our parents.

Tee and I constantly keep in contact with one another, and with Mongolia and the 14th School occasionally as well. The winter has returned, as it does, and temperatures are plummeting in Mongolia. The greenhouse will not be producing during the winter, and will resume planting in the spring.

By the time that we left Khongor for the last time this summer, the “crops” had grown tremendously. And I mean tremendously.

You can see the contrast in the pictures below. The first set is about the second or third week after the seedlings had been implanted (late June). The second set of pictures were taken in late July/early August, as we prepared to leave (~6th week of growth).

1) Early June:

Tee patrolling the second week of seedlings
Tee patrolling the second week of seedlings
tomatoes and peppers
tomatoes and peppers

2) By late July/early August:

See the height of the plants from the outside
See the height of the plants from the outside
Tee again patrolling with less ease
Tee again patrolling with less ease
Growth
Growth
A bit untidy
A bit untidy

Our biggest problem was maintenance. When we are not there, who will take on the job of maintaining the greenhouse, and making sure that the vegetables went to the students? It’s a classic economic issue of incentives. What incentive does an individual have to work harder for the whole? This was something we wrestled with throughout the summer. We could not have a fund that paid an additional salary because it would be highly difficult to monitor and dispense, and carried the risk of extortion. What we did have was something similar to the Grameen Bank – a social circle that could apply pressure, encouragement and responsibility to the whole. Given Tee’s strong family ties to the 14th School, local citizens and teachers had greater respect for our project. Due to that connection, they are more willing to take care of the greenhouse. This has worked fairly well so far.

Development is an especially humbling field because you realize the amount of planning, scrutiny and manpower that is required. Everyone must share the same vision, everything must be micromanaged, all the while within a highly macro setting. Success in development requires an enormous amount of dedication and faith that each project will contribute to the overall mission of a better life for all people. It’s like what one veteran in the field told me once; development is like walking along a shore filled with stranded starfish. All you can do is throw one starfish back at a time.

Tee and I had a great experience, learned a lot and hope to learn even more in the future. Tee has returned to Kenyon for her senior year and I have moved to Beijing, where I have started work in advisory. I will be changing the content of “Macongolia” to focus on development in Mongolia, Mongolia news and Mongolia-China relations.

Best wishes,

 

 

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