This fall, Leelanau County musician and landscaper Chris Skellenger is preparing to return to Lesotho to carry on with an irrigation project designed to help subsistence farmers. But, its an expensive undertaking and he needs roughly $20,000 to make it happen.
The second annual Gardens for Africa concert will be helf at the InsideOut Gallery to help raise these funds; The concert will feature Skellengers band, 3 Hr Tour, along with Chris Amidons String Quartet and The Dawn Patrol dance-rock band. A silent auction will be held from 4-7p.m.
Chris and his wife Susan established the 11 Oaks group last year to help encourage an innovative bucket irrigation system that makes it possible for small farmers to overcome drought in parched and dusty lands. Last winter, Chris traveled to Africa to establish an irrigation system at the St. Charles School and orphanage in northern Lesotho. The project has received a boost from Traverse City Rotary Charities and many other contributors in Northern Michigan.
The groups mission statement states: To increase the food security of the worlds poorest people using gravity-fed irrigation and recycled water, enabling them to grow vegetables when there is no rain.
We chose Lesotho to launch the project because its a stable, English-speaking country, Skellenger says. We also set up a project in Belize and hope to someday take it to a higher level, helping farmers throughout the Third World.
What is bucket irrigation? Its Simple. A five-gallon bucket is attached to plastic drip-hose lines running between rows of crops. The farmer fills the bucket with water from a well or other water source and the plants receive a drink, spiked with a fertilizing dose of manure tea. A single bucket system can support 100 plants.
Lesotho is a small, land-locked country nestled within the borders of South Africa. The country is set high on a plateau and tends to be dry and drought-stricken. Its got about the same climate as Wyoming, Skellenger notes.
But the irrigation project has a special urgency because Lesotho has been hammered by drought and disease. More than 30 percent of the children in the country are orphans -- mostly because Lesotho has the third-highest level of HIV infection in Africa. Life expectancy in the country is 38 years and falling. In fact, it has been predicted that the entire population of the country will disappear within 30 years unless action is taken to turn back the plague of AIDS/HIV.
Most of these people are so weak they can barely take care of themselves, and because of the drought, they have nothing to eat but grain for most of the year, Skellenger says. If we can teach them how to use the bucket method of irrigation, they will have fresh vegetables to eat. When people dont have a balanced diet, they get even sicker.
For some, going without vegetables means eating oatmeal or other grain products 10 months out of the year.
This is the second annual event for the Gardens for Africa concert and there will be numerous silent auction items available at the show. There is no suggested donation at the door, but concertgoers are encouraged to give what they can.
The Gardens for Africa MusicFest will be held from 4-7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5 at the InsideOut Gallery on Garland Street in Traverse City (the alley running parallel to Front Street, across from the Open Space).