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The problem with kitchen gardens wasn’t in the planting of seeds from year to year, nor in the weeding—-it was in all the effort involved in lugging pails of water from the village well to the garden. The pail filled with water was too heavy for the littlest children and the older children had other tasks ranging from care of the littles to food preparation to caring for the family water buffalo and couldn’t be spared for water transport. With only one metal bucket in the village, the logistics were impossible anyway.

The solution was simple. I bought a water hose for the village and taught them to siphon water from the well [tricky to prime the siphon without swallowing any of the water]. I tried to explain the physical laws at work, but for their part they didn’t have enough grounding in basic science to understand them; and for my part I did not have enough command of the language to explain the scientific principles (Bernoulli's equation and so on).

So a siphon worked; everyone loved it and knew how to get the water flowing; no one understood it. To the very end of my stay, they were still arguing that it couldn’t possibly work. “Simply, Madam, water is not running uphill [up over the edge of the well].” Of course the well itself was located on higher ground than the gardens, the well water not contaminated by human or animal waste from our village.

We Peace Corps Volunteers weren’t supposed to supply irreplaceable equipment to our villages, but I thought that a hose would last decades and was worth the investment. Without their understanding of how the siphon worked, I’m not sure if the innovation “took” permanently.

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