June 18, 2002
Serving Western Deschutes County
Sisters, Oregon

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Peace Corps work in Paraguay
By Conrad Weiler

Luke Ward described Peace Corps work in Paraguay.

Luke Ward presented his slides and remembrances of three years as a Peace Corps beekeeper volunteer in Paraguay at last Monday's annual Friends of the Library dinner at Sisters Community Church hall.

Ward and other Peace Corps members were asked to teach beekeeping skills to the local population.

Ward trained for three months in agriculture, economics -- and beekeeping -- for the job.

Ward displayed graphic color slides of working with the bees, finding and handling the queen, sugar water feedings and smoking bees in Paraguay. He also showed different types of beehives, how to make them and locating wild beehives and the queen. The collected honey was used as a food or sold in the city.

Ward lived in the Chaco region of Paraguay. The region has dry, desert-like conditions. He also spent time living in San Pedro which had more rain and greater crop variety including cotton, corn, onions and butter beans.

Another job involved agricultural extension teaching and trying to improve soil conditions and crop yields.

"I'd try to find a local model farmer and use him as an example for others to follow," he said. "Raising legume crops and turning them back into the soil for increasing nitrogen content was a big part of our teaching regimen. Also, diversification of crops was a high priority in our program.

"There wasn't much in the way of farm equipment. We had an old tractor and that was about it. Because of the hilly nature of the terrain, a lot of terraced farming was practiced," Ward said.

Water was obtained from wells and a big improvement came with building water towers for storage, according to Ward. Village women, who did most of the water collecting for home use, particularly appreciated this.

Roads were generally poor in Paraguay and Ward either biked or took the bus to work.

He spoke lovingly of the Catholic Mission near his home and his friendships with the priests and nuns.

Recreation included relaxing and having a beer with the men after work. On weekends there would be a soccer game between married men and singles.

"Green tea, hot or cold, was a typical ice-breaker when you visited someone or met a new person," said Ward.

A table of "treasures" was displayed for his audience to view after his talk and included baskets, foodstuffs, cane alcohol and farm implements Luke had collected in Paraguay.

Ward graduated from Whitman College with a degree in Spanish Literature. He will enter graduate school this fall to study geography at the University of Colorado.

Eloise Mynott was in charge of arranging the dinner evening, which included ham, a variety of salads and desserts. Dwight Smith, Friends President, was master of ceremonies for the evening and treasurer Lee Kaplman reported a year-end balance of $2,767 for the Friends of the Library group.

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