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Small gardens are springing up across the eight reserves involved in the program. Landscaping designs for entire villages are being drawn up.
Certainly the program's prime motivator, Otto Reincke is pleased. "Looking back at the last four months, forgetting about weather and other unexpected hardships, it has been a very good success," the amicable German commented during the tour of several of the band reserves.
Statistics supported his enthusiasm. Some 250 gardens were planted on reserves in the Yorkton district this year which is one of the highest numbers ever reported. Of the 250 planted, Reincke feels some 200 could be called, at the very least, reasonably good.
To Reincke a Regina horticulturalist who was hired by the Saskatchewan Indian Agriculture Program (SIAP) to co-ordinate - reasonably good success means an output valued at between $80 and $130 per garden.
"Full expectations could not be achieved due to the unfortunate weather we had this year," Reincke adds.
The true success of the program, however, has been reflected in the acceptance of it by all concerned, from Band Chiefs to the women of the reserves.
Reincke began with small seminars on growing home gardens which were held on the reserves. It was then up to the native people. Seeds were provided upon request and if there was a further problem that required some advice or assistance, Reincke would make individual visits to the gardens.
There were problems. "One of the biggest was a reluctance by the Indian people to use chemicals to control plant diseases," Reincke recalled, though admitting that attitude was not particularly all bad.
"I feel we're over-doing the chemical use of insecticides and pesticides ... We have to learn to make more use of organic materials."
Weather also played a significant role. In many cases water supplies are a regular problem and during this particularly dry summer, the problem became even more severe.
The average land that was being used was not the ideal base for a good garden, adding yet another roadblock for the Indians to overcome.
"In short," Reincke commented, "it's been a slow process but they're having success. It's required a lot of tedious work."
The output of the gardens has been your typical home garden variety: beans, carrots, turnips, cabbages, tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, etc...
The end of the gardening season does not mean it's the end of the program. Reincke is now beginning to emphasize not how the garden should grow, but what the garden should contain. At a seminar, a health nurse, nutritionist and Reincke joined skills to provide information on how to get the highest nutritional value from a home garden. As well, food preservation, canning and freezing techniques were demonstrated.
"The people have been interested right from the start. In fact they've shown better than average interest in what we've been doing." Which may be the result of the fact that any section of the program has been provided at the direct request of the native people themselves.
The program will have much larger results as well. Reincke, who comes to the job well prepared and trained in horticultural and nursery techniques, is also providing expertise to the Indian bands as they carry out revitalization projects to their band offices and villages.
The Cowesses Band Office is perhaps the farthest advanced. Landscaping around the office and adjacent health office took place this past summer using summer student workers. By employing very simple landscaping techniques and using plants and materials such as large boulders, the building was neatly landscaped with minimal cost.
"It's all a question of organizing the materials and how to place them to get the most desirable effect," Reincke said.
The principals being used on the band offices such a removal of undesirable objects, seeding grass and planting trees, can be applied on individual homes, which is one of the major goals of the SIAP program. Like a ripple in a pond, the program, is working as more and more residents of the reserves see how it can be done and try it themselves.
"It takes time and effort by the Indian people to do, but it pays off," he said.