That's one of my jobs here, to define fine. It's well known by the locals as well as every mzungu who lives here that an African will always answer nzuri (fine). If you come across a man lying in a ditch with an axe embedded his cranium, ask him Habari? ( How's everything?), and he will, with his last dying breath, whisper nzuri. This is how it is here. Which makes it difficult to run an NGO from America, as my boss Brad Logan is so valiantly trying to do.
I explained all this to him when we met in Arizona, where we both worked for IHS. I told him he needed someone to define fine, and as it cannot be done by an African (see man with axe in his head), I volunteered for the job.
|Digging out roots. Note the lack of covered footwear.|
All this time I've been here I've never explained in detail what Hands4Africa does, mostly because I hadn't seen it, but now that the project has truly begun and is doing fine...
Bin construction. In the end,
there will be hundreds of these,
work for anyone who wants it.
Life is hard here, hard for people, dogs and cats (remember Socks), anything with a circulatory system. There's little money for food and clothes, much less for medicine and schools. But rather than giving money, which will never accomplish anything in this swirling, sucking vortex of eternal need, H4A proposes to offer jobs, lots of jobs. Then folks can pay for what they need.
Completed bin which will create and
hold the sterile compost made of
Where do the jobs come from?
The project revolves around the growth and care of the jatropha tree, which produces a nut that can be pressed into oil. The trees are to be fertilized using compost made of human waste, called Humanure. This process turns buckets of what we all flush into usable, sterile compost. Jatropha farms are doing well in many places in Africa, and provide regular work. This work comes in the form of:
Samweli clearing land.
This is the guy who pulled Socks
out of the choo.
1. clearing land for the trees
2. planting and watering trees.
3. fertilizing trees
4. collecting nuts, bagging nuts, generally preparing them to become oil
5. supervising the above
6. documenting the above
To expand on the fertilizer, jobs provided include:
1. building compost bins
2. breaking rocks for bin making
3. carrying water for cement making
4. collecting materials (human waste and other biodegradable objects) to make compost and depositing them in the bins
5. supervising above tasks
6. documenting above tasks
|Collecting water for the bin construction.|
1. remodeling pit toilets so buckets can be placed to collect human waste
2. cleaning and supervising the kids using the toilets. We begin with the schools as kids are more adaptable to new concepts and can provide tons of what goes into the buckets
3. collecting and transporting the full buckets.
4. replacing the full buckets with empty ones.
5. cleaning buckets
Some rocks need to be dug out of the ground. This is hard
work, you couldn't pay me to do it.
These are just some of the jobs available as this project unfolds. The village and the Anglican Diocese has given Hands4Africa lots of land, so people can be kept busy forever.The beauty of this system is that is, and I hate to use the S word, self sustaining.
The reason I dislike this word is that people come to Africa, set something up, and expect it to be self sustaining in a matter of months. This doesn't and can't happen. Africa just has too many problems. As I've said before, what takes three weeks in America will take six months here.
That's because in Africa there's 9 steps to anything you want to do. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but on average, nine. Kwa mfano (for example), to make a meal you must:
|Making gravel from rocks on the land that is being cleared.|
1. find some food
2. find some firewood
3. get some water
4. boil the water unless you want to get sick
5. Start the fire and wait till the coals are ready
6. Pick the rocks and husks out of the rice, if you have rice. Ugali is generally rock free but requires more effort to cook. You can't leave it alone or it will burn right up.
7. Cut onions and tomatoes for beans
8. Pick the rocks out of the beans
9. Cook the beans.
So that's nine steps and you haven't even smelled the food yet. There's still the cleanup. That's another three or four steps. Go buy your microwave some flowers, better yet, national Microwave Day. A Hallmark card for every occasion.
|Prototype of a choo using a collection bucket.|
You can see that cooking is labor and time intensive, as well as everything else that happens here. Nothing is easy and you can't get from A to B without the nine steps.
I digress, but let me just say that self sustained living and subsistence living are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
|Bayona volunteering to |
demo the choo/bucket set up.
A project like the jatropha trees will bridge the gap between the two. The trees need constant care, as well as the toilets providing compost for the trees. In the end, folks will make much more money planting a tree farm than planting maize. So they can plant trees, harvest nuts, buy more maize than they could grow, and have money left for school fees, medicine, all kinds of stuff. If a person wants regular work, they can have it, if they just need money for school fees or hospital bills, they can work till they get it.
It's a good system, and I have only glossed over the highlights. The set up is the hard part, as most everything involves well more than the nine steps mentioned above. But in the end, it will be, dare I say, self sustaining. I do, I dare.
Usiku mwema na lala salama