Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A rainy season to remember; the next year to look forward to

The well at Toufou I

The desert has come alive. That’s thanks to an unusually wet rainy season. The rain has been falling everyday or night for the past two weeks. And these are monsoon rains—violent downpours. It’s even felt like Oregon sometimes, where the sun doesn’t even show itself.

Tourou is definitely a land of extremes. In the dry season there’s a lack of water and dust covers everything. Now humidity is higher so clothes grow a nice layer of mold if one’s not careful; and many farms are inundated or houses are collapsing from constant water.

Right now we’re not able to hold meetings or work with very many people b/c we’ll get rained out. (There are not many large enough buildings, and since people have to walk over mountains often to attend meetings, they’ve stopped coming, and we’ve stopped calling meetings.

Currently, three wells that were sunk have their covers on and cement aprons (see photo of Toufou I well). With the work of the farm taking priority, no community COMPLETELY finished. It’s bothered me to no end, I must admit. Yet, I can’t be too negative about the lack of enthusiasm for an exterior wall. It helps to always view life from a village’s perspective. An exterior wall around the apron and the well itself is to prevent animals from entering and defecating near enough to the well that their faeces can enter the water supply. Perhaps the community didn’t feel it was necessary b/c animals are kept inside at this time of the year so they don’t eat the crops growing in the fields. Another reason it wasn’t a priority is that water borne diseases and the transfer of microbes from animals is not well understood.

In a presentation w/ 85 people in attendance, Leah and two other students from the U. of Virginia presented on how to filter and disinfect water and the faecal/oral cycle. One question raised was: “If we can get diseases from animal faeces, should we still be living with our animals running about our compound?” With very few women ever attending high school (0% of which have ever completed, according to three community leaders), they’ve never had health education. (That comes in high school!)

Already having to talk to two of the three well building communities, they’ll finish everything by Sept. or Oct. In other water/well news, we will be much more organized next year. We’re not only formally delegating well building responsibility among executive committee members, but also establishing an objective criteria by which AVISE will decide who deserves financial support for well or check dam building and a timeline that each village must stick to. This will create competition for the years to come, ensuring that less motivated communities won’t be allocated money.

Thanks to everyone again for donating to the project this year. Despite the multiple hang ups, we have three sanitary wells and more than $3,000 to put into 3 or more (most likely, many more).

One might note that I mentioned check dams, earlier. Two communities have been chosen for having check dams installed in erosion prone areas, upstream of wells. Check dams increase ground infiltration, thus recharging wells downstream. An added benefit is the manner in which it slows down water cascading from high in the mountains. One Tourou community (Moutaz) had there men rank a lack of check dams as the most pressing problem concerning agriculture.

The installation of the check dams will be conducted as a training in the same way that AVISE learned how to building modern wells: learning by doing. The training will span more than a month during the last week in January until March.

To fund this dynamic training, we’re searching for funds in a similar yet different way. Before, donations went directly to AVISE via bank accounts in the US. Now one will be able to donate directly through the PC website. In this way, PC can report more assuredly the impacts of PC to Congress. I expect to have the application up by October, whereby people can donate. We’ll post an announcement on the blog when it’s ready.

In addition to projects associated with water, other projects have been brewing. Leah and the doctor at the Tourou Health Center are planning a mid-wife conference. Women don’t come to the health center due to a lack of money. Unfortunately, many of the mid-wives have not been trained. That will be funded by individuals willing to give through the PC website as well. Another work-in-progress, too, that Leah will be posting on the website is that of a library project. This is by far gaining the most steam in the community for the future. A management committee has been established and is tackling the task of repairing the future home of the library in the Centre d’Affaires Sociale. Leah is basically arranging the budget, but everything else is completely community run.

The icing on the cake for me is setting up a framework; more for the next two agroforestry volunteers, for an agricultural extension group. Nearly all agro interventions should address soil fertility. Thus, I’m trying to find leaders in every village in Tourou to experiment with techniques like composting, mulching, and planting leguminous nitrogen fixing trees.

All in all, very busy. But we did get a in a small vacation w/ 3 visiting PC volunteers posted in the South of Cameroon.


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