Friday, October 14, 2011

Last day with the Pygmies before our course :)

October 14, 2011
Bukavu, Eastern DRC

We had 2 important tasks to accomplish today since we'll be in Ethiopia for the next 2 weeks taking our Permaculture Design Course specialized in rural african communities:

1. Planting the first seeds in the seedling flats
2. Creating a rainwater capture system

This way, while we're gone, seeds will be germinating and water will be gathering, in addition to the compost that's been decomposing for 2 days now. 

The kick-off today was slow and discouraging... we had the sense the Pygmies weren't grasping the importance of the small steps we've taken so far (composting, building a nursery and seedling flats, etc.) and it seemed they weren't interested in working. The men in general seldom do anything except sit around and play board games with bottle caps, but the women who do all the work just sat there as well, looking at us and making comments about the "Muzungu" (white people) and laughing.

We have to understand the Pygmies had always lived in the bush and seldom had contact with other human beings. Social skills that other people take for granted because we live in a world that revolves around human relationships and communication were completely alien to them until they were forced out of the forest. Furthermore, all the generations before them were hunter-gatherers: food and resources were there for the taking, and all they had to do was stretch out their hands and receive. There was never any process of CREATING food or resources for themselves. First they gathered berries and animals from the forest, then when they were thrown out they knew no better than to steal from neighboring fields, and now they turn to the Muzungu with outstretched arms.

So on one hand it's important we understand and accept that their mentality is a result of what they were accustomed to for generations, but on the other hand, it's hard to believe that they live in the fertile jungle of Congo, where you can practically throw seeds on the ground and grow a papaya tree, and they're starving: they either don't have the logic to plan ahead and provide for themselves or they're simply lazy.  So after putting so much effort, commitment and time into helping them, sometimes it's frustrating when they don't seem to care, so one of our goals is to try and motivate them and build initiative...

After a while though, we managed to gather them around and separate them in two groups: women would work with Mel planting seeds and men would work with Xavi building a rainwater capture system. Once they got to work things ran smoothly... the women finished preparing their seedling flats and placed them in the nursery we built yesterday.

Women planting carrot, tomato, cabbage and onion

The new nursery!

The men dug trenches along the sides of the church roof, leading to a large, 4x4 meter hole where water would be captured with every rainfall. We lined the hole with a thick tarp and had the little children jump in to spread the tarp evenly around the hole... we secured the edges with large rocks and Jeff placed a layer of banana tree trunk at the bottom of the trenches so the water flows directly into the hole.

Digging the trenches and the hole...
The children were happy to help : )

Lining the hole...

Before and after digging the trench

Before and after...

Mission accomplished!! Now while we're gone, things will be moving along at the Pygmy village! The three compost beds will be decomposing, the seeds will be germinating and the water will be gathering!!

We're off to Ethiopia!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    were you guys worried about standing water and increasing the mosquito population (malaria)?
    I'm not sure if health care is free for this community?