The children of Marinaleda have the pleasure to tell you about the situation in Andalusia and specifically, Marinaleda. A few days ago, our parents, in an open assembly, agreed to go on hunger strike. We are in solidarity with them. We have been on hunger strike for several days.
Why are we on hunger strike? We are on hunger strike because our parents have already spent six months living on the alms of community employment. In our village people earn not even two hundred pesetas a day, because sometimes they only work two days a month. We live in such poverty that some families have to borrow money from their neighbours, because the shops no longer give them credit. Put yourself in our place and think: is it fair that while some children are on holiday with their parents and families, others don’t know if they will eat that night? Is it fair that while some children have private tutors, others can’t even attend state schools? Is it fair that while some waste large amounts of money on toys and luxuries, others have no shoes to wear and must go barefoot?
We don’t think it is, and that is why we are on hunger strike. That is why we have gone several days without food, and we won’t stop until a solution arrives, because this situation is unbearable. It is even more unbearable in a land as rich as Andalusia.
Friend: the problem in our land is serious, and so we are going to continue fighting alongside out parents. W will continue fighting because the problem is also ours; so please consider and answer these questions. What will become of us? What is our future? Your future, we imagine, is already resolve, but what of ours? Who will resolve ours?
This is not a fairy tale, but a real situation which you will never know . . . We ask you with all our hearts to stop and think, and perhaps you’ll feel anger or pity and you or your parents will us some solution.
Sorry if these words are strong, but our hunger is stronger. Greetings from your friends. Marinaleda.
“One tap…two taps…three taps.”
This is what I was hoping to count to myself on Monday when I walked through town. Unfortunately, my optimism would be squashed.
The day before, Mzee, my host grandfather, described the water project he hoped to start in Kabasheshe. Currently, the closest water source is located at the very bottom of the valley; at least 30 minutes there and back, up and down hills. My host sisters (and me on a few occasions) make the journey at least once a day, but more commonly multiple times. Older sisters would carry 20-litre jerry-cans on their head. When full with water, these would weigh 20 kilograms or 44 pounds! I barely managed when I tried. Younger children carry 10- and 5-liter jugs; one or two, depending on their strength. These feats of strength are more impressive when considering that a 2-year-old toddler may also be on a woman’s back.
I should also point out for clarity that my household is somewhat lucky in that it is located directly uphill from the community spring. Other families have the dual challenges of living uphill and down the road from the water source, increasing their walking time.
If you walk 30 minutes up the road, towards the main junction, you find a completely different reality. The village of Rusoka seems to be an oasis of water projects – piped water, community boreholes, and others. On our way to see their current gem, my hosts and I passed a centrally placed hand pump. I was told that it was spoiled, not in use. I trust that this is true as I saw nearby pipes ripped out from the ground. After months of no more flowing water, the plastic pumps are commonly extracted; these can then be used by families to illegally smuggle power into their homes or any other use that they can come up with.
The Rusoka Primary School has another interesting feature – a
play pump; age unknown. Play pumps are water projects that replace the typical manual hand pump with a circular merry-go-round, one intended for children to play on. These work when kids are nearby and willing to use it, but are problematic for a woman by herself. It is also a sad part of development that many communities are conditioned to attract international donors, so children may come out to play for photos, but will stop once the abazungus (foreigners) leave. It was interesting to see one, though. If I had more time, I might have tried to uncover its history and current level of use.
After walking through town, passing orphanages, training centers, and hair parlors, we arrived at the pump house. This relatively large building provides piped water to the entire Rusoka community. It pumps water uphill to a storage tank and then downhill to several taps. This is the model that my village hopes for. Built many years ago, it has run flawlessly.
A cynic might propose that Kabasheshe’s mostly Muslim population missed out on the charity that Rusoka received from Catholic organizations that visited it, being a majority Catholic population itself.
A realist might say that Kabasheshe’s location further down the dirt road has left it with worse luck. Rusoka is closer to the main road, which also acts as a pathway between Uganda and Rwanda.
Either way, my host village finds itself without easy access to water.
Eight or maybe nine years ago, they did get a borehole, supplied by the local sub-county government. But, after 3 years of use, it broke down and was never fixed. It sits there today, a skeleton of its former self, with all removable components scavenged and probably sold.
This is the start of Mzee’s plan. Three years ago, Rusoka received electricity and thanks to a politician who lived here, the line was extended to Kabasheshe. Him, his brother, my host family, and a few others now have power.
Power is quite a life changer. It means that you can own a cellphone, as it needs to be charged regularly, and connect with others far away. It means a steady, cheap source of light. And it mean that you can own a TV and relax while watching it, as my host family regularly does.
But it also means one more thing, more options for community projects. Rather than the manual water pump that failed in Kabasheshe before, Mzee wants to install a motorized pump to provide piped water to his community. Just like Rusoka.
Going uphill, the water would be pumped to storage tanks, either polyurethane or concrete, and then downhill to various sources. Using storage tanks mean that water can still flow, even when there’s a power outage. Also, meters can be placed on the multiple tanks to track usage.
After seeing the borehole and location for future tanks, I was taken to see the community taps. There were three of them. Or, at least, that was what I was told.
One at the primary school. One at the trading center (local store and outdoor pool hall). And one near a home on the main road.
First, the school. Like what I saw in Rusoka, a plastic pipe was sticking out of the ground. After the borehole stopping providing water, someone dug up the line, cut it, and took it home. But, there was hope that a new line could be installed. It would be nice to see this school receive running water, as the alternative is children missing school to fetch water.
Next, the family home. We arrived at our destination, but I saw no tap. There was a hedge dividing two properties. A gated house on the left and a small business on the right. It turns out that this tap was demolished after the borehole broke and was in the way of the homeowner’s plan. All that is left is a memory of what was.
The third and final tap, at the trading center, had the same fate. It was demolished some time ago. Nothing left to signify that it was ever here.
This left me puzzled. Mzee told me about the three taps and my mind raced with possibility. But to have so much infrastructure missing, it would be a daunting project.
So, what can be done?
It is definitely possible to provide piped water to the community. The borehole is there. At least one tap (probably the most important one, in my view) is still in the ground and ready to be connected. And the community wants it.
How to do it?
As with most things, money is primary. Funding can come from one of three sources. It can be through the community, everyone pitching in and taking full ownership. The government could come in, but people have little to no trust in them. Or an outside source, like an international charity or aid organization, could be the one to manage the project.
In any case, some things would need to be bought and installed. A motorized pump at the borehole, connected to the power line. A house would need to be built to contain everything. A 200-meter trench would need to be dug, at least 5-feet deep to prevent the thievery of the past, and plastic piping laid. The hilltop would be leveled and a few tanks installed on concrete or other structure. More trenches and piping would go downhill. The school would be re-connected and new taps would need to be constructed elsewhere
All in all, this would be a massive project. Probably the biggest one Kabasheshe has every received. I want to make it happen but have my reservations.
Will the village be able to repair future breakdowns? Will they be able to prevent thievery? Is it better to wait and lobby the government to change its ways?
What do you think? Is there anything not considered or missing?
During an eventful Friday, I went to the field to visit a GEM (Ghana Environmental Management) Project, or GEMP. This followed the Environmental Management subcommittee meeting the night before, where nearly all the government departments were present (Agric, Education, Health, NADMO, Fire Service, Environmental Health, and a man from the NGO PAPADEV).
The project concerns a nursery with various tree saplings that are to be grown inMankuma, and then sold to five pilot communities, creating revenue for one town and food production for the others. Thanks to the donors, these saplings will be subsidized. So, on the economic side, rather than the usual 2 cedi that might be paid by the community, it will be 1 or 1.5 cedi. The other rationale for this project is to encourage reforestation, as cutting down trees for charcoal is a major issue in several districts. The meeting saw an odd point, where they talked about taxing the illegal practise. Seems like some twisted logic.
Unfortunately, this proposed plan hasn’t happened yet. The meeting saw a lot of back and forth, but the main result is that meeting attendants would break up into groups and go to the different communities to get people on board.
Some of the trees have been planted, but due to quarrelling between the two men in charge of running the program, who are from different villages that make up Mankuma (found on either side of the main road), work has been put on hold. After visiting the site, which has plenty of brush lying around (a potential fire problem) and some trees planting within 3 or 4 feet of each other, we went into town to visit the two traditional authorities. It was the DPO, a chief from Bole area (Saala Wura), a representative from the Fire Service, and myself who went to the respective chief compounds to explain our concerns.
Turns out that the two men went for training in Tamale, but now aren’t talking to each other. Thus, the standstill. Thanks to some discussions with the 2 chiefs and their declarations that things will get done, the two men are suppose to get back to work and clean the site. The reason for this ultimatum to get things done by Monday, was that the donors – CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and EPA – were going to visit on the following Wednesday. They had plenty more saplings to donate, but need to see something optimistic before continuing with the project. It was very odd for me to see the DPO specifically introduce me as a Canadian in relation to the fact that it was a Canadian donor’s project. As if, I had any influence in the decision making.
After these meetings, we all returned back to the District Assembly and made our leave, but not before one more task. The DPO handed everyone their respective allowances for the two days: 10GHC for field visits and 15GHC sitting allowance for meetings.
I’ll need to check with DPO to see what the result from this week was. How well the site was cleaned up and if the donors will continue with the project.