Thursday, May 16, 2013

A new project?

These days I am doing a lot of thinking and networking and gathering information and researching for a new WASH proposal.  My work at this point is entirely preliminary; there has not even been a call for proposals, let alone a clear answer of whether I can get the institutional funding to do this project.  Since I am new to this province, however, I feel it necessary for me to prepare as much as possible for the opportunity, if it comes about.  To be honest, as I learn more about the challenges of working in this province, I’m quite intimidated about taking this on.  There are definite reasons to try to do this:
  • ·      After 12 years of aid, so many communities in this province still do not have safe drinking water!   
  • ·      Adding another proposal and a new donor will make the community development programme here more resilient.
  • ·      It will utilize the growing capacity our organization has in WASH, and extend our reach and influence in this province.

On the other hand, this is a big thing to take on, especially because the places that are the neediest for WASH are also the most inaccessible because of mountains and insecurity.  I met today with a man who formerly worked with an organization that did excellent work in one of those hard to reach places.  He told me that the only way they could reach the 3 districts they worked in was by riding horseback for 8 hours!  Amazingly, they established a project that worked well despite the access challenges, but then it had to be closed after they faced insecurity not in their working area, but along the way there!
The other big challenge to face will be using all new staff.  The funding will only be available for 3 years and the institutional donor will require a lot of outputs each year (WASH for 14 villages and 3 schools/year).  This means that the staff will have to be trained quickly and trusted to work under remote management. 
As I work towards this proposal and project, some days I’m excited with the possibility, and others I’m overwhelmed with concern about the challenges.  This morning I was encouraged to again read my favorite chapter of Proverbs.  I’ll copy the verses that were loud and clear to me tonight, I hope they are meaningful to you as well:

“The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
but the Lord weighs the motives.  Commit your works to the Lord
and your plans will be established.” (16:1-3)

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (16:7)

“The mind of man plans his way,
but the Lord directs his steps.” (16:9)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Projects to put hope in

Aid work and community development can sometimes wear a person down.  The intents are so good, but often the challenges are so huge and transformative results are elusive.  That is why I constantly seek new ideas, reports, and stories of projects that are really providing great results in this tough country.  Tonight I want to share 2 great projects with you.  I am currently not working with these projects, but I would like to be!

Terraced, irrigated gardens:  I'm currently gathering results of the yield output change in this project, but it looks very promising.  As roads improve and markets develop, every farmer could increase his livelihood by converting a hillside into gardens like these.  Irrigation is lacking in a lot of places, but as electricity spreads into more and more villages, they have a new option of pumping water up from rivers to their fields, which, if they plant the right crops, would easily pay for itself.

Pistachio forests:  You're going to want to click on this picture below to see the bigger image, so go ahead and do that, then come back and read this..... okay did you see the trees on the top of the mountain, and the thin terraces on the lower half?  The trees up high are the remnants of a great pistachio tree forest that covered the hills here.  During the war years when markets were in shambles and people just needed to keep warm in the winter, they began cutting down the trees, working their way up the mountains from the base.  Fortunately their need for heat did not completely exhaust the forests, and some mature trees remained for a time when their produce would fetch a great price.  Today the owners of these trees are sell 15 lbs of pistachios for close to $40 USD!  That's good money!  Big organizations have taken notice of the economic opportunity, and assisted villages in this area in planting pistachio saplings in the terraces, to recreate the former forested hills.  Pistachio trees take around 20 years to mature to fruit-bearing, which is a long investment of time, but regardless, villages are clamoring to get aid help in planting their hills with pistachio trees again!

The nature of injustice

This week I found my copy of “Good News About Injustice” and I’m pleased to continue reading it.  Last fall I quoted the books author, Gary Haugen, in this post.  Today I read another gripping quote by Haugen, and I want to share it with you here:

“Let there be no mistake, evil and injustice thrive on moral ambiguity, equivocation, confusion and the failure to commit.  Remembering that injustice is the abuse of power, we must know that injustice is strong, forceful, committed.  In every case it will prevail against the uncertain, the unsure and the uncommitted.” (p.105)

Powerful and clear statement isn’t it? 

I cannot predict in which direction your mind will apply this, but I’ll tell you where my mind goes, it goes to the plight of the poor in countries like this.  Without someone to wholeheartedly painstakingly defend and advocate for the poor, the policies and tendencies of the powerful squash them.  I’m convicted because that’s not always where I put my attention.  What strikes me from this quote is the truth that being half-hearted, or trying to do a little about injustice, is useless. 

Oh that we could be whole-hearted in our stand for the people and the matters that weigh on the heart of our Lord. 

Hand-dug well part 3 - finished!

Thanks to those of you who expressed interest in this project!

At the end of the part 2 post (see below), I listed the work remaining on the well.  Those last things were completed in less than a week after I wrote the last post, because the people were so motivated to get the pump running so that they could have clean water in their village.

The finished product looks like this:

All the digging equipment is gone, the well is sealed and the lid has a chain and padlock to prevent tampering.  The electric lines to the pump are all buried, as is the pipe that runs up to the village.  At the other end of the pipe is this reservoir:

This cement reservoir was actually built by Oxfam in 2008, at the tail-end of a mountain spring project they did for this village.  Unfortunately that mountain spring dried up, and this reservoir had been unused for years.  We are glad to build on the foundations of work done by other groups, after all, these projects are for the good of the people, not the NGOs!  Before putting this reservoir back into use we fully disinfected the inside, added a chain and padlock to the lid on top, and made the single output pipe into a split so that 2 people could fill their buckets simultaneously.

I was back in this village today and the people had great things to say about what this water source has done for them: they spend much less time collecting water, and the water is safe for drinking.  In the mix with the statements of gratitude however, the community members also had further requests from this project.  They would like us to build another reservoir like this one, but to build it above the village, and then run gravity pipes down from it to a system of taps, one near each cluster of 4-5 houses.  They would also like a backup generator, to continue to pump water when the hydro-power supplied electricity cuts out.

A person cannot blame a community for dreaming big and pushing the envelope with groups that come to partner with them.  However for these requested extensions to this water project, we will have to wait a little bit further into the year to see if we have budget for these, after we get planned projects in other villages rolling.