Posts Tagged ‘local’

I got a great comment from Gareth on my last post Why aid and development workers should be reading blogs:

Do you know of any good blogs from local aid workers? I enjoy reading all these blogs from western-educated aid workers like myself, but we do tend to have a fairly similar way of looking at things, so it’d be great to read something from a different perspective. Any suggestions?

He’s right of course.  It would be nice to add some local perspectives to the lists of aid and development bloggers that float around.

Two well-known sites to find ‘local’ voices are Global Voices and Rising Voices. There is also Maneno which is (used to be?) a platform for bloggers in Africa, but it seems to be under maintenance while an open source platform is developed. I’m not sure how many of the bloggers on those platforms technically work at aid or development organizations, but regardless of that minor detail, you will get great local perspectives on aid and development issues there.

But the question stands – where can we find local aid and development worker blogs?

Suggestions please!

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While I was in Cameroon last week, I had a chance to go out to film with one of the youth groups. Earlier in the week they had worked together to map out their community and look at local resources, and one of those resources was PresPot, a local business that makes different types of clay products. It’s part of a larger initiative, supported by Presbyterians (get it? PresPot?).

the road to PresPot

The PresPot is a pretty cool place.  It’s located down one of the roads leading off the highway near Ndop, the main town in the area of Bamenda where we were working.

PresPot Manager

The kids had their storyboard and their interview already prepared, and they got going by first asking the manager for permission and his consent to film and do some interviews. They explained that they were not doing a film for commercial purposes but as part of a project they were working on.

The manager gave them an overview of the work area, gave staff permission to be interviewed, and then went through the shop where they sell their things, explaining each product in detail.

Clay waiting to be formed into something

The clay used comes from the area nearby, It’s one of the highest quality clays. A ton of different items are made here out of the clay.

Builds up some nice arm and back muscles

Making zebras for a Noah's Ark

There’s everything from tiny trinkets, carved by hand to big pots using the potters wheel. One guy explained that he was making a lot of Noah’s Arks. He was carving little zebras using a knife.

Spinning by foot and making a pot

I watched another guy spinning a pot. He uses his foot to spin the wheel. He mentioned that PresPot also has a guest house, and that lots of foreigners come to visit and rest there. I asked if they also do pottery classes but he didn’t seem to get what I meant.

(I know some people who would love to go to the beautiful mountains of Ndop, and spend a week learning to throw pottery….)

The workshop gets really warm with the ovens going

After the pieces dry, they are fired.  It was pretty hot in there.

Forming the roof tiles

Out back, away from the firing ovens, one guy was making clay roof tiles. He said he makes 150 tile per day and they take 2 days to dry and then they fire them. He works Monday through Saturday.

Laying the tiles to dry

150 per day

Adding final touches

Another guy was adding little figures to the pots that the other guy was spinning. He was using glue to attach them.

and this guy finishes them up

And another one was finishing the pots up.

Final products

the PresPot Shop

The shop has all kinds of clay products as well as products that come from 2 other regions that work with wood and with fibers, bamboo and palm.

There is a shipping area where their items go out to the whole world.

I kept wondering if this little business was really sustainable, or if a Presbyterian NGO or church was supporting and it was barely profitable like many of the little craft businesses I’ve seen people try to fund.

The kids were doing the questioning, not me, and so I didn’t butt in to ask. It does seems like this small business is thriving. It’s nice to see that this exists in the community, and it will be cool to see the kids’ video on it.

I also think it’s interesting that the kids chose to show the PresPot as one of their community resources, but they didn’t mention any of the small business/ market sellers lining the streets of Ndop.

Walking down the main road in Ndop, there are people selling fresh boiled peanuts, roasted corn, and palm wine.  There are mechanic shops, and places to get your hair done and fabric shops. There are corner stores and taxis and bars.  Maybe the kids will do a piece on the market as the project goes on.

If you ever get out to the Bamenda area, I’d suggest checking out PresPot and maybe staying there to kick back for a couple days. Maybe they will teach you to throw some pots….

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I had dinner last night with those who had arrived for the meeting and then crashed. My luggage came around 3 a.m. so I had to go down to the lobby half asleep to get it! But yay!
Today we went out to the community were we had dropped the radio equipment off yesterday. First we went to a meeting at the Plan office. It was really interesting to hear their strategy which is centered around the concept of Child Friendly Communities. The cool thing is that they work with the community to define a set of indicators that the community is in agreement with. Then they measure where the community is at currently (baseline). Then they work with the community to improve their indicators. The interesting thing is that I have never seen it where the community is involved with setting and tracking indicators of their own development. Really really cool. We heard all the theory about it in the morning when the country director and program manager gave us an overview.
Then we all drove out to the village where the community representatives went through all their community indicators and explained where they were with them. So things like how many mothers are exclusively breastfeeding. How many kids are attending school. Percentage that have good hygiene habits. Etc. etc. We saw a few projects in the community – the early childhood care and development center, the nutrition center, and the women’s village savings and loan project. It was really interesting to see how they work, the impact the projects are having on the health and education of the kids, and also all the work that the women are doing to improve their community.
Photo: Community nutrition center where they weigh children to track their growth. They also work with the mothers to show them how to use locally available ingredients like sorghum, peanuts, herbs that grow in the area, to make high protein, high calorie porridge. The program is based on the concept of positive deviance — where the mothers who manage to have well nourished children are studied to find out how they do it, and then their habits are replicated/taught to the other mothers.
Stefanie asked the women in the savings and loan group what the men did, because she had seen mostly women doing all the work in all the projects. That really got a good laugh out of the women. The way the development process seems to work is that the men make the decisions about which projects and initiatives that their wives can participate in. Custom allows multiple wives. The men see the advantage of the improved health and education of their children, and the improved financial status of their wives. Mostly the men work in the fields and do the heavy work for project that require manual labor. Interesting dynamic though – when Stefanie asked her question there was a super long and animated conversation among several of the women and the men from the partner local organization that manages the project. None of this was translated for us! Then Thiekoro from Plan Mali just made a very quick summary. Stefanie asked for clarification later….and I’m not sure the real story was revealed then either.
After we talked with all the project groups, the radio project crew – Kids Waves – did a live radio show. The radio project moves from community to community, training the kids and then the develop a half-hour radio show on different topics. They were covering the issue of Violence in Schools. They had invited the local mayor and the director of the school to ask them about the issue and what they planned to do about it. When will children stop being beaten in schools? The officials assured them that they would not beat children any more. Many of the children laughed at that. I didn’t understand much of what was happening because the radio show is conducted in Bambara, the local language. But the kids and the community really really got a kick out of it, and the kids were great. Self assured and really professional.

Photo: Kids Waves radio program.

We stayed until around 4 and then drove back. We arrived quite late due to traffic and I was soooo tired by then. I went out for pizza with a few of the others, Messan from Togo, Carmen from Benin and Francoise from Burkina. Messan and Francoise had participated in the Kenya Social Media for Social Change workshop, and it was great to see them again. One of the best things about working for Plan is when you have a chance to see colleagues again and develop nice friendships and working relationships.

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