30/09/18

Improvisation is everything!

A waste sorting plant in a small Kenyan village? During my trip to Boji, a remote village of 700 people in the arid lands north of Mount Kenya, I was amazed to come across a large heap of rubbish. I am actually here to report on the project “Camels for drought areas” but the waste mountain sparks my interest.

Peter Lüthi, Communication

I realise that the heap is not smelly like rubbish and so I investigate further. About halfway round, I realise what it is: It is not a heap of rubbish but an enclosure for small animals. It is made up of waste and thorn bushes. Inside, a man is watching a young goat. At that very moment, the man throws forward his arms and lunges towards the animal. However, he ends up empty-handed as the nanny goat is faster and with a single jump she flies past me and gains her freedom.

Recycling waste instead of chopping down bushes

The man looks around indignantly. His annoyance changes to surprise and finally a friendly smile. “Salam alaikum”, he says – Peace be with you. He introduces himself as Mohamed Godana and explains why he has chosen these two materials for his enclosure. “In this way I don’t have to chop down as many thorn bushes and drag them here”. Wood is in short supply in the semi-arid Boji. He also wants the hedge to act as a good example of waste recycling. It is no accident that Mohamed Godana acts as a role model as he teaches in the local school. When he invites me to visit his classroom, I am pleased to accept.

  • Mohamed Godana, a teacher in Boji (Kenya) launches into an impromptu lesson in camel farming.
  • A waste sorting plant in Boji, a village of 700 inhabitants in Kenya?
  • The heap turns out to be an enclosure for small livestock. Mohamed Godana tries but fails to catch the nanny goat.
  • The school in Boji, a Borana village north of Mount Kenya.

  • Mohamed Godana’s classroom.
  • “God Bless us”
  • In Boji, the headscarf is a normal part of the girl’s school uniform.

  • Pupils answering the question “Why do we keep camels in Boji?
  • Walking home after the end of school.
  • Firewood is in very short supply in semi-arid regions, including Boji.
  • Biovision is working with local people and Vétérinaires sans Frontières to reintroduce camel husbandry in Isiolo County.
  • The project “Camels for drought areas” is an example of efforts to increase the resilience of pastoral people to extreme drought.

School continues despite it being 40° C

It’s early afternoon as I make my way to the school. It is unbearably hot, probably about 40°C in the shade. The sun beats down. I think to myself that at home pupils would have long since been sent home because of the heat. Here, however, school seems to be continuing as normal. In the large playground adjacent to the oblong buildings, a group of noisy children in school uniform run about. It seems to be breaktime. As I enter the classroom, the teacher is wiping the large blackboard. He welcomes me with a joyful smile and immediately in his sternest voice, calls his class back into the room. A short time later, 36 girls and boys are sitting at their new school desks and looking at their teacher with anticipation. The children from the other classes peer noisily through the window. It is still breaktime for them.

Camels in the classroom

Mohamed Godana introduces me and then lets me speak. I welcome the children and explain that I am here to record progress on the project to reintroduce camels. Prompted by the word “camels”, the teacher immediately takes back the reins and on the spur of the moment starts a lesson in “social studies” on the subject of camels. He asks the class, “Why do we keep camels in Boji”? The children think for a moment and then one raises a hand and answers “Camels provide milk,” “for meat,” “they bring in an income,” “for transport,” “you can use their fat,” “you can use the skin for tent roofs”. Mohamed Godana has a follow-up question: “What are the benefits of camels compared with cows, goats and sheep. The children think briefly and then fire off answers: “Camels can survive much longer without water,” “they can walk further than other livestock,” “if the grass has dried up they can pick off the leaves of the acacia and thorn bushes,” “camel milk sells well – even in the capital of Nairobi”. I listen with feelings of both satisfaction and appreciation. Suddenly and to my surprise, the teacher calls an abrupt halt to the brief lesson and bids me an official farewell. In response to my baffled look at this sudden end to the lesson, he says with a mischievous smile: “Were you aware that school had actually finished for today. I called the children back in just for you…”