More community work

I had a second week of community work, this time in a village in the dry, dusty interior near Tsavo West. Former poachers, the community of Mahandakini had been persuaded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals that there were better ways of making a living than hunting giraffes to sell as bushmeat, and GVI was trying to help them develop other ways of making a living.

The community already grow cotton, but as raw cotton prices are so low, they don't really make money from it. GVI (through its volunteers) is trying to raise money to buy spinning machines for the village, and is teaching them to make cotton products to sell to tourist lodges and perhaps to export to "fair trade" shops in the UK. We were there to teach them how to turn woven cotton into cushion covers, as well as advising on the suitability of different designs using locally available natural dyes.

So I found myself measuring, cutting and pinning up cotton, trying to explain how to calculate the amount of material to allow for the overlap (the bit where the cushion goes in) and other things I had known nothing about until this week. I also watched the women turn tree bark into a natural dye (here they are straining the dye through a plastic tea-strainer on the left), and fold and tie the cotton before dying it so as to produce patterns on the material. I hadn't much looked forward to this as I didn't see how I could contribute anything useful, but in fact with some preparation it went well and I enjoyed it. The sample finished product that we managed to prepare during the week was of a surprisingly high quality.

Living conditions there were basic, as we slept in our sleeping bags on the concrete floor of a disused building, cooked over a fire, and got to "wash" only once in the week when we visited a natural spring and all jumped in for a swim.

By the end of the week we (and all of our clothes and sleeping bags) were brown from the dust. I actually found myself looking forward to a "shower" from a bucket of seawater back at base!

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