Previous checks by our supporting medical doctors (MD) showed that the Buntung population is suffering from too monotonous food. They live on a diet of cous (made from pearl millet), peanuts and their side products and some rice (occasionally as they have to buy this). Buying is not the way we are used to as they barely have money. They pay in bags of peanuts (same as they pay for school fees).
The kids are very small and not very well nourished. Apart from that a lot of them suffer from lactose allergy and are not aware of it. As one of our board members, Vicky Jacquemijn is a registered nurse (RN) she wanted to do something about this unilateral feeding by introducing vegetables. There was a wish from the villagers to start a vegetable garden as in their neighboring village Lebba, but this was virtually impossible as the current water well was barely producing enough water to feed the people and the animals. Apart from that, it was in very bad shape, even after a repair 3 years ago the walls were again starting to collapse. Building materials especially concrete are not to our EU standards. So before thinking of starting a vegetable garden we had to do something about the water supply.
In order to get better water it would be necessary to dig deeper to get real good fresh ground water that was filtered by lots of meters of savannah ground. This is done by a socalled ‘borehole’, a thin but deep hole holding a tube with at the bottom a special tubular pump operated by electricity.
These boreholes are mostly digged by complex and expensive machinery, costing up to 10.000 Euros of digging expenses, especially so far inland where there is virtually no supply, so all has to come from the coastal area. We asked for several price offers, but again this is not like in Europe. Most offers are just a number, and you have to guess what you will get for that money and if it will be done properly. Out of 5 requests, only 3 replied, but all were far out of budget. We are not Doctors without Frontiers, we don’t drive expensive jeeps and we do not stay in expensive lodges 😊…
We looked on the Brikama market and we saw that the offers we got were as expected far exaggerated. This often happens when white men ask for pricings. We even went into some quarrel in the Gambia facebookgroup as we laughed at the prices other organizations paid for such boreholes.
Finally we got a far better offer from a guy called “Joof” that used to do borehole projects for Abdoul Gaye, the man we helped to start up his own lodge long time ago. He had already realized several boreholes not using machines but local manpower.
The borehole project:
So after some back and forth phone calls (you have to be patient in Africa…) Abdoul gave some travel money to Joof to go and inspect the site in Buntung. Joof returned with an offer that fitted our budget and included a complete key-to-the-door (read: water out of the tap) project, that included manual drilling, tubing, pump, wiring, solar panels. Another local welder from Bintang was contacted to construct the tower to support the water tank. The expected delivery time was around two weeks. The original plan was to have the borehole finished during our Eastern Holiday stay but this was no longer possible. We trusted Abdoul with the money and gave him the authority to manage the project, what he did very well. Soon we were getting pictures of men drilling in the dark (too hot during daytime…) and after some 18 meter drilling and tube mounting there was water flowing. The tower was mounted and painted yellow with the remaining paint from the poles of the garden fences, and the solar panel mounted next to it.
Water well MKII: at the end of the borehole we got a message from this “Joof”-guy telling he could fix the existing water well for a very acceptable amount of money. While we expected only to get some concrete repairs in return for the cash, soon we saw a picture of a tap mounted next to this old well. No idea how he did this but it was a major upgrade probably saving lots of effort from the women fetching water all day long.
Thanks Joof for a job well done…
The vegetable garden project:
Visiting Buntung on a yearly schedule the Smilegambia CEO and CFO brought some sponsor money to invest in the fences necessary for establishing a vegetable garden. Free running goats and cows are likely to eat any piece of green within reach, so this fence is necessary. In the past the locals used to make fences with bamboo sticks and stuff found nearby in nature, but there no longer is such supply. A metal fence is the best solution but out of reach due to the high cost. So a few wealthy Europeans helped to pay for 5 rolls of 25meter aluminum fence and some 6m lengths of irons sticks to hold them. The guy in Farefenni selling the metal was even so kind to cut them in to 2 meter pieces at no extra cost, with a handsaw in 30 degrees temperatures while we did our other shopping… We added a few bags of cement at 10 euros each and some paint and loaded this all on our already overloaded Nissan patrol SmileGambia company car, setting off for Buntung.
The villagers could not believe what they saw, the expensive metal fences and poles. The same evening we had a meeting about where to set up the vegetable garden. I liked it to be close to Kerr Pedro so we could share a side using these fences and it would be convenient to have the water supply borehole in the middle of the garden so also close to Kerr Pedro. The tank tower could be handy to use to hang up short wave antennas for the C5WP base station 😊.
The next early morning we were already digging holes for the poles. I used my one and only leftover 6mm drill to make holes in the poles using the old battery powered drill machine of my mother whose built in battery gave up long time ago but still usable with a wire to one of our famous VABO-sponsored sealed lead-acid solar powered accus. No fun working in temperatures reaching 50 degrees in the shadow in the afternoon.
During our last visit we found out that the battery we installed with the first solar system back 5 years ago is as good as dead. It will be necessary to replace this one on the next visit.
Also the last 230V inverter died in these harsh conditions so there is no spare left. So the next sponsor money will be used for buying solar batteries and inverters.
Apart from that we have an ongoing project to design street lights that are maintenance free and solar operated. We tried some commercial designs but they all die within two years due to mechanical or heat issues. The plan is to design in cooperation with the electronics department of a technical school in Geel, KOGEKA, a stand alone street light using state of the art LiPo energy sources and highly efficient LED lights. This development will also need some funding.
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Smilegambia.org is a private small scale initiative with the sole purpose of helping the village of Buntung
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