Sunday, June 17, 2007

Progress at the new land….

Much has been done in the land development. What started out as a hope…a dream…a vision is now becoming a reality, though now still in infant stages. We came here to develop this vision and it is evident that we need to be here and that The Family Resource Center of Zambia will happen! It is rewarding to see the progress, but tiring as well. There is no question about it being HARD work!

So it started out as raw land. In Africa they call it the bush. Where do you start developing it? How do you know what you even have when there is elephant grass as tall as 12 feet all around you? It all has to do with timing…. We only have 2 seasons here, summer and winter…better known as the rainy season and the dry season. These seasons drive many things. Obviously you cannot do certain things when the rain comes every day and floods roads, creates mud and ruins your parade! It is great for the crops, but not for certain kinds of construction and excavation. When the dry season comes it is very common here to burn off the dry grasses. At that point you can really see the lay of the land and you can do many things impossible with heavy wet green grass. The real progress started when the rainy season ended.

Previous posts addressed the road construction. In order to get electricity, there needed to be a road for the trucks to drive to the interior of the land to place power poles. So the trees were cut and stumps were chopped and brush was cleared and burned. The bonus in all of this was that the cut trees could become charcoal…a valuable commodity here. But this “road” was only a service road. A real road for access to the heart of the land was needed. So more cutting, digging and clearing…. The road is about 800 metres or ½ mile. This road needed to be a good one, not just accessible by big trucks, but small cars as well. Huge rocks were a problem. A sledgehammer doesn’t do much except give you a headache. Solution: burn large tractor trailer tires on top of the rocks. The heat then cracks the rock and allows a sledgehammer to crumble it with a single blow.

It is a real blessing to be able to find hard workers. Because over 80% of the population is unemployed, many seek jobs. Mike was able to find 5 hard working and reliable Zambian workers who were thrilled to get a job. They work 8 hours each day, 5 to 6 days a week. They dig stumps, clear brush and create a smooth road. They are like having a machine. Going pay rate : $2.50 per day. They are so happy to have a job and we are so happy to have good workers. That is what you call WIN-WIN!

An important thing to have in any development is water. Not only is water important for cleaning and cooking, but also for making bricks. That is the next venture ready for us to try. So this past week the well-diggers came and at 70 feet they hit water. They kept drilling and after going through solid rock for 90 more feet hit water again. That means this water would be pure and uncontaminated. It could be drinkable just as it comes from the well! This would be the first of several wells that will be drilled on our land.

Next step… start making bricks. Mothers Without Borders has owned a brick making machine for over 2 years in anticipation of this construction. A shipping container was moved to the property for the secure storage of the machine. The water barrels are in place nearby and a primitive shelter has been constructed for some protection from the sun. This past week the bricks were started… much to everyone’s delight. To have it begin during the time an expedition of Americans was here was an added bonus!

In order to make bricks there has to be a source of dirt, a source of water and then bags of cement. It goes like this…For every bag of cement (25 kilos or 50 lbs) you need 10 construction-sized wheelbarrows full of dirt and 25 litres of water. The dirt and cement are mixed on the ground then about a gallon and a half of water is mixed in and shoveled into the machine where it is hydraulically pressed to create a brick every 15 seconds. Each brick weighs 11 kilos or 22 pounds. Someone needs to be there to take the brick from the machine and stack it in the holding area where it is watered daily to cured for 2 weeks. The goal is to make about 900 bricks per day. That means 100 wheelbarrow loads of dirt must be dug from the ground and wheeled several hundred feet to the construction site. That uses about 10 to 12 bags of cement and about 1 ¼ drums of water per day. If you were working full force this would require about 14 workers.

Now consider how many bricks we need to build this “village” of buildings…. 20 homes for children, staff housing, International volunteer housing, a lodge, school, clinic, country store, mill, vocational and business training center and a brick fence around the whole property !!!! I think we are going to be here for a while….

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