Hello from Nyange!
Muraho! (Hello!) The past two days have been amazing! We left Muhunga around 7:30 am to head to Nyange on both days. To respect the co-op members’ time and need to still work their crops and make food, we always plan to leave the community by 1 pm. For these two days, our team’s agenda included cooperative member interviews and cart assembly and testing on the local terrain.
The plan was to quickly get to work both days to make the most of our time. Our carefully laid plans were quickly discarded when we unexpectedly participated in a challenging team-building exercise with the co-op members known as dig the bus out of the mud! It had rained heavily the night before and the co-op has a large open parking area that is made up predominately of clay that was recently cleared and has not been compacted. As such, the Don Bosco bus turned in and promptly got stuck in the deep clay mud. (Oh, we just learned Don Bosco is an Italian order… we were told French here in country.)
The interview team has gathered some really great information. On Monday, we had two separate interviews, each with a pair of community members. These interviews were mainly focused on the tile making process, which allowed the team to clarify some outstanding questions, gather some new details about their process, and learn how their process has evolved over the year with their new space and kiln. Interviewees were also asked to describe their vision for the next five years.
It was inspiring to hear their dreams of the co-op growing. Their very visible and tangible success with the completion of the new co-op building and kiln has left them with hope and an ability to look into the future. When you are really poor, feeding your children their next meal is often as far into the future as you have the luxury to imagine.
The interviews continued Day 6 (Tuesday) but were individual and focused more on the effect of the co-op on their past lives, their hopes for the next five years, and how they believe the cart will affect their lives. Their answers were thoughtful and hopeful. Our wonderful translator, Kiki, who was with the interview team last year, noticed a significant positive change in their ability to speak confidently and express themselves. The interview team found that the co-op members consistently expressed their pride in becoming more fearless and goal oriented. One co-op member noted the cart was already helping as its uniqueness was already generating interest that resulted in strangers asking what they did at the co-op.
The cart team got quickly to work on Monday to assemble the cart and were able to transition to testing before noon. They headed down the trail but a road block caused by a large rock resulting in their turning around rather quickly. On the return uphill trip, the motor began stopping. Our temporary multimeter indicated that we were drawing very high current values, which resulted in a very low voltage. This caused a conflict with the additional protection the team added to protect the life of the deep cycle batteries. The cart’s charge controller was wired to turn the motor off if the battery voltage dropped too low. This should not have been an issue with our old 22 Amp batteries but our new 28 Amps batteries draw more current at a lower voltage.
The muddy cart was loaded back in the bus but not before Mediatrice and Adria (the co-op President and Vice-President) were able to take the cart for a test drive in the parking area. What a great moment to watch these two women figure out how to drive! Mediatrice initially drove herself into a corner. She was so excited when we showed her reverse!
The Food and Agriculture Institute group arrived at Don Bosco at the end of the day. They will be going out to the community with us. Hopefully, the soil will be a bit drier! Tomorrow further testing on the cart begins.