Back to “the Bush” we go

Despite the trepidation I feel squirming in my stomach, we are headed back to Zwedru tomorrow. The last time we made this trip I was miserably carsick. As mentioned before, the roads here are something else. After almost three months in Africa, I hoped that I might toughen up a bit, but the truth is I’m just not there yet. I’m hopeful that the water situation is the guesthouse has been resolved so that we can shower, do our laundry and flush the toilet…will let you know.

Road to Zwedru

out in "the bush"

Securing 80 gallons of gasoline…hazardous, you say? Perhaps.

We will be out there for a couple weeks. Tim will continue following up with the beneficiaries of our micro-finance program as well as helping to facilitate the building of a refugee camp for Ivorian refugees. There have been over 100,000 refugees from Liberia’s bordering country, Ivory Coast crossing over the borders since the beginning of the unrest last fall. SFL is one of a few NGO’s established in this region and has offered to serve however possible during this crisis.

You can check out SFL’s website (www.shelter.org) or their facebook page for more details. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shelter-for-Life-International/100367303432)

When we return to Monrovia, I hope to post pictures and share a few stories from this trip.

‘Til then, so long.

My Reefs

These are my reefs. I bought them in Kona, Hawaii ten years ago for my first expedition to Africa.

They have traveled to at least 15 countries with me, and endured inadvertent abuse in every one of them. The first time I came to Africa, they received the backlash of some bad food I consumed at the market.  I have also used them to pound the various critters I find scampering across my bathroom tiles.

Most recently, I discovered a bulge of sorts, growing in between the layers of weaving.  My dependable reefs had become the nest of a small pest that had rapidly grown into a brute of a cockroach. I had to look away as Tim cut into the fabric to extract the imposter from my beloved sandals. It was still alive. (Don’t freak out. They were thoroughly disinfected).

And yet, these faithful flip-flops show no signs of wearing down. They are my go to sandals for a summer afternoon on the farm or a Saturday at the lake.

Obviously, I have no misgivings on my purchase and am rooting for another decade of inquisitive meandering together.

Training

We have disbursed a total of 98 micro-grants in the last seven days to local farmers in both Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties. Although these past couple weeks in the bush have been my most challenging so far, it has been exciting to see the project getting off it’s feet.

When we arrived back in Zwedru last week, I did not hesitate in throwing off my bags and heading straight for the shower. I was horrified when the water sputtering out at me was murky brown and smelled like an outhouse. I tried to contain my gagging as I stumbled out of the shower. So, apparently there was a problem with the well and possibly the septic. Good to know…It’s almost two weeks later and I still haven’t showered. Thank God for wet wipes, hand sanitizer and baby powder, but still…I smell like a foot.

Anyhow, the beneficiaries of the micro-finance program each successfully completed a two-day agro-business training seminar before we distributed the grants. The initial disbursement was the equivalent of 100 US dollars and about 2/3 of that amount was granted in the form of commodities such as shovels, cutlasses, files, hoes, work gloves and rain boots. The remaining sum is intended for the purchasing of seed or for hiring labor.

Recipients who can show that they have used this first payout appropriately over the next couple months will be eligible for fifty additional US dollars. Just to put it in perspective, the average Liberian contributes about a dollar a day per capita GDP. So, this is a substantial amount of input for those who meet the requirements.

Here are some of the women farmers we met and who received a micro-grant through this program.

We look forward to following up with them and visiting their farms over the next 6-8 weeks.

If you’d like to learn more about SFL and this program, you can visit www.shelter.org.