Things that make you go ‘grrrr’

December 5th, 2013

I have now been in Zimbabwe for a week, most of which has been a whirlwind of hectic activity, helping a local journalist cover our work for the Guardian Christmas appeal.

The trip hasn’t been easy. Zimbabwe has a pretty good transport infrastructure, but we have wasted hours at the dozens of police checkpoints which are dotted at regular intervals throughout the country.

My presence also attracted interest from Government representatives wherever I went, and we wasted more hours waiting for them to accompany us on field visits. Once they joined us even more time was spent in preliminary meetings with local officials, massively limiting the time we had to talk to the people we are actually there to help.



And when we finally did get talking, there was a palpable sense of unease, a raised eyebrow or a failure to answer the question when I asked how things are now compared to before Practical Action got involved with the community.

Throughout the week, I’ve not been able to quite shake off the feeling that getting to the real truth, and the real people we need to help, is a challenge I’ve not quite conquered.

Nevertheless, I have been proud to work for Practical Action. Like many others before me, I was taken with our micro-hydro project in Chipendeke. Just imagining the dozen or so volunteers carrying hundreds of bags of cement and assorted heavy and awkward gear up the mountainside makes me wince, but it also puts into perspective just how important access to electricity is for people who haven’t got it. The fact we have a dozen or so similar projects running throughout southern Africa should be a massive source of pride to everyone associated with Practical Action.

Keya Tshuma’s drought-hit farm right on the Botswana border

Keya Tshuma’s drought-hit farm right on the Botswana border

Our work helping hundreds of people make more from their smallholdings via our podcasts also impressed as did our ridiculously simple but clever way of water conservation in Keya Tshuma’s drought-hit farm right on the Botswana border. Following our advice he and his wife have dug 6,000 15cm by 15cm holes and filled them with manure before planting maize seeds. In this way, what little rain falls is kept for longer and his maize has a chance of growing. “I didn’t know about this before,” he said. “Without Practical Action coming to me I would have been in great trouble this year.”

It was the sort of comment that makes all the hassle worthwhile.

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