Well, it makes a change from trying to write books! We've had a request to help a village in a very practical way, in particular, the help would go to the women of the village. One of the defining sounds of sub-Saharan Africa is the rhythmic pounding of maize. Women spend hours pounding the grain in a large mortar, using a pestle as tall as themselves. I've tried it, it's hard work. The alternative to this hard labour is to bundle-up your maize crop, take it to the nearest maize mill and pay to have it ground there. You'll also have to pay the taxi fares there and back. In the end you'll save a little time and labour and spend a fair amount on the taxi. Now, what if the village had its own mill? The women would save on time, travel and labour. They would pay a small fee which would go to keeping the mill in good working order but their lives would be a lot easier.
Of course there's a snag. These things cost money. A lot of money - think a couple of thousand pounds for a diesel powered, Chinese built machine. There would be dock charges, transport charges, import duties.You'd need a secure shed to keep it in, regular servicing, fuel; it all adds up. This is where the bedtime reading comes in. Some mills don't have engines to power them. They have people power - a big wheel with a handle on to turn the grinders and produce the meal. They village has strong men and women ... So, we have to find a suitable machine which could cope with the quantities of maize the village produces (some research needed), somewhere to keep it - and some money to buy it! Then we can go shopping!
and a hand powered mill is a lot cheaper than a diesel powered one! Anyone happen to know how to calculate the amount of maize grown on a typical Gambian small-holding? Like to help?
Thanks for reading this.