Friday, 5 December 2008

Dreams will come true

Last week on 3 December 2008 all the staff of Fantsuam Foundation visited the site of a dream – Attachab. Fantsuam’s founder and chairman John Dada’s vision is to create a self-contained eco-farm supporting the needs of the surrounding community and contributing to the economic development of the region.

Three local buses were hired and gingerly pulled into Fantsuam Close and, once loaded, these vehicles picked their way reluctantly across the potholed dirt roads of Bayan Loco towards nearby town Ungwa Rimi where we turned off the tar once again towards the site of Attachab, the Eco Farm. For many passengers – this was their first visit to the much talked-about EcoFarm, a model of which takes pride of place on the porch of the Main House in Bayan Loco.

The small convoy progressed slowly along the track for about 10 minutes first through a small village and then tall agricultural bush until we reached our destination and the buses disgorged their relieved passengers.

Amongst them Kayode from the VSO programme office who was visiting from Abuja that day. With five VSO volunteers currently working with Fantsuam, the Foundation is one of VSO’s foremost partners in Nigeria and it was with great pride that not only John, but all of the VSO volunteers were able to demonstrate the vision in real life.

We all gathered next to one of the only buildings on the site, constructed from distinctive solid laterite blocks made by Fantsuam volunteers and local labourers on the Attachab site. John Dada assembled the gathering. He explained how the vision of Attachab had been realised from the combined efforts of all Fantsuam staff and volunteers, past and present, who had taken Fantsuam from its modest origins in Bayan Loco to where it is today, with its grand plans for the future. Although this was a journey of 1,000 steps it was clear that the first steps had been taken. It was just a few more steps in the same direction that the organisation had been taking from its foundation in 1996, that would enable Fantsuam to reach the dream.

Walking across the freshly ploughed fields, planted with yams, tomatoes and other nutritious crops, the group then approached the fish ponds fed by a tributary of the River Wonderful and recently stocked with fish. Why a fish farm? John’s vision is not just economic development but to ensure that the community – particularly the old, young and more vulnerable – are adequately nourished. Fish are a vital source of protein. Originally the fish farm was based in Bayan Loco and the fish it produced were given to the local community however the unreliable water supply destroyed its viability. However it was the first feature to be recreated at Attachab where, if the gods smile on us, the River Wonderful will ensure a perennial source of water and therefore fat, nutritious fish.

Fantsuam is currently negotiating for sponsorship of its own Friesian cow from which to produce yoghurt – again as a food supplement, but that story is for another day.

Our progress took us to the next projects – the ecodome and the straw brick maker - the latter currently being trialled to use the huge quantities of tall grasses that populate any uncultivated areas and are simply discarded each year. Where economic resources are as scarce as they are in this part, it is crucial to make use of any and all of the natural resources whether they be grasses, water or the abundance of fruits that, once the season is over, are simply left to rot on the ground. Projects for dried mango chips are also on the cards, but once again, for another day.

The ecodome with the straw brick maker in the foreground

The ecodome, resembling a modern version of a traditional African hut, belies its amazing function. Entering in small groups under the blazing hot African sun, everyone was amazed by the dramatic drop in temperature that this sandbag and laterite construction achieved. And indeed there is a vital purpose to this building in John Dada’s dream: in an environment where it is highly likely that all electricity must be locally generated, the ecodome is destined to be a computer server room, saving the vast expense of round the clock airconditioning. The Foundation’s IT manager Bala staked his future kingdom – as ruler of the ecodome server room. Making the most of local resources for a purpose.

Bala - king of the ecodome

Astounded by the coolness, the health centre manager Mama then put in her order for another ecodome, for the Ecofarm’s consulting room, where patients could be treated and babies delivered in more comfortable surroundings.

As the gathered crowd collected under the spreading foliage of a local mango tree, Mrs Madiki gave thanks in a quick prayer for the amazing progress that Fantsuam has made since its beginnings and asked for the inspiration and sweat that will make the Ecofarm a reality. John then asked junior Sarah to lead the group in song:

Zo, kagani. Zo, kataba,
Alheri Allah yana da kyau
Come, see. Come, touch
The works of God are good

Attachab is a beautiful location – a site fit for a dream and between John Dada, Fantsuam’s staff and supporters around the world, this dream will come true – for Fantsuam and for the people of southern Kaduna State.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Cecil,
Jared here - yet another amazing story from the heart of Nigeria. I was taken back by the level of development that is planned in the Eco site. It must be really heart warming for you and the fellow VSO's to see projects like this occurring. I see John Dada is a very talented and driven man so I am sure you fit in with his organisation very well.
Do let me know how to go about sponsoring the Fresian Cow and or some more fish. I think his plans are fantastic!
I look forward to seeing these works when I visit next year.
Jared xx