(Left) Top Gear's Toyota HiLux that was driven down steps, crashed into a tree, drowned in the English Channel, had a caravan dropped on it, crashed through a small wooden building, hit with a wrecking ball, set on fire, and placed at the top of a tower block while being demolished, yet still started and ran (although the chassis is cracked and the body is holding it together). Ref: Benjiya
Unfortunately Fantsuam's only vehicle, a Nigerian-made Peugeot 504 whilst hardy, does not exhibit similar levels of stamina.
In December 2008, I wrote one of my first blogs about the journey down the ‘Follow the yellow sand track’ to Kono, one of our more remote microfinance centres, and how our ‘trusty’ old Peugeot only broke down, what was it, four or five times?
Right: Half way back from Kono, still 2 hours from home and the Peugeot is getting its exhaust pipe re-welded and idling mended and ......
Exactly one year later and our reliance on the battered old workhorse has become too much. The frequency of its breakdowns is not only threatening Fantsuam’s finances but also preventing us from reaching the rural communities that need us most. Field officers lives are put at risk having to travel long distances on the back of under-powered motorbikes driven by reckless youths, and loan repayment rates are suffering when we don’t reach our clients at the appointed time on the appointed day to make a collection.
Reaching communities like Kanem has become more difficult where roads and bridges are not really designed for road-going vehicles
A loan disbursement in Zankan: the Field Officers know they can reach their appointments on time and safely when there’s a car they can rely on
One trip to Kono in the dry season nearly destroyed the Peugeot. We can’t even attempt disbursements to this remote community during the rainy season.
So having had enough of talking about needing a new vehicle I set about finding one: there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation when an organisation like ours needing a big capital item: you don’t have the money to pay for it but you don’t know how much money to raise until you’ve found it – and by the time you’ve raised the money – someone else has bought it.
But Fantsum and its beneficiaries (and its volunteers!) cannot wait forever.
Kagoro's Waterboard Road is more suited to children’s tyre rolling than tyres attached to cars which it destroys at will
I called a friend in Jos, the nearest centre of car dealers, and asked him to look out for a suitable vehicle. Well when I say ‘suitable’ there was only one vehicle that I could think of that could take the daily punishment of the Bayan Loco and Kagoro Roads. Only one vehicle that could be mended by the roadside with a spanner and some good luck. Only one vehicle that was ‘man’ (or should I say ‘Jeremy Clarkson’) enough for the job.
After searching the streets of Jos high and low, we found our car: an eight year old HiLux, with all the original engine parts and body work intact; with a double cabin to carry field officers or international volunteers and at a good price: N1.65 million (about $10,500).