Saturday, 14 August 2010

"Tayters in the Mould" Part II

I will admit that it’s not quite the depths of Arctic winter that my Christmas blog ‘Tayters in the Mould’ was originally set in, however 18 degrees C, in Kafanchan feels pretty similar when there’s no hot water, a dearth of warm clothes and almost constant, persistent and hammering rain.

(Right) Teleri, Thomas and I getting ready for work in the morning. Teleri left for her UK holiday 2 weeks ago – it’s barely stopped raining since then.... in Kafanchan

(Below) Nigerian author Ben Okri once started a book 'a river became a road'... Well here every now and then, a road becomes a river

I don’t remember it being this cold last year: I have no memory of getting myself cosy in bed under a thick blanket or coming into work in the morning and worrying, yes actually worrying , about having remembered to bring a cardigan or wrap into work. I remember wearing socks but that was to keep my feet clean, not warm.

Fantsuam’s director of operations and I keeping well wrapped up during a meeting at 2pm this afternoon. Notice the fetching combination of socks and sandals.

I am convinced that this is a particularly cold and wet year. However colleagues don’t seem to be noticing anything out of the ordinary. I have a worrying suspicion that perhaps I’m just getting too used to the warmth?

However on the ‘bright’ side, this recent weather should be preparing me well for my return to England. After these continuous downpours that seem to start about 2am and continue till about 3pm the next day, any appearance by the sun is incredibly welcome and I feel the need to stand and bask in its warm rays like a lizard in the early morning.

The best Kafanchan can currently offer in the way of a sunny day. The long driveway of the Rehab centre

And with only 7 weeks to go until I return to England, I need to start getting accustomed to leaving some things behind, and not just the weather.

Yesterday we happened to be doing disbursements to two of the first centres I ever visited when I came to Fantsuam – Unguan Gaiya in Samaru and Zankan near Manchok.

As I stood in the now lush surroundings of the District Head of Zankan’s compound, scaring the small children (they don’t see a lot of white people around here), it occurred to me that it would probably be the last time I would visit.

Whilst only cactus thrives in the height of the dry season (left), the corn is tall in August.

The children build up the courage to come close to the scary white lady

I will probably never again see a dry season in Zankan

At Unguan Gaiya, after waiting for the women to return from a burial, we met fleetingly with District Head James Ayok who, in only my second week at Fantsuam, named me Ladi because I was born on a Sunday. As he learnt of my imminent departure he renewed his offer of marriage whilst Yan Biyu, one of the twins I had met on the first visit, pleaded with me to take her – and presumably also her two month old baby, back with her to ‘my place’. As always in response to this request, I told her that when I could charter a large plane I might manage to fit in half the people that had made that request during my time here plus a couple of prospective husbands.

Me with the hakimi of Unguan Gaiya, HRH James Ayok. Photo with some of the loan group (centre) – Yan Biyu (right) insists on making a last minute entrance with her baby.

Leaving the people behind – or more precisely – their attitudes will be one of the most difficult things. Back home it will be difficult to find that caring, sharing nature, the genuine concern for other human beings and the delight that you bring just by being a white person paying them some attention.
But there are some things that won’t be so difficult to put behind me.

(The next morning)

I didn’t finish this blog last night because just as I got to the previous paragraph the computer died which is usually the way that Nigeria tells you it’s time for bed.

Staring at a suddenly black computer screen by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Note: there’s a new, male, VSO who’s joined Gayl in the new Red House behind us. He’s been here a week and already hooked up a car battery to the lights.... We are jealous, but with such a short time to go, we don’t feel like investing ½ month’s salary. If only we’d done it before

However I’m finishing the blog now as I wait to hear the shower start so that I can bathe and wash my hair in the cold running water. NEPA brought light in the night – between 11pm and 5.00am – power that is useful for charging appliances and not much else. Still it means that when I make the journey into Fantsuam to upload the blog, it should be almost finished. One day... one day ... the internet will come to Kagoro.

As I type I’ve just noticed the black kerosene soot on one of my fingers which brushed the side of the small pan as I poured the hot water into a mug for my morning cup of Milo. Later today I’ll be taking the large jerry can into Kafanchan to get it filled up with kero at the local petrol station so I’m well supplied with fuel for the lights and stove. The price is down N10 per litre from a couple of weeks ago.

But the list of things I’m not going to miss has pretty much run dry.

And the indicator on my computer battery, exhausted after 100s of charging cycles is also getting low and will die on me again any minute.

I can hear the children playing around the compound. The rattle of a distant grinder (the chief’s grinder opposite is momentarily thankfully silent), the cluck of a chicken, the crow of a lazy cockerel and oh –a car just drove by. The first in about 45 minutes.

Now all I want to hear is the rattle of the water through the pipes.. The cold cold water. Perhaps the prospect of a hot bath will make the return to the UK all worthwhile?

Thursday, 12 August 2010


Or more specifically, integration and differentiation.

That’s what occurred to me when I looked at this group photo of today’s disbursement to Kafanchan’s Rehabilitation Centre in nearby Takau.

"Integration" because this is a pretty good example of Fantsuam’s ‘integrated model of rural development’

The whole group had recently undergone microenterprise training which had motivated them to apply for a group loan from Fantsuam Foundation.

But in addition to business training and microfinance services, you may recognise Steven and Peter (3rd and 4th from the left) – who recently graduated from our Computer Certificate class at Fantsuam Foundation .

A close up of the shot from the JAWS graduation

"Differentiation" because of the variety of people in the picture.

Starting from left to right – Joshua is a shoemaker. Until now the small amount of capital he had allowed him to make three to four pairs of shoes a week that he would take to local Kafanchan market to sell. The loan will allow him to buy more materials and make more shoes.

Grace disbursing Joshua his first cycle loan of N5,000 (just over £20). Grace is standing in for her colleague Sarah whose centre this is. Sarah was involved in an okada accident last week and has a head injury. We wish her a speedy and full recovery.

Dauda next to him is a tailor. Also trained at the Rehab Centre he’s been making and repairing men’s and women’s clothes for almost 10 years. The loan will allow him to diversify and buy a goat.

Steven and Peter work at the centre. They and their wives received the loan in order to boost the farming business.

Dauda signs for his first loan

Next to Peter are the two Christianas who together rear chickens which they fatten and sell at Kafanchan’s weekly pig market, arguably the largest in West Africa.

A colleague helps Christiana James sign for her loan with a thumb print.

In front of the Christianas is Andrew Chiroma, mobile bookseller and one time Nigerian Salesman of the Year with Worldwide Educational Services Ltd who he started working with in 1998 after retinal pigmentosa forced him to abandon his BSc in Sociology. As well as selling books, Andrew is a master bookbinder which reminded me of my days at the London College of Printing attaching end papers and applying gold leaf to foredges. Ah those were the days.

Next to Christiana in the yellow is Casmir N Bobai (left) – also a mobile salesman, he visits local villages on their market day to sell phone recharge cards when demand is high. Like so many things in life, the more you buy the cheaper they are. With the loan Casmir will be able to get a better margin – make more money – on his business. I’ll be looking out for him at Kagoro this weekend.

But to be honest, they are not the only sorts of integration and differentiation that this disbursement reminded me of. I’ll let you think about the other types yourself but let me give you a hint. If you start going doing the paths of first principles, rates of change and dx by dy, you’re on the wrong track.

I prefer this sort of calculus.

In Nigeria peanuts are called groundnuts. Taken in the grounds of the Rehabilitation Centre, you can see why.


This blog is dedicated to Michael – Fantsuam’s – and in particular – the Pink Ladies’ driver who tragically died last week a few weeks after being involved in a serious motorbike. He has left a huge hole in the heart of the Fantsuam and Bayan Loco communities. We pray for his young family, including wife, his twin girls and baby daughter Esther born this year on Easter Day.