Student - February 11, 2010

Picking up cow dung in Mopipi

Fritz van Deventer spent three months to study how cow dung can play a role in countering land degradation. This fourth year student of international land and water management did an internship in Mopipi in Botswana.

With my bare hands, I collected cow dung cakes from the ground. I did it in such a way that the cakes didn't break into pieces when I picked them up. Some people were less dexterous; the cake then broke open and faeces dripped all over their hands. The rural inhabitants of Mopipi obtain biogas from cow dung manure. This gas is used for cooking and is a good and necessary substitute for wood fuel. The cutting of trees for wood fuel causes soil erosion.
One day, I accompanied a village woodcutter on his rounds. We had to drive to the nearest forest fifteen kilometres away. The motor got over-heated every five kilometres, and each time, we replenished the radiator with water and waited. While waiting, we pumped up the tyres of that wreck with a bicycle pump. There's no way that car could pass the Dutch vehicle roadworthiness test. When we finally arrived, we used an axe to fell trees with trunks thirty centimetres thick. It took quite some time to accomplish this feat.
Fried doughnuts
There are no paved roads in Mopipi, but only dusty sand paths. The people live in houses built with stone or excretions. They try to earn money in various original ways, such as frying doughnut balls almost daily beside their homes and then selling these. Others perform odd jobs for their neighbours' houses, wash clothes for others, or buy stuff from the city which they then sell in the village at a higher price. There is real poverty. Fortunately, the poor get welfare benefits from the government.
Meat handle
The people in Mopipi eat mostly meat and maize porridge. Those who want to buy meat make for the 'meat tree'. The person standing beside it has hung big chunks of meat on the tree for sale; the meat comes from his own livestock.  I once went to the meat tree to buy some meat; the seller cut a handle in a chunk of meat so that I could take it away easily. Very handy indeed!'