Posted by: Wasrag | October 6, 2011

Nigeria Part 2 – PPP team member William Stumbaugh

EWB-Nigeria member Ken and Rotary Ambassadorial scholar Andrew prepare to depart for Dodo River

Tuesday, we finally received security and permission to venture out of our hotel in Warri.  We traveled by open boat three hours downstream through the Niger delta to a community called Dodo River very close to the Atlantic Ocean.  Travel on the river is mostly either by outboard powered launch or paddle operated dug out canoes.  The boat driver was constantly weaving in and out dodging masses of hyacinth plants to avoid entangling the propellers.

Dodo River is a very poor fishing village whose members also worked for Chevron.  The community had a well that provided apparently clean water, but the villagers said it tasted salty. Each of our team tasted it, but did not sense salt.  We took a sample for the lab.  Many community members also used shallow hand dug wells.  They are only a couple of feet deep, and the water seeps in from the sides.  The water was reddish brown and obviously contaminated from debris, junk, etc.  Yet many women preferred these wells because the water made suds when washing where as the borehole water did not (hard water?) Took another sample.  After further questioning, many villagers acknowledged that the hand dug wells were closer to their homes and more convinient. We suggested drinking the borehole water for drinking and the dug well water for washing.  Villagers were reluctant to change.

Typical shallow dug well - water source

We were quite the attraction during our stay.  At least 50 men, women and children were standing around us all the time.  We pass some nice school buildings and a new clinic.  However, neither had much inside-some broken wooden desks and nothing in the clinic.  The problem is the village can’t attrach the needed professionals to work there in spite of building living quarters.  School was in session in the cities, but not in this community as the teachers had left and were not returning.  We joked for a while that I should be the teacher: free home, free food, and lots of companionship were offered to me.

We met with the community in a meeting hall-again, the community has some nice, faily new buildings that it has manage to get constructed by the government-schools, clinic, meeting hall, secure pump and well housing, etc. but lack local experts with the required skills to operate and sustain the services that the buildings are intended to house.

We walked through a portion of the forest surrounding the village and came out upon the Atlantic Ocean. Beautiful  We tested the wind, and

Walking path to Atlantic Ocean

began developing a possible strategy that wind power may be a solution for the community’s power needs.  The current available electricity to power the borehole pump and lights is from a diesel generator.  This means the village has to buy diesel in Warri and transport it down the river.  The villagers had proposed a solar powered system, but the area is uniformly overcast with clouds year around, so that solar is not likely to be a feasible solution.

We returned up the river another three hours back to Warri.  At one point we became stranded on a sandbar, and two guys jumped out and eventually dragged the boat to deep water again. Later, one of the two outboard engines failed, and we ‘limped’ back to Warri on the smaller remaining engine.

That evening we attended two Rotary Club meetings, each only an hour in length with no meal.  We were warming welcomed.  The RC of Ubeji was just chartered, and I am proud to say, the Santee-Lakeside RC banner was the first that it had received from a visiting Rotarian.

Village women on the beach with PPP team member, Nancy (Wasrag)

Wednesday, we traveled by car for three hours to Yenagoa, the capital of nearby Bayelsa state.  Orignaly, this trip was not part of our plans, but we adapted to what we needed to do, and decided to go to Yenagoa and stay over Warri was in Delta State.  As on the river, we were accompanied by some Nigerian friends of the leaders who were our “security”, although they had no uniforms or weapons.  We have wondered why there was such a long delay for this level of coverage.  Numerous police checkpoints along the road.  Always armed with automatic weapons, looking in our cars, sometimes checking paperwork.  We arrived in midday and met with representatives of Dodo Rive and a local Rotary club, acting as mediators to help the two groups get to know each other.  The meeting brought out more history about the region and the challenges. The villagers reflected an attitude generated by visitors in the past who make lots of promises but didn’t produce
anything.
Anger about Chevron came out too-that the oil company owed the village everything and should be providing what they need.In the evening we attended a meeting of the RC of Yenagoa, again warmly received.  The club was inerested in how it could become more involved in water and sanitation and seemed interested in working with the Dodo River community.
This morning as I am writing this report, we are waiting in a modest hotel lobby for our ride to visit with the deputy governor of the state that the Dodo River group organized.  But they are over two hours late, and we just learned that plans may have been upset due to a death in a family.  At this point, we don’t now how we are going to return to Warri.

About Nigeria, the country is beautiful and representative of tropical areas. Lots of plantain, bananas, mangos, casava (yuca.  Bush meast is popular along with lamb, beef, chicken, goat and fish.  Bush mean is vitrually any kind of animal that can be found in the forest.  Along the roadside one sees various kinds of dead animals hanging by strings frm small rodents to feral pigs and deer.  Some Nigerians say they also eat monkeys and dogs (dog meat is said to be sweet).  This is first developing nation I have been in where I don’t see dogs walking around in the streets.  Vegetables include sweet potato and okra, but we haven’t seen much vegetables. Meals in hotels and restaurants usually are essentially meat and starch.  Nigerians like hot peppers in their food, and dishes often a called pepper soup, or pepper goat, etc.  The ‘heat’ level is comparable at times to Mexican dishes.

Nigeria has over 250 tribes and every child learns the tribal language first, before learning English-really what is know locally as pidgin English.  The largest tribal languages are Hausa, spoken mostly in the Muslim north part of the country, Ibo and Yoruba. The pidgin English can be difficult for us to understand, especially when they are speaking fast, but in time, our ears are attuning to the sound and cadence.  More educated Nigerians speak a British sounding English.

Well, that’s all for now.  We hope to back in Warri tonight, and have another river trip to another village planned for tomorrow.  So, far the mosquitos haven’t been a problem in spite of the standing water, heat and humidity.

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