Straight after lunch we took a very enjoyable walk that kept us awake. During the meeting, the elders were interrupted by an interesting man. He had returned to Fintonia after living in Ealing in West London, where he had been studying. He had the air of both external education, and one which wants to be seen to have had an external education. The elders seemed to tolerate his interventions but I am not sure they respected all his views. He did advocate a lot of what STEWARD was about. He talked of the need to conserve the watershed. He remembered as a boy that the springs dotted around the village would never all dry up in the dry season. And he wanted to show us where one of these springs had been dammed and the catchment above conserved so that the village could have good water all year round. We followed him out of the village through some well goat-grazed vegetation and down to a stream, rising up through some thickly forested land we came across a small triangular lake held in by a short concrete dam. The problem with all dams are that they don’t just hold back the water, but also all the detritus brought down on the current, silt and leaves and branches. The dam was clogged with this material. But it was an example of how good management of water could help a village. A thin black plastic pipe led back from this location down the stream and then up into the village to a standpipe in one of the streets. With a little bit of cooperation amongst villagers, the dam could be cleaned out, and future conservation of the forest above it would help preserve the aquifer from which the water came.
On a later trip, I discovered how many villages are sited in these locations. Fintonia itself was on a low dome of rock with the houses firmly stuck on top. I imagine that this helped in the rainy season – the water escaped in all directions away from the houses, the ground beneath them was never waterlogged with all the associated bads that come from that. The surrounding hills were also based on these domes of rock, but with much more soil and vegetation than the one at Fintonia. With all that going on, when it rained, the water would more likely soak into the soil and percolate into the rock itself, hence being stored in the aquifer. At various points around the dome, the water would discharge into these open springs, but in a much more controlled way than after rainfall, and that water would be sweet – having had the soil and dead vegetation that would get mixed up in larger rivers and flash floods filtered out. It was an excellent system.
Our guide here, the man from Ealing, with his white cap and blue flowery shirt, and most importantly a notebook and pen in his hand to prove his educational superiority over his fellow villagers, talked at length about the issues here, wider than STEWARD had budget for but important points – better education, better ability and support to make community decisions, better basic tools to get the job done.
He enjoyed lecturing, and made some good points, but we had to move on. There was at least one more village to visit that day, and it was further away from the camp. We headed back to the vehicles and although delayed for a few more moments while Stephanie and Annie dealt with a whole bunch of STEWARD administration – since communications was so poor they had to take any opportunity in the field to have face to face meetings with their extension officers. By the time all that was complete, it was decided we would have to abandon our plans to visit the final village; we’d never reach there, do our business and get back to the forest camp in time before dark.