We gave it to Karim. He was much more methodical and he made sure he prepared the instrument carefully first, then walked slowly around the edge of the field, pausing for a moment at each corner to ensure it was recorded. The shape was nearly perfect first time. We did the same for Alusine, whose skills were somewhere in between. Demba was a bit frustrated at this, and insisted on another go. His efforts improved and we praised his enthusiasm but we still needed to temper his rushing about.
We turned our attention to the survey sheet and taught them how to fill it in. Then we decided to head to another place to do more GPS training. The plot of land we had concentrated on first was a clearance where a house was wanted. Dembo farmed some land in a valley bottom on the far side of the village. We took a circuitous route to this plot so we could explore some of the other features of the village. One area I was interested in was a bright orange spot on the image. It was relatively small and set deep inside a thickly wooded river valley. We followed a small path which opened up to reveal a stack of bricks drying in the sun. In recent years I have noticed a trend in Africa that I never observed on such a scale in the 1990s. Using bricks to build houses and store rooms had become common practice. Once the preserve of the richer or higher status people in these rural areas now many people were favouring this construction over the old wooden wattle and daub style houses. Clay soil in many African countries is at a premium; the best locations to dig out clay is in the waterlogged river valleys. Of course it is only worth doing this in the dry season – the clay can be accessed from pits and they can be left out in the open air to harden. In some countries I have see villagers using charcoal to bake the bricks but here in Sierra Leone the predominant method seemed to be relying on the sheer intensity of the sun to harden them off.