This week has been one of the most physically taxing weeks I have ever experienced, and I haven’t even been doing the hard stuff! If you read the last blog post, you will know that we just got some brand new, very heavy beehives. These awesome new hives will be joining our other hives in the forest on the side of a small mountain. Unlike our other hives, these sit on the ground as opposed to hanging in trees. Since these standing hives are going to sit on a steep slope, we were concerned that if it rained, the ground around the hives would erode and the hives would suffer. To keep this from happening, we decided the best option would be to build a concrete slab for the hives to sit on. We found a location that would be great for the bees, cleared a small space for the hives, and utilized the 2Seeds Network by bringing in Kwakiliga Partner Raymond, a very skilled construction craftsman. While Raymond and his team are doing the actual construction work, it is the job of the Kmoto Partners to get the building materials to the site. This is far, far easier said than done.
While the location we chose is a great environment for the bees to live and work undisturbed, it is also very hard to reach. The forest where we keep the hives is at the top of a small mountain, and the forested area is also the steepest area. In addition to being steep it is a rocky walk, filled with brambles and lots of opportunities to fall. Well, lots of opportunities for a clumsy person such as myself. At the base of the forest sits the Honey House, and also the home of Partner/Group Chairman Mzee Melenge. It is impossible to reach Mzee Melenge’s house via car or truck. With a great amount of effort you can get there by motorcycle, but the easiest way is to go by foot from Kijungumoto. The walk from the village to his house is roughly 45 minutes, and then it takes another 20 minutes to reach the new hive site. That is, if you are carrying nothing.
To build this simple concrete floor, only a few things are needed: cement, sand, very large rocks, and water. More specifically, 770 pounds of dry cement mix, 1 truck of sand, 1 truck of large rocks, and an average of 500 liters of water per construction day. None of these items are light, and all of them have to be carried by hand and head.
My Partners are champions, there is no question about it. Fortunately we were able to pay a motorcycle driver to take the cement to Mzee Melenge’s house, but then we had to carry it up to the site. Since we could not get trucks up the mountain the sand, more than 100 large buckets worth, had to be carried from the village all the way to the site. Fortunately, we got some help from local youths. We also had a stroke of fortune with the large rocks. Due to the terrain, we were able to find the size and kind of rocks we needed up on the mountain. So, although it was still a lot of work to get the rocks to the site, we did not have to carry them from the village. All these things were challenging, but the water has been the biggest challenge by far.
As you may recall from a past blog post, water is a big problem for the village. For Mzee Melenge, it is especially troublesome. Since he lives on the mountain, there are no water taps available to him. He and his family get their water from a communal well, at the base of the mountain. So to get water they have to climb up a mountain with buckets of water on their head. Most buckets range from 10-20 liters, which means they weigh 22-44 pounds each. And I have seen some women put as many as 3 buckets on their head, it is amazing. So getting 500 liters, 1,100 pounds of water to the construction site is WORK. I’m talking multiple trips, starting at 7am and usually finishing about 2 in the afternoon. And my Partners have been doing this all week. Champions.
In all this, I have some good news: the floor was finished today! However, the work is not yet done. Now that the floor is finished, water has to be put on the cement every day for a week to make sure it cures properly. While we do not need quite as much water as we did for construction, every day for the next 7 days my Partners will be carrying nearly 500 pounds of water up the mountain. And then, once that is complete, we have to carry the 56 very heavy pieces that make up our new beehives.
Now, if I said I have heard no complaints during all of this that would be quite untrue. However, no one has quit, or given up, or let their weariness get in the way of completing the task at hand. This is very hard physical work, but everyone agrees that it is worth it. They are tired and drained and ready for this part of the work to be over, but they have not given up. I think most everyone’s sentiments are summed up in the words of Mama Eliza: “Right now, we are eating lemons. But when we completely finish, we will eat oranges”.