'Welcome' - reads the sign at my new home

Lately, as you may have deduced from my previous post, work with SWMS (Soils and Water Management Services) has been slow. Because of this, we’ve been scouting around for some additional work to help keep us occupied. Of course, SWMS is our priority, but if we could find some other area to contribute and learn, and if we could make the time for both of them, that would be ideal for us. All of this searching around though has got me thinking about what the best way for us to use our time here is.

Earlier on in our placement here, I was thinking that our time here would be mostly a learning experience, and that we wouldn’t have much to contribute here, besides a few suggestions and thoughts for SWMS. SWMS is very good at what they do, and what we’ve done with them so far is some site visits, along with some light surveying. They would be able to do this just fine without us, which is a good thing of course. I’m sure though, after we’ve seen more of their work and seen more of how things function around here, we will be able to produce a report that will be of use to them. My attitude has changed now, I am realizing that we have the potential to have a real impact here, and I am not just content to sit back and learn all of the time (as important as learning is!). We are only here for three months total, with seven or so weeks to go, so that is something we have to take into account when choosing how to use our time here. We also want to do something that utilizes our skills and different perspectives, and is something that not just anyone here could do (not taking away jobs from local people).

Back to our search for additional work, we have had a few different leads. A friend of a friend’s boyfriend has suggested doing work related to solar water pumping (the friend happens to be in The Gambia right now and the boyfriend was here in the past). This would involve research into the feasibility of using these pumps in villages. While they may be appropriate in some cases, they are also costly and maintenance can be an issue. Yena also randomly met an architect who is working on a dome structure using earth blocks, and he has asked if we would like to do some testing and research for his organization. This one is also very interesting to us as there are many benefits to using these earth blocks (environmental, cost, local materials) and to the dome structure (can avoid using expensive concrete slabs). There are a few other leads as well but we will likely not end up working with them. We are still in the process of choosing what to do, and we have a meeting scheduled with GamSolar this week which should help us choose (and we need all the help we can get – as a group, we are pretty indecisive!).

Also, I just moved into a new place. It is quite different than that previous place, since this one is a room I am renting in a village called Yundum, and the previous place was a guesthouse for tourists. Check out the photos on flickr!