23rd June 2013
We've now had our first glimpse of what life will be like once the projects deploy.
Earlier this week, the Alpha groups left Fieldbase behind to suss out their project sites and introduce themselves to the communities they’ll be working with over the next ten weeks. They arrived back from their Project Planning Visits (PPVs) four days later, full of enthusiasm and raring to get started.
Here's a taster of what each of the groups got up to.
Alphas 1 (Bob, Christine and Wesley) and 2 (Caroline, Andy and Alex) travelled together to the town of Iringa, in the Southern Highlands, to investigate the area they’ll be trekking.
The adventure trek phase equips venturers with survival and camp craft skills, encourages them to work together and educates them about the rarely-encountered communities and wildlife they pass along the way. The purpose of this group's PPV was not to trial the entire route (impossible in four days!) but to visit the town of Iringa, practise trekking a small section of the route and confirm access to hospitals and food.
Alphas 1 and 2 won the prize for providing the most unpredictable progress updates into Zero (that’s the official name for Fieldbase under our Ops Comms protocols) and, as you might imagine, the most impressive fitness regime… What we hadn't expected to hear was that the boys' daily circuits were accompanied by renditions of Backstreet Boys and re-enactments of West End musicals!
- Alphas 1 and 2 explore the Southern Highlands around Iringa -
Alpha 3 enjoyed a relatively short and scenic journey to learn more about what’s in store for them as part of the Udzungwa Farming Project. They hopped on a bus in Morogoro and travelled a mere four hours to Mang’ula, via the spectacular Mikumi National Park.
This Alpha group will be working with the local Farmers’ Cooperative, the Udzungwa Elephant Project and the Ecological Monitoring Centre to help reduce conflict between humans and elephants. Harriet, Lisa and Tom were keen to use their PPV as an opportunity to meet with the different parties involved in the project and agree Alpha 3's objectives and priorities over the course of the ten weeks.
It’s important to factor in some well-earned down time as part of each phase, so they also researched potential recreational activities in the area – and it turns out there’s plenty of options, including a local farmers’ drumming and dancing group!
By the end of their visit, the group had agreed that their main activities will be to create and maintain a pathway lined with beehive and chilli fences along the boundary between the National Park and the local farmers’ land. Venturers may also have the opportunity to help the farmers’ co-operative to market honey from the beehives as an additional source of income, and to support research within the National Park.
Their PPV highlights included meeting the wonderfully warm people they’ll be working with (including Mr Churi, one of the local farmers and “quite possibly the happiest man in the world!") and wildlife-spotting on their journey through Mikumi National Park.
- Alpha 3 learn a lot about elephants and bees, and monkeys too! -
The third and final group was made up of Alphas 4 and 5, who travelled to the village of Matapwili to learn more about the fuel-efficient ‘rocket stoves’ they’ll be rolling out to rural communities.
This project’s aims are a combination of sustainable development and community engagement, and the venturers will contribute to both elements. They will build the stoves (using bricks, soil, ashes, water and the magic final ingredient – cow dung!), train locals in their construction, maintenance and use and also engage with the wider communities they’re working in. This may well involve running education sessions, practising Swahili, playing games and learning about the local culture.
Neha, Hugh, Rob, Amy and Adam squeezed a great deal into their short visit. By the end of day one, they’d received an enthusiastic welcome from the community and a personal invite from the Chief of the village to run a rocket stove demonstration in his home! Over the course of their three days there, they successfully built their first rocket stove, ran a demonstration in the village, made friends with local children, ate lunch with a local MP and even caught a glimpse of the Indian Ocean whilst visiting a nearby hospital at Bagamoyo. Phew!
- Alphas 4 and 5 get their hands dirty and build their first rocket stove -
The Fieldbase team quickly adopted our usual expedition activities, too. We each took our turn to receive the daily Situation Reports and Comms Checks called in by the Alpha groups. Manning the phones is a crucial, 24-hour job during expedition, and so it was reassuring to put our training into practice and find that it all ran smoothly (bar a few ‘tests’ from Ellie and Mike!), giving us confidence for the weeks to come.
We also took advantage of the opportunity to continue our preparations for the venturers' arrival tomorrow morning (yippee!) and even squeeze in a film night or two!
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