More uses of neem.

While visiting rural villages, I found some more interesting uses of neem which I would like to share with Footsteps readers.

Villagers clean their teeth everyday with a toothbrush made out of a piece of neem wood about the same size as their little finger. They chew one end of the stick to make a brush that looks like this. It keeps their teeth healthy and prevents holes.

Neem roots are used to kill roundworms. A small piece of neem root (about the size of a finger) is dug up and cleaned and then crushed with a mortar and pestle. A little clean water is added to make a paste which is stirred into a cup of clean water and drunk just before going to sleep at night. Next morning dead roundworms should be seen in the faeces.

Many people in Nepal do not have medical doctors and modern medicines. The use of home-made remedies for treating parasites is common. The use of neem is widely accepted and it is good medicine.

Padam Bhandari Kathmandu, Nepal

AIDS resources

I read with interest your extremely informative issue about the growing global effects of AIDS and TB (Footsteps 19).

Prevention is the only real weapon we have in the fight against AIDS. A vaccine or cure is unlikely to be found until well into the next century. Asia will soon outstrip Africa in terms of the rate of spread of infection.

AIDS has the potential to undermine all of the good work being done by development groups around the world. We still have a ‘window of opportunity’ to make a difference. Christians everywhere need to have a sense of urgency in understanding the need for HIV/AIDS prevention and care work.

Our experience in many different countries around the world has enabled ACET to become a provider of HIV/AIDS training and materials to a wide range of groups around the world. If Footsteps readers would like to make use of our resources, please write to one of the addresses below.

Chris Munday Overseas Co-ordinator, ACET PO Box 3693, London, SW15 2BQ, UK

PO Box 9710, Kampala, Uganda
GPO Box 3046, Bangkok 10501, Thailand
PO Box 31240, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Ferro-cement plastering

My colleagues and I recently followed the instructions for building ferro-cement water tanks from Footsteps 1. Here in Guinea Bissau, chicken wire is extremely expensive, so instead we used 6 mm reinforcement bars – which had the advantage that we could bend them to form the roof, and so unite the whole structure.

We found it hard both to get the plastering mix of the right consistency and then to keep it that way. The plaster tends to fall through the holes in the mesh and a small plastering board on the inside doesn’t always give good results. We ended up using a sheet of metal from an old oil drum hooked onto the bars and held there by one man. This helped our progress.

We found it very difficult to keep the cement damp while curing. Sheets of plastic are best – but it is a great problem to prevent them being stolen.

Finally we used a thin layer of 1:2 sand: cement mix as a final coat on the inside, two weeks later. This helps to cover all the little cracks and flaws that will probably happen because of the lack of curing time for the walls. We then filled the tank with water only eight hours after applying this

final coat – this meant that this layer at least stayed wet while curing! That idea worked well.

William Hume Guinea Bissau

The Church and disasters

Having been involved in nursing for many years, I was delighted to see the emergency health section in Footsteps 17 and the practical advice it gave. However, I was troubled by Jun Vencer’s article warning against sharing the gospel message with a ‘captive audience’ in relief situations. I do not question that as Christians we have a social responsibility to help those in need. But the overwhelming idea that we should not also give a clear presentation of the gospel because the audience is ‘captive’ or because they must ‘keep their dignity’ is beyond me. Does the gospel bring spiritual life to those who believe or not? Are we not showing the ultimate selfishness if we hesitate to share life-giving good news with people in case we offend them?

Rice Christians we do not want, I agree – but let’s at least give people the chance to hear. Physical life is meaningless if the spirit is dead. People cannot believe unless they hear and understand. Let’s not deny the spiritually starving of the one thing that can give them life.

Dorothy Egeler Mombasa, Kenya

Farmer communication

I appreciated Wilfredo Morán’s comments in Footsteps 19 on the importance of sharing information between farmers. Farmers can also be helped to try out new methods if the messages of extension agents are repeated on the radio, in print and on television. Adapting indigenous methods of communication such as folk songs and drama can be highly useful. Farmers can participate as actors and the message will get more support. Instead of one media man, deciding for many farmers, the farmers themselves can be organised to share their messages.

K S Meenakshi Sundaram Madras, India