Cement mixer.

Mixing large amounts of concrete or mortar by hand on the ground is backbreaking work. Mixing in a wheel barrow is better but the barrow is not an ideal shape for turning over the mix with a shovel. This is my suggestion which is simple to make.

Cut a 40 gallon oil drum in half lengthways and use four planks of wood with six nuts and bolts to hold it all together. Empty by tipping onto the ground or into a barrow. Let us know if it proves successful.

Rod Mill, Sancton Drawing Services, High Street, Sancton, YO4 3QT, UK.

Tricycle for the disabled

I was very interested in the letter mentioning a tricycle designed for disabled people. Many years ago I was involved in similar manufacture in Zambia. After 15 years of production, I felt that the real challenge was to set these enterprises up on a commercial basis. Wherever there is a modest market for these products it may be possible to do this. A commercial enterprise is more likely to lead to continuing production than charitable efforts.

D J Buchanan, The British Council, 58 Whitworth Street, Manchester, M1 6BB, UK.

Mysterious goat disease

On a recent visit to a project in Orissa, India, local people told us that their goats were dying of a mysterious disease which rotted away their flesh. Through various contacts we learned that this disease was probably caused by the goats eating poisonous leaves such as ragwort or oleander which cause liver damage and make the skin very sensitive to sunlight. The people were new to goat husbandry. They kept the goats penned up, bringing them fodder. When left to wander, goats will rarely eat anything that might harm them. However, if leaves are collected and mixed together it seems that they may well eat poisonous leaves.

We thought this information might be useful to others new to goat husbandry. Be careful to make sure that all fodder provided is safe for animals to eat. Better still, grow your own recommended fodder plants.

David and Shirley Todd, 8 Hall Close, Mottram, Cheshire, SK14 6LJ, UK.

Keeping goats away

We planted many young trees last year. Around them we planted a circle of sunnhemp (Crotolaria ochroleuca) with a double purpose. First, the sunnhemp provided shade, shelter and nitrogen to the young trees. Secondly, during the long dry season the goats of the village roam around in search of food. They did not like the hard, dry straw of the sunnhemp around the young trees which were thus kept safe from their appetites.

Sister Elisabeth van Grieken, Kalilo Catholic Church, PO Box 10434, Chingola, Zambia.

EDITOR: Trial packs of seeds from: ECHO, 17430 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, FL 33917-2239, USA.

New disease

Have other readers in West Africa noticed a disease affecting the trees Parkia clappertonia and Prosopis africana which is very noticeable in this area? The trees begin to lose their leaves on certain branches, these branches die and gradually the whole tree dies.

If we do not find out the cause and possible cure it will be very serious. The beans from both trees are nutritious and used in every household in a fermented form to flavour soups and stews and are also sold as a cash crop.

Sister Hilary Claffey, Holy Rosary Convent, PO Box 824, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.

Fungal infections

Recently international scientists at a conference in Vienna discussed the increase in fungal infections within women in Uganda, and found no answer. Those attending lacked experience of rural Africa! I believe there is only one answer – the family towel. Many families have only one towel which all members of the family share. These are washed in cold water. If one member of the family has a fungal infection, the fungus settles into the towel and infects everybody else. Women who visit rural relatives may return with an infection causing discharge and itching in their vagina. Their husbands may think they have been unfaithful and beat them, not understanding the real reason.

The answer? Treat the infection with medical help. If possible, use different towels or cloths for each family member. Heat towels to nearly boiling temperature regularly or use a strong medicated soap to kill the fungus.

Siegfried Gerber, Kenya.

Dangerous compost

Farmers have often asked me if it is safe to use compost made from town waste. Their concerns are always about the risk of diseases. My own worries are about the numerous batteries from torches, radios, watches etc. These small ‘bombs’ are rarely noticed and yet are full of poisonous chemicals which slowly leak out as they rot. No-one seems to have found a safe way of extracting them from waste and disposing of them safely. My feeling is that it is better to avoid using compost from town waste.

Dr George A Lawson, CAAK/UBESA, BP 1515, Lome, Togo.

EDITOR: Dr Lawson raises serious concerns. The only recommended advice for disposing of batteries is to bury them in deep pits. As he points out, it is probably better to avoid town compost for vegetable production. It could be used for growing trees. If you make your own compost you will have confidence in knowing that it is completely safe.

Building bridges

Our organisation has 11 members who are all committed to sharing knowledge, love and practical help with those in need. We think of our work in terms of bridges: bridges in agriculture, evangelism or carpentry, for example. Bridges have to link the strong with the weak.

To really understand the needs of the poor, you need to visit their homes. Only there will you meet the disabled, the HIV-afflicted, the drunkards and the lonely who are out of sight elsewhere. When people lack many basic resources it can be very complicated to eradicate poverty. We share Christ’s message of love and build bridges through practical action. We would like to hear from other similar groups around the world.

7 Golden Lampstands, PO Box 364, Kampala, Uganda.

Jubilee 2000 update 

Many Footsteps readers have been enthusiastically collecting signatures for the Jubilee 2000 petition. This will be presented to world leaders at the next G8 Summit in Cologne, June 1999. So far around 3 million signatures have been collected from 124 countries.

A pile of forms, some with thumbprints, came from the entire population of a village in Mexico, with an official certification by the Chief of Police. Another group of forms included the signatures of the President and the entire Cabinet of the Government of Guyana.

In addition to the official petition forms, an amazing variety of forms designed by individuals or groups are received, including an individually designed form in Swahili from Tanzania.

(Please note that Jubilee 2000 now continues in 2005, an official successor to Jubilee 2000 is Jubilee Research

Encouraging women’s groups

In the Catholic Mission of Ngaoundaye, Central African Republic, an Italian volunteer, Céleste, began to work towards forming women’s groups in 1993. The first two years were spent making contacts, getting to know each other, and discovering how to organise a lasting group. Céleste worked with a local colleague, Rohané, and wherever women showed an interest they set up training on the role of committee members – such as president, secretary or treasurer.

From 1995 onwards, the groups worked out their aims and rules and then chose activities. Some training was available from Céleste and Rohané in making beauty lotions, soap, jam, cassava flour production (gari) and batik. Several groups wanted to set up small shops. Others regularly made lotions. Four of them wanted to have a flour mill to simplify daily life. Two of them cultivated a community field.

The groups soon noticed that any economic activity – especially the village shop – demanded very accurate accounting, which was beyond their skills. Almost all of them wanted to be given literacy teaching. A young man followed the government training in functional literacy teaching. He passed on his knowledge to ten volunteer monitors who began classes with groups in 1997–8.

Two groups had considered opening a restaurant, but their husbands opposed this as they did not want them to be away from home in the evenings. Another group had bought nuts at harvest time to sell when prices rose. This was a complete fiasco because the group had not yet learned to work together well and tried this scheme too early.

The women have learnt to think before acting. It is not enough to have a good idea for the activity to succeed. One group with a flour mill voluntarily paid the transport costs for their literacy teaching monitor – a real sign of progress.

Sent in by Chantal Gaudin. Rohané Anne-Marie and Céleste Manenti are animators working with the Catholic Mission of Ngaoundaye.