It has been a really long time since I have updated all of you on our villages main project at the moment, our brand spankin’ new COMPOSTING PIGGERY funded by the UNDP SGP GEF. I guess it has taken me so long to write this because things have been so slow moving, thank you Fiji time.
Here is a quick reminder of the time frame we have been working with for the past year plus…
April 2012: Began proposal for consideration for UNDP funding
June 2012: Submitted first copy of proposal to be accepted for initial consideration and comments
July 2012: re-submitted final proposal and accompanying paperwork for UNDP GEF funding
November 8, 2012: Accepted for funding by UNDP GEF!
January 15, 2013: Project accepted and bank accounts cleared by UNDP financial advisors
February 22, 2013: First payment (50% of project totally $20,991.47 FJD) deposited into the village account
March 15, 2013: Materials purchased from Carpenter’s Hardware store in town
So since we received our first payment and purchased the materials for the project we have been receiving shipments from carpenters hardware for all our materials…. It’s a LOT of stuff… nearly 2000 cinderblocks, a lot of cement, rebar, roofing iron, a wheelbarrow, nails, timber etc.
So part of the training provided by the UNDP is a start up meeting with the Community Based Organization that requested the funding for the project, in our case the Natokalau Piggery Committee. The committee was sent to Suva to attend a meeting at their head offices about what they expect form the village in terms of financial management, we went through the budget line for line, went through the entire Memorandum of Agreement, discussed project details, reporting, etc. It was really great meeting and I left feeling really relieved and slightly stressed. Anyway this Start-Up meeting was supposed to be held on March 19-20 and in true Fijian fashion, was pushed back at the last minute. It was really stressful for me coordinating all of it because no one told me until Friday afternoon around 4pm (at which point in time, everyone who has an office job is GONE) that the ferry from Ovalau to Viti Levu wasn’t running that entire next week so our committee wouldn’t be able to get in to the meeting. I spent the entire weekend stressing out about telling our counterparts at the UNDP on Monday morning that we wouldn’t be there on Tuesday for our meeting. Well on Monday when I called, they told me that they wouldn’t have been able to host us anyway because they were busy. Awesome. Glad I hadnt already sent people over to Suva! Anyway, we rescheduled the meeting for April 10th which was perfect. We ended up having to change a few committee members, and when I showed up on the 10th one person wasn’t there, and another one had switched places with someone else in the village (actually a good switch in my opinion) but stressful none the less. Anyway, with that meeting over it felt like we were finally starting!
Got back to the village really excited about all the work we were going to start doing and wanted to have our community familiarization meeting, a meeting where the committee presents to the village what they learned from the conference to the village, on that Friday April 12. Village life always gets in the way of your plans. There was a funeral to prepare for. So any plans I had of maintaining momentum were thrown out with the old grog from the funeral.
We rescheduled the meeting for the following Friday April 19. it was as successful as it could have been. We introduced more of the concepts behind the project and introduced some more of the key participants in the project. Im really trying to step back and let the committee take the lead on the project. I want them to be seen as the leaders of the project and not me, but its difficult. In Fiji, certain relationships dictate who you can speak to and what you can say. As someone who is technically not related to anybody here, although I have plenty of made-up relations, I have a little more leeway to be that straight shooter when it comes to the business side of things or getting near touchy subjects like money. Its just frustrating to want so hard to empower people and be smacked down because someones Uncle is sitting in the corner. Another hurdle for another time.
So after the meeting, the following Tuesday April 23, we started working on the piggery!
Now, don’t get super excited yet. Construction can be a really long process anywhere and especially here. The entire structure is built by hand. All the materials were hand carried up hill to the new piggery location, the hill where its being built is currently being leveled by the workers, and then we can begin actual construction. This is an entirely man-powered operation. Its really amazing what people are capable of and I have a lot of respect for the men in the village who work their asses off every day for this project. Some of them still don’t fully understand it, they still think we are doing bio-gas even though I have tried my hardest to get them to see that Ministry of Agriculture out here no longer funds bio-gas projects because they are incredibly expensive and finicky. Min of Ag actually wants to use this project as a model throughout Ovalau and Moturiki islands to solve the problem of pig wastes and convert it into sustainable farm additives. Anywho. Its an uphill battle. I spend a majority of my time working on this.
So its officially been 23 days since we began construction. They are taking this week off. I really don’t blame them. Its difficult work and they have to go to their farms etc. My excitement gets the best of me sometimes and having things come to a grinding halt for a week isn’t my idea of something really awesome… but I know why they need it.
Anyway. As the project progresses I will be sure to update more regularly. I have created an album on Facebook just for pictures from this project so make sure to look there for more visual updates too. It’s a long road, but we will get there one day! I’m just really excited its finally happening and tangible things are getting done!