Question: What is the connection between a camera course, Academia-Practitioner collaboration, a site inspection at Ungwa Rimi, a tractor, and a solar powered telephone battery charger? Answer: They are all items of concern to the Dadamac UK-Nigeria team and featured in our online meeting this week. They are all a part of Dadamac's obsession with connecting, communicating and collaborating – and its roots in rural development.
The camera course
The camera course is “C4C” – Cameras for Communication. Both sides (UK and Nigeria) are happy now with the course content and presentation for module one, and there are plans to try it out soon with a few trainees. The development of module two (video interviews) is presenting some additional challenges. Ricardo (in UK) is writing the course notes, but he wants to use examples that have been recorded locally (in Nigeria). However, until more people there have had training (ie have taken the course currently under development) there are very few people able to take the example video clips he needs, and those who can are already severely overstretched (which is why they want good, practical, teaching notes that can be used by a “learning leader” rather than someone who already has the skills). The team in Nigeria has sent Ricardo one video example that he needs and another has now been recorded.
Academia-Practitioner collaboration is one of Dadamac's ongoing concerns. We have good personal links with individual academics – but the divide between formal academia and our kind of practice is a hard one to bridge. Our friends Yishay Mor, and Niall Winters at the London Knowledge Lab look out for opportunities where we might be included, or do something collaboratively with LKL. Pam had news of rejection of a proposal Yishay had made for a joint workshop at a European event – the rejection was not a surprise as we needed help with travel costs to involve our people, and there were other complications too, but it was worth a try. Just looking at the possibilities with our LKL friends and seeing why it is not practical for academia to include practitioners is useful on both sides, and helps to narrow the gap.
The Nigeria team needed to leave the meeting promptly as they were going to do a site visit at Ungwa Rimi for a new Community Communication Centre. This ties in with Attachab Eco-village, and the land given for that. If the money comes through, this could be a tremendous next step, building on the work ZittNet has already done at Fanstuam to bring connectivity to neighbouring sites. In theory it's all agreed for Ungwa Rimi, funding will be given, the team has deadlines to meet - and it has the skills and experience to meet them. In practice of course it's not so simple and there are plenty of obstacles to be overcome, not least the minor detail of “the funding actually being around in a form that will enable the team to get on and do the work to meet the deadlines”. It is the eternal problem familiar to all development organisations operating on a tight budget.
There was mention of progress on a loan for a tractor. It is quite a while since tractors have had a mention in Dadamac. It's time perhaps to contact Marcin Jakubowski and his OpenFarm project in USA again, to find out if his Lifetrac open source tractor would be a possible option. We've been checking Marcin's blog and videos. We wonder if there is any chance of something “ready made” for potential Lifetrac users - or if we'd need to start with our own furnace and scrap metal! (As in Episode 6 of the videos). Anyhow, maybe the person wanting the tractor will be very conventional and would not even consider a Lifetrac as an option. More facts are needed before we will know if this might be a possible collaboration.
Solar powered telephone battery charger
In theory charging phone batteries by solar seems a good idea. Graham Knight of DIY Solar in the UK has lots of knowledge and ideas relating to this and is keen to help people find out what works for them. The team in Nigeria is involved with various solar initiatives and willing to give most things a go. Latest feedback was that a day-long charging session had only managed to provide a 20% charge to the phone – better than nothing but far from ideal. Someone mentioned in passing that the grid power had been off for the best part of three weeks - and seeing that in the dry season the excuse is that it is dry at the dam now it's the rainy season the excuse must be that it is flooded. It would really help if the phones did charge with solar.
Dadamac's online presence
In the UK Pamela McLean and Andy Broomfield are working on Dadamac's online presence. It's very much a work in progress – trying different approaches and asking the team for feedback. With Dadamac involved in so many different things it's quite a challenge to create a simple answer to the question “So what exactly is Dadamac and what does it do?”