After World Vision and Global Service Corps approached Twende and Global Cycle Solutions’ workshop in Njiro about the noted river problem in Ngage, Colin, Jim, and I inquired further about the problem. A field visit was arranged through Global Vision for July 31st. The following report outlines observations and potential fixes to the problem:
The river that provides the surrounding villages with vital resources also prevents them from distributing their produce effectively. Due to the lack of a bridge, large vehicles such as lorries must drive over 140 km of rough dirt roads rather than 40 km if they could simply cross and continue on. On our way back to Arusha, we saw 3 lorries stuck in the large ditches found at various points on the roads.
The current solution has been in place for over 40 years and has provided a simple, relatively cheap option for small groups of villagers and motorcycle drivers to cross in 5 minutes to reach the other side. There are 2 boats available to cross, one being a dug-out canoe and one being a wider wooden boat. The dug-out canoe is well built, but due to its age, it is beginning to leak requiring water has to be emptied frequently. The wider boat is more unstable and not robust enough to carry large objects such as a motorcycle. The cost to cross the river is 200 shillings and the procedure to cross is perfected by the men steering the boats to handle the strong current at that point in the river. We approximate the distance to be about 70-75 meters with a depth of up to 2 meters.
The ideal fix for this problem would be to build bridge that is strong enough to hold a lorrie. The bridge would only need to be single lane due to the low traffic seen in this area. This solution would allow all traffic to avoid taking the large detour around the river, and would be especially helpful when large shipments are leaving the farms. This however, would require a team of civil engineers, a lot of material, and possibly government help.
The step below this fix would be to make a wooden bridge about 2 meters in width to allow people to walk across, carts and motorcycles. This would resemble a dock-like construction entirely made out of wood. If this is possible, perhaps farmers could have larger trucks bring their produce to this bridge point and then cross via motorcycle or hand carts with the products they’d like to export.
The simplest solution that was discussed was to create a pontoon raft with a large surface area along with a rope system which stretches across the width of the river. The construction of the craft could make use of local materials including wood, leaves, rope, and plastic or metal drums. This would be a temporary solution but the ability to carry larger loads would benefit the villagers.
The river’s current is very strong due to the rocks that concentrate the stream flow towards the irrigation system. The boats used now are maneuvered in a way that involves complete 180 degree rotation to avoid being pulled down stream. If built, a raft may witness too much force in the highest current areas and make it too challenging to pull across if the system is set up in the area being used at this time. At a place of slower flow, the raft would be much easier to implement.
Overall, it was a really fun trip and it was nice to have another day out in the village. Colin tried his first goat meat and everyone was SO welcoming!