Ten-year-old Haji used to spend most of his day helping his mother to make pottery and fuel-efficient stoves. “We sell the pottery and stoves to the local market,” says Haji. “With the money, my mother buys food, clothes and school supplies. I needed to crush the soil in the mornings and evenings and then go to school in the afternoon.
“When I had to work, lots of dust came off and covered my clothes and face. I sometimes coughed hard. It was also tiring but I had to spend this time working to support my mother, so that she could produce and sell to buy us the things we need.”
Aster, age nine, lives in Leku town. Her job was to beat the clay soil to fine powder using a stick. She had to work everyday to ensure that her mother would have enough soil to make pottery products. “I would hit the soil against the ground to make it fine so that my mother could mix it up with water and make nice pottery and stoves,’” says Aster. Her mother mainly produces for the local market. “It was hard to crush clay soil with a stick everyday. I sometimes worked during the evening and did not have time to study and do my homework.”
Beshure, a local clay maker says, “I feel that it was very hard work for our children. Children cough when they crush the soil as they inhale dust coming from the soil.”
Improving children’s lives
Now with the support of a renewable energy project funded by Plan, children such as Aster and Haji don’t have to work and can go to school. The Leku Area Fuel Efficient Producers Association, bringing together 36 local producers, was given one diesel and two manual machines which grind the clay soil.
“Now that we have the motorised soil crusher, we don’t need the children to work so much for us. Children help us with the manual crusher, which is much safer and less tiresome than using a stick to crush soil,” says Beshure. Over 50 children in the area have been able to reduce the amount of work they do as a result of the scheme.
Aster says, “Now I am much happier as I have time to do my homework and time to play in my village.”