|New biodigester in Aceituno, Lempira|
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Apocalypse now? Rural Hondurans can handle it
Picture a typical Canadian in the event of an apocalypse – electricity gone, supermarkets empty, no gas for the car, that sort of thing. We'd be hooped.
Sure, some of us keep backyard gardens, maybe even a few chickens. But it’d be a rare Canadian who could feed themselves even through a short-lived apocalypse. Our country talks a good game about 100-mile diets, but almost a third of our food comes from outside the country and most of us would have a heck of a time accessing the other 70 per cent without transportation and refrigeration.
Not so a rural Honduran. Their diet may not be the most exciting in the world, but virtually all of it is grown a few steps away from their home. And speaking of that home, they can build one out of dirt. Yesterday I visited a woman in her comfy and clean adobe house who was busy making all-purpose soap out of olive pits she'd boiled up, while taking care of two mentally handicapped adult children and grinding corn for the 35 or so tortillas her family eats every day. They are resourceful and resilient people.
Yesterday’s lunch was a fine example of self-sustainability. We had eggs, tortillas, a type of fresh cheese they call cuajada, orange juice and fried squash, all of it from the family’s teeny little farm. People in the Honduran countryside are very poor, and I wouldn’t want to suggest that everyone’s diets meet Canada Food Guide standards. But land ownership is still within reach for most Hondurans and they don’t waste it planting big lawns. When the apocalypse comes, at least they’ll still be eating.
They can also take cow poo and create methane gas for cooking. This is high science in places like Canada, but in Honduras it’s accomplished with a minimum of fuss and almost no money using heavy black plastic and a lot of bits and pieces of scrounged-up stuff.
Just today I watched the construction of a biodigestor, as they’re called. As they tied up parts of it with ripped-up bits of inner tube and fashioned seals out of the bottoms of plastic bottles, I imagined all the crazy lengths we’d be going to back home to have the exact right parts, the exact measurements for each step, probably even a gas fitter on hand and a biodigestor inspector waiting in the wings.
In Honduras, they just dig a coffin-size hole in the ground, do a lot of accordion-style folds with a really giant black-plastic bag worked over and around old buckets with the bottoms cut out, and voila – they’ve got something that’s not only good for the environment because it’s taking cow-poo contamination out of the equation, but producing four hours of methane every day for cooking.
And when the roads collapse and our cars are useless? Hondurans live with that problem every day. When the apocalypse comes, they’ll just throw a blanket and some firewood on the mule and start walking.