Project Sekong 2014: As we go about our everyday tasks, villagers go about theirs. This time of year people are collecting firewood.

February 8, 2014

During the dry season every family tries to collect all the firewood they will need throughout the year. Once the monsoon rains come, the deadfall in the forest will be too wet to burn.

Shortly after daybreak, women from every family head out in the cool morning air to cultivate their gardens and to forage in the forest for edible foods. Every woman carries on her back a hand-woven basket of split bamboo. The baskets are large, reaching from the nape of the woman’s neck to the small of her back and, even when new, appear aged and discolored for having been smoked over a smoldering fire to inoculate them against insects that might burrow into the bamboo and weaken it.

In the morning, the baskets are empty but for a small ball of sticky rice, the foundation of the woman’s lunch, to be supplemented by foods harvested from the garden or collected in the forest. In the evening, this time of year, the baskets will return home full of firewood.

In towns, for cooking food or boiling drinking water most families rely on charcoal— a product the villagers either produce themselves in backyard kilns or purchase cheaply in the market. But, in the villages wood is the fuel of choice: available in the surrounding forest, (albeit in diminishing supply) and essentially free for the hauling.

In town families use gas or charcoal for cooking fuel but throughout the countryside families depend on firewood that they carry home from the forest. Unfortunately, supplies are dwindling.

This time of year people are laying in a supply of wood that will carry them through the remainder of the year. When the rainy season begins in late April the deadfall available in the forest will be wet and for several months the weather will be too damp for wood to adequately dry. And, even if the families can find dry wood, they will be too busy with other tasks and their baskets too full of other harvests—coffee, rice, cassava, and garden produce—to collect it. A family that neglects to lay in an adequate supply of wood before the monsoon hits will be hard pressed to keep the home fires burning.

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