Post: brick making

A short distance from Mumosho is a river that meanders through a marshy floodplain. The clay ground above the water level is perfect for making bricks, and plots of land have been allocated to people who dig out the clay and produce thousands of rough-looking bricks. These are then carried half a kilometre to the dirt road where they are stacked and sold to local people and builders from Bukavu.

It’s hard work mostly done by tough, wiry men. Mwavita Cimwenya is equally as tough. She and three other women – Tulinabo, Stella and Mapendo - came to us with a plan to buy a plot of land out in the marsh and make bricks. They have been so successful that they now hire three men to help with the workload.

The first task is to trample the clay into a malleable paste and then store it in the shape of a large circular heap, which is covered in palm leaves to keep off the sun. When the brick makers are ready they scoop handfuls of the slimy clay and pummel it into a brick mould. The wet bricks are dried under cover and then out in the sun and then fired for a week.

We talked to one of the men working for Mwavita. Like most people here he has malaria and wasn’t feeling good that day. When a small bird flew into the reeds nearby he broke the conversation and shot it with his catapult. The bird was small and pretty and I wonder if it was worth killing for food. Either way it was a desperate thing to do.

Mwavita is confident that she will pay back our loan inside a year and that she will be able to work her plot for three or four years. In that time she intends to save enough money to buy another plot and continue working with her three friends to improve their lives and that of their families.