Saturday, January 22, 2011

A fundi for everything

I had never thought about it from the perspective of Danny, our gardener.  For me, fixing the wheelbarrow was such a simple matter; all it needed was a few new bolts.  I had noticed the coat-hanger wire holding it together and he had commented on its dilapidated state.  Once or twice I had absently wondered why Danny didn’t fix it properly.

Finally, I decided to go and buy some bolts myself.  I took Danny with me ‘to help’ but he had probably never bought nuts and bolts before.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have the will or motivation to fix the wheelbarrow - it was an unskilled task that was well within his capabilities.

But Tanzania is a country where there is a fundi (technician or skilled worker) for everything.  There are plumbing and electrical fundis, which is no surprise.  But for anything more than a puncture, people will always go to the bike fundi.  There is no DIY; people don’t seem to fix anything themselves.

On the face of it, this is ironic: Tanzanians are endlessly resourceful and nothing goes to waste.  But tools are simply too expensive for your average Joe.  So something as simple as a missing nut on a wheelbarrow has to be fixed by a fundi, or patched up with coat-hanger wire.

And for Danny that presented a problem.  The nearest wheelbarrow fundi is in town, some 5km distant.  He would have had to push the wheelbarrow all the way there and all the way back if he wanted it fixed.  He could have cycled into town, bought the nuts and brought them back… if he only had a spanner.

So last week, I loaded the wheelbarrow into our Landcruiser and took Danny to the wheelbarrow fundi.  I could have just bought the nuts and fixed it myself but I thought it better to let a guy who had invested in spanners earn his crust.

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All images (c) Jon Bigg

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