Thursday, May 3, 2012

Forests and Villages

Jay Clark - PCV - at Joro, Dama Chiefdom - Eastern Province - fixing furniture
photo © by Chad Finer

Jay Clark teaching at Muslim secondary School in Joro
photo © by Chad Finer

Jay Clark swimming AT Joro Falls - 1968
photo © by Chad Finer

me at Joro Falls - late 1968
photo by Susan Finer

In the Kenema area there was a vast forest of exotic and tropical hardwoods. I remember there being the headquarters of the Sierra Leone Forest Industries in Kenema Town where much of the wood was processed. This sat up toward the Kambuii Hills several miles to our north. At Forest Industries you could buy wood products such as bowls – we did purchase a number of these bowls to bring home and give as presents to our family and friends.  The most impressive part of this industry was the huge trucks that daily would pass by our house from the south (Dama). These long trucks would haul the most gigantic logs that I had ever seen – each intact and on a very long flat bed. Many of these logs were more that 80 feet in length and some as wide as 10 to 12 feet in diameter. Usually the trucks that passed by us had one or at most 2 logs. Daily, 10 or 12 trucks would pass by our house on the way to forest industry headquarters t o off load the wood and then head back out. At headquarters the wood would be processed for furniture, lumber, and other goods. It was clear, from all this activity by our house, that the tropical forest of Sierra Leone was rapidly being devoured. Except for the Kambuii Hills that ran diagonally to the north and east of Kenema – there was very little in the way of nearby and valuable forest. Most of this harvesting came from forests well to our south and east. Land in our area had been heavily farmed by the slash and burn method. In our area there were some large cottonwood trees but most of the land, depleted by the farming process, had scrub trees of little value.  Near Joro, some 25 miles from where we lived (and in Dama Chiefdom to our south) there was some untouched forestland. This spread to the east from Joro up to where there was a beautiful waterfall and swimming area that we visited several times. In Joro, two volunteers, Jay Clark and Charley Goudiss  lived and taught at the Muslim School there. A pleasant town – Joro had a large and busy Saturday market. Situated on the main road to Kenema Joro was a rural town. The falls up in the hills to the east were safe for swimming and we thus paid at least two visits to this area. A trip to Joro was easy for us – getting on a lorry in Kenema was then a straight shot of about an hour (or less) to Joro. Jay and Charley lived right on the main road – thus we could leave school on a Friday and be there easily by supper. The village had a nice rural feeling to it.  A women next door to them cooked for them – and she made tasty ‘African chop,’ that we would have. Their tin-roofed mud house with concrete floor was dusty, but typical of the houses throughout the area. A central room with large veranda through the front door, and small veranda in back, was lined by several rooms off the central area.  Covered by a tin roof Jay and Charley had some somewhat uncomfortable furniture to sit in. On each side of their house were nearby neighbors. I remember that we enjoyed visiting such villages. 

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