Written by: The Bridge on Friday, March 21st, 2008
The Water House
Hi Everyone, It is nice to read all those comments on the blog. They make me think about home and the people at home. I have to admit that I have been so absorbed with Palmgrove and the people here, that I have had very little time to think about home. Home seems so far away and so long ago. It’s just hard to imagine playing hockey while we are playing soccer in this heat.
Things are very different here, but just like at home there is always a list of things you have to get done.Ed Vetter has decided that getting the Water House operational is going to be one of our first projects. This is because it is very close to being complete, and doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
So let me tell you a little about the Water House. The “Water House” is a water bottling plant that uses equipment that is somewhat automated and has been under construction for a long time. This plant is very small, but could produce a nice income for Palmgrove if it was operated properly. So let me explain a few things.
Four long years ago, Palmgrove tried to set up the water bottling but never got a permit from the government. This was because they were doing everything by hand. This means they even washed the bottles in a tub by hand. In fact, the whole process of filling, capping, labeling, and packaging was done by hand. The government saw this as a sanitation problem and never gave them a permit for bottling water.
Therefore, after a few years Inno decided to change direction. So the old manual system was removed and a water bagging machine was put there instead, but somehow the machine was never set up and Inno decided to try something else. He got another loan and purchased and installed a more automated bottling machine. Now there are two machines standing in the Water House and both aren’t producing anything yet.
< In order to bottle or bag water one needs good water. Palmgrove water is some of the best; it is as good as any bottled water you can buy in Nigeria. Palmgrove drilled a well in 1992 and they have had good access to water for many years.They installed a very large steel water tank for a reservoir. Palmgrove has a fully functional and plumbed water system for the houses, barns, and gardens, even when there is no electricity for two days. People from the surrounding area keep coming to Palmgrove for water. They do this by filling their car with jugs and pails and then fill these with water. By contrast, almost everyone in the jungle gets his or her drinking water from the stream.
It happened once in the past that Palmgrove ran out of water. So they had to do what they have always done. They got the water from the stream, and in doing so got all the missionaries sick. They have been told to tell missionaries when they get the water from the stream so that they can boil it. Somehow, the local people are immune to all the bacteria in the river. Or are they?
In Nigeria if someone wants to start a company they first have to fully establish the company to the point of operation before a permit to operate will be granted. Also, the building has to look very neat and somewhat fancy to appeal to government standards. This concept is hard to understand considering how primitive most things are in the jungle, but it is easy to see that the government has rules like this so that Nigeria ends out with some respectable looking buildings after all. At home, this is very different. Someone can start a business in a small shack and build a bigger building once the business has grown a bit.
Palmgrove has a very nice building for their water plant. It is constructed mostly of bricks, has a nice paint job, and looks quite impressive for a business that doesn’t yet exist. Although it has taken a month, Palmgrove’s young men have almost completed laying the bricks in front of the building. The bricks also help stop erosion.
The reason the bricks take so long is that they are produced by hand. It reminds me of how the Israelites would have worked in Egypt at the time of captivity. Everything is done by hand including mixing the cement. I helped produce one batch and let me tell you it is hard work, especially with the heat.
Interruption:The electricity just went on so I will pause to plug in the laptop because it is getting low on juice. The electricity around here is like waiting for the rain in the dry season.
I also need to mention that all the buildings in Nigeria are made of bricks because of the termite ants that eat everything that isn’t made of stone or hard wood. In the end, the bricks give the Water House a very nice finish.
The water-bagging machine is what Ed Vetter and I have been working on since we got here. It’s a very small machine that uses a roll of plastic to form a bag, which it then exposes to ultra violet light to sterilize it. This bag is then filled with water that has been filtered with a sand filter and three other particle filters. The water is then exposed to ultra violet light and put in the bag. The machine seals the bags with heat and cuts them off from the roll. This is a continuous system and requires someone to place the bags in a box for shipping. Water bags are a very popular way of buying water, as it is very cheap. The market should be very accessible.
The water filtering system that Ed Vetter and I have been installing was paid for by the people at home and was shipped on the container; the machine didn’t come with a filtering system. We are almost finished and have had an inspector here to look it over. He gave us a few recommendations and seemed quite pleased with the system. We hope to be able to run the water bagging system very soon.
Then there is the water bottling system.It is a very impressive machine. It is automated to the point where it only needs a person at the beginning and end of the machine. The person at the start places the bottles on a conveyor. Then it is automatically washed, sterilized, filled with filtered and sterilized water, capped and labeled. The person on the end of the machine will then pack the bottles in boxes for shipping. The whole machine is constructed of stainless steel and came with its own water filtering system.The filtering system is very large and seems to be of high quality. This machine has the ability to produce a lot of product if it is run diligently.
Palmgrove has sent Inifiock, a young man, to college to learn about marketing so that they will have someone who knows how to sell the water. Water is in very high demand in Nigeria and therefore selling water should be very possible. Palmgrove will try to sell the water locally and only sell as they produce. There is only one problem and that is electricity. The electricity around the Palmgrove area is as predictable as the wind in Manitoba and has a quality standard that does not exist. The phases on the electricity can change from one day to the next. This means that a motor will be running forward one day and backwards the next day. That would include the water bottling machine. It would be running in reverse or get burning out. For this reason Palmgrove will have to produce electricity with a generator. With high fuel prices this could be a problem, but they have very little choice
The whole project has dragged out for a long time because of the lack of funds and constant problems. However, if they can get this together, they should be able t have a nice income. Water is on every menu and is consumed at all times. As for now we are trying to get the Water House into production. This is not very easy but we are getting close to completion. Hopefully all will go well.