|The Finished Bread Oven - After Months of Baking|
|The Bread Oven is a Success!|
This project was first suggested in the village by an uninformed new resident who knew nothing about the realities of doing development work (harsh), the profit margins of bakeries (slim), or the working culture of rural subsistence farmers in Fiji (decidedly non-Western). Yes – it was suggested by me in the weeks following my arrival. It immediately gained major traction. And at the same time I quickly realized it was not really a sure fire money making scheme, with low profit margins and a poor track record in other nearby villages. I tried to divert attention. We discussed selling homemade jam (and had a jam tasting with papaya, pineapple, banana, and even pumpkin jams), we performed traditional dances for cruise ship passengers (and made a lot in donations), we talked about digging ponds to farm tilapia (responsible aquaculture reduces fishing pressure on the reef and provides healthy protein) and we investigated the costs associated with keeping chickens for eggs (eggs are about 50 cents apiece so are seen as too expensive for most people in the village). By January the women were adamant that they wanted a bread oven. And by that point I realized that ANY project that held a large group’s interest for that long was worth trying whether or not we were going to get rich. I was in, but I still needed information on how to actually do it.
|The Inner Drum and all the metal work that went into creating the oven door were donated by visitors.|
Luckily I wasn’t the first PCV in Fiji to attempt a baking project with a women’s group. About five years earlier another volunteer on my island had literally written the book on wood-fired drum ovens and an outgoing volunteer from the other island updated me on how the idea had gone over in his village (the women had made just enough money to start their next project and then effectively abandoned the oven). Armed with the experiences of others I felt ready to take on the construction of the first actual tangible development project of my life. The resourceful women of my community planned a fundraiser and we collected double the amount we had calculated we would need to build the oven. A donation from overseas visitors to the village (my parents) provided the two drums we needed. And in March we began construction. We were on schedule to start baking in May. But then something happened. We didn’t end up starting baking until four months later than originally planned.
|A lot of women helped in the construction process, especially tearing up coconut husks used as insulation.|
|The second layer of cement goes over the coconut husks.|
|Most of the construction was done by village youth.|
|Our Baking Workshop was Attended by Nearly All the Women in the Village!|
|The Women Bake every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and usually sell out!|
|Happy Bakers at the Bread Oven|