| Mar 12, 2021
When life gives you lemons - fix a bridge
Bridge to Ha Makebe - after the storm
Hello again everyone from (now) sunny Lesotho!
Today I am so proud to tell you about a project that our team undertook this past month to help the community of Ha Makebe. One usually thinks of the rains that follow a drought as a blessing - which they are - but here in Lesotho we got one weekend of exceptional downpour last month that was so intense it ended up washing out bridges across the country. As you can imagine, this left many communities in a tough spot - including Ha Makebe where we are currently in the last stages of construction.
Ha Makebe actually has two dirt road connections to the main (paved) road, but the community invested the effort last year to fix the grading of the shorter of the two so that they had a much improved (quicker, less wear and tear on vehicles) way to get back and forth. This rainstorm ended up washing out the bridge on that road (picture attached), leaving the community in a bad spot. Because of the wide ranging damage, the Government informed them it would be months - at minimum - before this could be addressed. At that point the Local Council approached Onepower asking if we might be able to help...
As it turns out, we have very recently procured some heavy equipment (for the minigrids construction - with funds from CarbonTrust) that came in very handy for this task. With permissions from the Roads Department to undertake the repair, we set a goal for ourselves to make sure not only that the bridge was reassembled but also that it would be resilient to any future storm of this nature.
Our team spent about a week of long days retrieving the large rectangular blocks for the walls from the places they had washed down-river, building containment walls, filling with cobble, moving tons and tons (over 100 tons!!) of dirt and stone. (I am sharing assorted photos of the process so you can picture this!) The community of Ha Makebe also stepped up, coming to help find the rocks needed and collect them into piles so that the large equipment could transport them to the bridge. But - in the end - the bridge looks as if nothing ever happened! You'll see in the last photo the construction crew - Onepower staff and our day labour team from Ha Makebe (the folks who have been helping string electrical wire over the past months) posing for a celebratory photo with the equipment that did the heavy lifting.
This project was obviously a short distraction from making progress on the construction of the minigrid, but it was a project that everybody on our team was proud of - proud of what it meant to be helping the community and proud of our ability to do real engineering on short notice in a challenging environment. It was incredibly rewarding for me to see how much our team has grown - in numbers, in technical knowledge, and in determinataion.
We are also making excellent progress on construction of the minigrids - having completed the powerhouse (where the batteries and inverters live), the reticulation, installaiton of the transformers, and installation of readyboards (an "instant" circuit breaker box plus light in one) at over 100 of the houses - but I will save more updates on that for the next report!
Wishing everyone good health as we hopefully are approaching the end of this crazy year.
Onepower heavy equipment, on site!
Ha Makebe community pitches in
Stone and materials moved to the bridge site
Replacing the large stone walls of the buttress
Filling between the walls
Bridge repair complete - team photo