BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe – Although the concept of donkey drawn libraries may not be unique, since they are utilised in several developing countries worldwide, this innovative idea is certainly a novel way of bringing knowledge to disadvantaged rural communities in Zimbabwe.
This particular project operates in the Nkayi District of Matebeleland North, where four donkey drawn mobile cart libraries are in use. The library service is largely motivated by an abundant availability of donkeys that ordinarily provide draught power in the District. This cost effective system is ideal for the area, where roads present a formidable challenge to motorised traffic. An added aspect of importance attributable to the “donkey libraries” is the fact that their combustion free characteristics contribute towards reduction in the National carbon footprint ratings. This is of specific significance in a world that has become acutely conscious of the need to preserve its fragile environment.
In the Nyanga District, set in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe where the donkey drawn libraries have not yet been introduced, a “book box” service is managed by sub-offices of the Rural Libraries and Resource Development Programme, (RLRDP). This is the organisation that administers these innovative
information dissemination systems and resource centres. The service entails the use of bicycles for delivery of book packs to a library in a specific area. After one month, the books are collected and another pack deposited. This gives communities access to a variety of books, while strengthening the rural libraries network. The book box/bicycle scheme makes library services possible in areas without easy access to such facilities, due to inaccessible roads and distances involved.
Founded 28 January, 1990, the RLRDP has as its essential target, the adequate provision of libraries and information services in the rural development situation. Properly registered, organised and constituted, the institution runs several initiatives which it promotes through its tri-annual mouthpiece, the RLRDP News Bulletin.
The Training and Publications Unit is responsible for training rural librarians and library management committees, in a variety of relevant disciplines, besides production of RLRDP publications. This unit also procures publications for distribution to member libraries and information resource centres.
Essentially dealing with gender issues at grass-root levels, the Gender Development Unit involves both men and women in its activities, taking into consideration that development should ideally be gender sensitive. Activities that take place at all associate libraries include workshops where participants are encouraged to discuss every day challenges that are appropriate, as well as to find suitable solutions for these. Each of the libraries concerned is urged to form a Gender and Development Sub-Committee to facilitate the inclusion of gender related issues in their activities.
Heading the RLRDP is founding member Mr. Obadiah Moyo, whose boisterous enthusiasm in promoting his organisation’s work, proves to be rather infectious. Asked about the motivation behind the establishing of RLRDP and its successful “Donkey Library” scheme, Mr. Moyo said; “The appalling situation in which disadvantaged rural children and adults were deprived access to knowledge and information through the lack of libraries in their neighbourhoods, was the driving force behind establishing the organisation and its wide network. We noticed that people from most local communities had to travel long distances to the nearest town or mission station in order to find a library. Because of these circumstances we felt compelled to act.”
But in spite of this extraordinary success story, the organisation faces daunting challenges to keep its various people friendly programmes afloat. Lack of adequate financial and material support is seriously hindering their continued smooth running. As a means to continue the valuable service it is providing to rural communities, the RLRDP, and particularly its “Donkey Library” concept, are reaching out to well-wishers willing to assist in cash or kind.
Interested parties may use the following contact details in order to respond to this appeal.
The Secretary General,
P.O. Box 439 Bulawayo. Zimbabwe.
Telephone: + 6263 9 204910. Fax: + 263 9 215337