The Sidetagna live in a complex of 350 round huts two or three meters high. The walls of each hut are a composite formed by flexible branches (and sometimes a matrix of mud), covered by scavenged scraps of cardboard and fabric in an attempt to keep the rain out. While this nominally succeeds in doing so, the walls are anything but waterproof. People do what they can to elevate the dirt floors above the surrounding terrain, but there is only so much you can do to protect the ramshackle walls against a driving rain. During the rainy season (June through September), the water damage is a never-ending challenge and makes the atmosphere inside the huts oppressively humid beyond description. (Note from Frank: “I entered one of these huts in May 2015 after a night of rain and found the sweltering humidity absolutely unbearable.”).
That said, have you ever experienced the irritation, discomfort, and inconvenience of even a small leak in your roof? Now image that your entire house was leaking with almost no hope of repair. Here’s how youy can help: A cheap and effective solution that has been demonstrated in the area is to use two large plastic tarps, which cost 640 Birr ($32) each for a total of $72 for each hut. Supply is not a problem. We have already negotiated the price and found a supplier of good quality tarps in Harar.