In the old days the first you saw on arriving at a village was a heap of animal dung where hens scratched for food while the women of the village busy making flat cakes from the dung of the village’s cattle. Left to dry in the sun the animal dung was then burnt as a source of heat and cooking. When mixed with mud and straw the dung formed building material for their houses and animal sheds. The use of dung to make building material dates back to prehistory and many cultures traditionally used dung as a source of heat such as the tribes of Native Americans who roamed the prairies and it is still used in the villages of India (Photo above). Buffalo, cow and camel chips were the source of heat for countless generations. In dry countries dung was also a source of cash and all members of families that kept flocks and herds would collect dry animal droppings in sacks for sale in towns and cities.
No doubt there are young people today who have no knowledge of this and would be disgusted at the thought of using dung to cook their food yet this was a vital source of heat and village women worked hard not only to feed their family but to produce the means of cooking the food.
Today we are all too dependent on gas, oil and electricity to give us heat but we are then relying on fossil fuels which are a limited resource. In addition burning gas and oil is polluting our planet and causing global changes in our weather and that all countries are looking to alternative energy sources such as hydroelectricity, wind and solar power, but the village women were always using a renewable energy source.
Today we are reliant on the oil industry for power and today’s villages have no dung heaps where the cockerel’s crow heralds the dawn of another day and the village women gather to make the fuel they need. Indeed there are no cockerels or hens to be seen in most of our villages and the outskirts of a village is marked by piles of plastic waste that litters the once productive land. I am sure that a time will come when people will look once more to the traditional source of power that was used in villages and will also turn again to agriculture. Then we may see villagers using gas and heat produced in their village from the dung of their flocks that is processed in a digester system to give methane. There are villages in the developing world where this system has already been developed. After all necessity is the mother of invention.
Women were, and still are, the power behind the villages’ existence. Salutations to those ladies.