The cow pat

On these cold misty mornings as I run through the highland villages, I have seen strange things going on, no matter how cold it is or early, there will be women walking out of their small walled village homes with a large metal pan on their heads and this will be full of cow dung. They will then tip this out onto some straw and make massive dung pancakes. Should a cow happen to pass and drop a steamer, the lady will stop and in an instant scoop it up into her pan.

During the day most cattle and water buffalo are tied to pegs in the ground along the village main road, here all day the pats are also collected, mostly buy the young girls after school and taken to a central point where the dung cakes are made.

In the evenings when the cattle are herded back to the village, I have seen young girls and boys running behind the cattle from the fields and collecting the steamers as they fall. Different areas have distinctly different ways of packing and drying these dung disks, some are packed in really intricate stacks that are a form of art, other villages build temporary wall from then. The weirdest was in one area where the finished product was packed in a bee hive looking dome and then totally plastered closed with wet dung. To me this stuff looks to be green gold, it’s treasured, sought after collected and protected, but what is this all about?

Then finally I got the answer, it’s used as fuel for heating and cooking. Looking around me on these open plains as well as in the intensive farming areas, there is no wood to burn, just the pats to ward of the winter cold and keep the home fires burning..

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