Togo Weekly Awesome: What Can You Use Empty Cans For?

Last month PCV Chelsea Clarke put some empty tin cans to good use. Chelsea lives in a small village in northern Togo. Though she is an environmental volunteer, she knows that malaria affects EVERYBODY and she wanted to do something about it.

PCV Chelsea Clarke and her host sister.

PCV Chelsea Clarke and her host sister.

Chelsea got the idea for making portable mosquito net hanging posts while watching babies and toddlers in her host family sleep outside every evening during the prime hours of mosquito activity. Many Togolese families stay outside during the night to cook, socialize, and even sleep outside during hot weather. Additionally, she had heard people in village complain that it was hard to hang the nets when they don’t have a bed or bedposts; many villagers sleep on a mat on the floor.

She made a solution to these problems by anchoring one branch each in 4 tin cans, holding them in place with layers of rocks and sand (clay or cement are more solid but were harder to find.) This is an easy project, and it doesn’t cost a thing!

On the first try, she used empty powdered milk cans, but they were not sturdy enough. Next, she went into town and stopped at various cafeterias, asking for some of the economy-sized tomato cans that many eateries throw out every day. The mamma at her favorite fufu place readily gave her 8 giant tomato cans for free!

Back in village, she enlisted the help of her host family. Together, they put the initial small tin cans inside of the larger tomato cans, and filled up both with a stone and clay mixture. She kicked the cans to see if they would be sturdy enough to withstand the kids playing around the net and scurrying in and out of it.

Chelsea's host siblings making the posts. It is so easy that children can do it!

Chelsea’s host siblings making the posts. It is so easy that children can do it!

While they were making the bed net hanging posts, there was a group of neighbors next door enjoying some tchakpa, a local beer in northern Togo. The group all looked on while the kids cut branches and collected stones, and adults held the poles up and tied the net on at the end.

Chelsea said that there is one woman in her host family who speaks both French and Moba, and she translated to the curious onlookers to explain what was going on. When the women understood, they got very excited, and started calling over their friends and enthusiastically shaking Chelsea’s hand. She hopes that it will be the next big trend in village.

The family trying out the net.

The family trying out the net.

Options if you do not have 1 sturdy can for each post:

  1. Ask a mason if they can make a brick with a stick in the middle
  2. Dig holes in the ground for the sticks

Tips on collecting cans:

  1. Ask kids help you scavenge around for discarded cans
  2. Ask a cafeteria/restaurant
  3. Encourage people in village to collect their own cans, too!
When one tin can is not enough just double up and it will be sturdy enough

When one tin can is not enough just double up and it will be sturdy enough


Written by Chelsea Clarke & Katherine Racy