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Teenage labourer’s load eased thanks to motorised pulley

In the past you might have seen men carrying 50kg sacks of fish feed down the steep slope of a riverbank or carrying up heavy baskets of fish, which seems like really arduous work given that each day they would carry about 100 sacks.
Tilapia fish farms line both banks of the Nam Ngum river near the Tha-ngone Bridge in Xaythany district, Vientiane, and are a major source of fish for the city’s markets.
But recently life became easier for the workers at these fish farms and they no longer need to haul heavy baskets of fish up the riverbank since a motorised pulley was installed. This ingenious system consists of a zipline powered by a motorbike engine.

Kito Phommany brings up fish from the river using a motorbike-powered pulley.

One of the workers at a Chinese owned fish farm in Hai village is aged just 16 and dropped out of secondary school at the age of 14 because he desperately needed work.
Every day young Kito Phommany and another worker had to  carry 100 sacks of fish feed down to the cages that housed the tilapia and haul up about baskets containing about 100kg of fish to the top of the riverbank so they could earn a paltry wage of about one million kip a month.
Kito has been doing this work for almost three years. Before going full time he worked part time at the fish farm when he had finished school for the day.
Every day he woke up early in the morning because he had to finish feeding the fish by 7am and then he went to school on his friend’s motorbike.
His life was a lot different to that of most of his classmates who had extra tuition in the evenings or played with their friends. Instead young Kito had to hurry back to the fish cages as soon as classes had finished.
Young people are not very patient and tend not to take a long term view of life, and at the age of 14 Kito was too young to understand the implications of being both a schoolboy and a labourer.
Things got tougher when the owner of the fish farm said he wanted the boy to work full time, so he left school even though he was in the final year of lower secondary school.
He moved out of the family home and went to live in a small single room with just a fan and a television, which he shared with another worker, so that he could be close to the fish farm.
He said he wanted to complete secondary school but had no hope of going to college because his family couldn’t afford to pay the fees.
The one bright spot in his life has been the installation of the motorised pulley so the work is not as strenuous as before because now he doesn’t have to hoist heavy sacks of feed onto his shoulders and stagger down the steep slope to the water, and do the same thing in reverse with heavy baskets of fish.
“Now my work is not really hard because I put everything into a container and turn on the motorbike to send the loads up and down,” Kito said with a smile.
“Before, we had to carry about 100 sacks weighing 50kg every day. The load going uphill was even heavier and over the course of one day we had to carry hundreds of kilos of fish.”
Kito said the use of the motorbike engine to power the system had made his life a lot easier but he was still unable to go to school because he was needed at the fish farm all day and every day.
If you happen to be visiting Heua-phair Restaurant and hire a boat for a trip along the right bank of the river, you might see Kito as he loads fish and fish feed onto the pulley or as he feeds the splashing fish that crowd the cages and are destined for local dinner tables.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update May 22, 2017)


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