August 2012 Archives

Looking Forward! The African Well Fund in Mali

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And now, to take the time to look firmly forward for a moment!

We at the African Well Fund are pleased to announced our newest project which seeks to provide over 1,800 students and community members with clean water, sanitation facilities, and hand washing stations in Mali.

This new initiative will take place in Doumba, one of nine communes in the Koulikoro region. Traditionally villagers in Doumba have used community-dug wells which serve both humans and animals, but these boreholes often run dry in the drought-prone, rocky region. While there are seven villages with public schools, none of these public schools has its own water access or toilets. Boys and girls must go to the houses of neighboring families in search of water while at school, causing disruptions in classes and negatively impacting the number of girls attending.

Some communities do take steps to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation, however many lack the resources to do so fully, leading to villagers drinking unsafe and contaminated water from traditional wells, or when the wells in villages dry up in the hot season, from the river. Waterborne diseases are most frequent among those who must depend on this untreated water, with children particularly affected.

To improve access to drinking water and sanitation, the African Well Fund with partners Africare will install one borehole, rehabilitate two toilets, and build two hand washing facilities in the village school of Dibaru.

The borehole will serve not only the school children, but also surrounding community members. Community ownership will be encouraged, with a water management committee comprised of local villagers helping to organize community assistance with construction, sanitation, and maintenance.

We hope to see work on this new project completed by October 2012 and we need your help!

All together the project is expected to cost $50,000.00. That's only a little over $25.00 for each villager who will have access to safe, clean water. Can you contribute today?

Please go here to donate to our work in Mali.

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Mali, 2008

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All desert and river, Mali is at the heart of lands which once belonged to the great empires of Africa. Home to a diverse, tolerant population, it still pulses with the rituals, traditions, and rich culture which are its heritage. It is also one of the world's poorest countries.

Despite recent political instability, Mali was for years considered one of Africa's most stable democracies. Over the past 20 years the government has engaged in economic reforms designed to spur growth in the country and they have met with some success. Even with the price of Mali's primary crop, cotton, falling, GDP has still steadily grown in recent years. However drought and desertification as well as limited access to clean water and sanitation have combined to make food insecurity as well as waterborne disease common.

For over ten years AWF partner Africare has been at work on their Goundam Food Security Initiative (GFSI). They focused efforts on the Goundam and Dire cercles in the Timbuktu region of Northern Mali, areas which had a structural food deficit- a state in which it was not possible for local people to grow enough food to feed themselves, nor was it possible for them to make sufficient income by other means to purchase the food they needed. The GFSI was a comprehensive effort designed to address some of the barriers to food sufficiency, to increase incomes, and to improve the health of those in the region.

Mali's rainfall is sparse and unreliable at best and two-thirds of its northern land is desert. In a country where only four percent of the land is arable, still some eighty percent depend on agriculture for survival. Despite these difficulties productive farming is possible by using water from the Niger River to irrigate the fields. As part of the GFSI Africare helped to build "irrigated perimeters" which have yielded significant crops of rice, wheat, and vegetables and greatly contributed to overall food security.

Ironically, it is this access to the river that left many farming communities without sources of safe, potable drinking water. The government and many development agencies focused more attention on drier regions with no access to any sort of water. This left villagers with wells which would often run dry in the hot months, forcing villagers to drink contaminated water from the same river they use to irrigate their fields. Rates of waterborne disease and diarrhea were high, disproportionately affecting children.

The African Well Fund moved in 2008 to fund wells in areas which had been previously overlooked. Seven wells were proposed for seven villages in areas where Africare implemented the GFSI project. In total, 11,150 were to be served, with the water supporting both health and nutrition as well as local income generation by allowing small-scale activities such as raising rabbits and planting vegetable gardens to take place.

Half of the wells in the area were installed by Africare as many as twenty years ago, with all still operational. Because of the GFSI initiative, vehicles and personnel were already in place, making construction still more efficient.

Over the course of seven months, Africare was able to build six wells which served over 4,800 villagers. Work on the seventh well, which was to serve the largest village, had to be abandoned after available equipment was unable to reach water. It was covered awaiting future completion. Still, this success rate of 85.7 percent stands well above the average Malian well success rate of 60%.

The field report from the project expresses the transformative power of the new wells:


Mariama Walett is one of the most dynamic women in the village of Saobomo, and had long been looking for a way to get a new well in the village.  The single well they had before did not have sufficient water for the 950 inhabitants of the village, and would even go dry for part of the year. As a women's leader, her efforts to get a new well surpassed even those of the village chief. When AWF made it possible to dig this new well in her village, she volunteered to head the village water and sanitation committee. Thanks to her efforts, the entire village came together to work on the well with the masons until it was finished. After the water had been tested and declared fit for human consumption, she was given the honour, before the village chief, to draw the first bucket of water from the well.  She drank from it, and declared to the crowd:

"This is the happiest day in my life. We have waited so long to get this well and now it's a reality.  Thanks to those who made it possible for us. Thanks to Africare and its partners for this gift of life to our village. Thanks for giving us life, because water is life."

A Birthday Wish

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A message from AWF board member Devlin:

For the past six years, I've been so proud to serve as a board member for the African Well Fund. This is a momentous year for AWF, not only is the organization celebrating its 10th anniversary, AWF recently surpassed the $1 million mark for total funds raised, money that has been used to fund more than 300 projects in 14 countries that are benefiting over 335,000 people.

Even though AWF is a completely volunteer-run, grassroots organization, it still has expenses. The money needed to pay for things like the website, printing, shipping and taxes comes from a designated Admin Fund. No money donated for well projects is used for these expenses.

For my birthday this year, I've made a wish asking my family and friends to make donations to the AWF Admin Fund so the organization can afford to make the investments necessary to continue its mission of funding clean water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring that every person on the continent can enjoy their basic human right of having access to clean, safe water.

If you would like more information on the types of expenditures paid for out of the Admin Fund, please check out AWF's 2010 Annual Report.

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Zimbabwe, 2008

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In 2006 and 2007, the African Well Fund sponsored its first project in Gokwe, Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. Two wards of the district's 30 were served, providing over 8000 villagers with access to clean water, as well as two schools with sanitation facilities.

New pit latrines were constructed for Simbe Primary School.

However, water access in Gokwe South as a whole remained desperately insufficient.

Over a decade of recurrent drought stretched already overtaxed water points, leading to outright failure of many boreholes and consistent breakdowns of others. In addition, the country's economic crisis was coming to a head as hyper-inflation took hold, making it nearly impossible for the government at any level to establish new water points or maintain existing ones.

The AWF's second project in Gokwe South sought to provide water access to over 11,000 residents of another ward in the district as well as to improve sanitation facilities for 300 pupils. While water availability had not historically been at issue in the targeted ward, its water sources were unprotected, leaving the communities vulnerable to water borne diseases such as cholera, which was responsible for 79 deaths in the district.

Karigwe Shallow Well Before Upgrading

Gokwe2-3.jpgCompleted Karigwe Shallow Well

As before, AWF partner Africare sought to work with the community to complete the project, with ownership of the water points belonging to those served by them. Unfortunately, a worsening economic and political climate brought new challenges which had to be addressed before work could be completed.

With inflation at over a million percent, many members of the community were unable to work on new construction, instead being forced to search for increasingly scarce food. This same scarcity also affected the search for well materials, with most having to be imported from South Africa. In addition, work by NGOs was halted until national elections were completed in August 2008.

Gokwe2-4.jpg Amos Well in Progress

Despite these set-backs, the project was able to move ahead as the political situation cleared. Simbe Primary School was chosen as the beneficiary of improved latrines. In return, 20 students of the school were given scholarships for their primary education. Eight new wells were constructed or upgraded in targeted villages, providing more than 1,140 people with protected, safe sources for water.

Completed Amos Well

Thumbnail image for Gokwe2-6.jpgThese twenty school children will now have their school fees paid.

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Zimbabwe, 2006

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Boasting one of the most beautiful climates in the world, as well as stunning scenery and local landmarks, Zimbabwe is rich in natural resources though still caught in the grasp of great poverty. Though the period directly following independence was marked by gains in access to health care, immunizations and water, those strides have been largely undone by the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a faltering economy and poor governance.

Indeed, Zimbabwe has seen the life expectancy for men and women go down from 60 years in 1990 to approximately 43 today. The HIV infection rate was 20 percent in 2005, and outbreaks of plague and cholera have had a devastating impact on the local population.

Zimbabwe is made up of eight provinces and two cities that have provincial status. After independence, a large deal of progress was made in developing infrastructure to supply rural Zimbabweans with water and sanitation. However, as the national economy has faltered, local governments are increasingly unable to commit the funds necessary to maintain that infrastructure and a great deal of it has fallen into disrepair. It's estimated that 51 percent of water points are either non-functional or in a state of constant breakdown. With a semi-arid climate and several years of poor rainfall, the Gokwe South District was the second worst affected district in the Midlands province, with 13 percent of boreholes having become permanently non-functional.

Zimbabwe GOKWE  48-2427 HALF ANNUAL REPORT DEC 2006 (4)_html_2428f362.jpgAn unprotected well which needed to be upgraded.

This lack of access to clean water and sufficient sanitation profoundly affects citizens of Gokwe South, contributing to high mortality rates of children under five. Fifty-one percent of the population doesn't have access to sanitary waste disposal. Traditionally excreta are disposed of in the bush, where they're then at risk of running off into unprotected water supplies. This contamination leads to transmission of many water-borne diseases such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, malaria, amoebic dysentery, bilharzia, and cholera. Children under five are most at risk, as their still-developing immune systems are vulnerable to infection.

In 2006, AWF moved to fund a comprehensive project that would provide water and sanitation for 2,000 members of the Gokwe South District, 25 percent of whom were HIV/AIDS-affected households.

To adequately supply each household with water, water point availability had to be increased by 48 percent. During meetings with the community, participants revealed that some boreholes had been down for periods as long as five years. Water points were being used by five times more people than they were designed to accommodate.

Zimbabwe GOKWE  48-2427 HALF ANNUAL REPORT DEC 2006 (4)_html_2251b06f.png A meeting with members of the community.

AWF partner Africare oversaw the rehabilitation of 10 boreholes, 10 shallow wells and one deep well to meet this need. In addition, to prevent the breakdowns that had previously plagued the area, water committees were formed with the task of maintaining newly established or repaired water points. In many cases, water points had been fitted so long ago that adequate spare parts were difficult to locate. Where this occurred old-style pumps were replaced with pumps that could be serviced with parts obtained locally.

Zimbabwe GOKWE  48-2427 HALF ANNUAL REPORT DEC 2006 (4)_html_6bc5a141.jpg
Some of the pits excavated by Gwenungu primary school.

In addition to providing greater access to water, it was also necessary to construct additional sanitation facilities. Two local schools in the district were identified as most in need, with Mtanke School having a ratio of 95 children to each squat latrine, far beyond the recommended 20 per toilet. Ten ventilated pit latrines were constructed using local bricks and sand. In addition, hygiene education was provided to students. In return for the assistance, these schools each exempted 12 orphans from paying school fees for two years.

Zimbabwe GOKWE  48-2427 HALF ANNUAL REPORT DEC 2006 (4)_html_m54dc6471.jpg Pit latrines excavated by Mtanke School.

Following completion of the project, 8,278 individuals were served, far exceeding the original goal. Clean water helped in the establishment of community vegetable gardens, reduced the distance women and children had to walk for water, and ensured that villagers now have a clean, reliable source of water.

Zimbabwe GOKWE  48-2427 HALF ANNUAL REPORT DEC 2006 (4)_html_4a29616d.jpg

See and Hear: Rwanda

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The bearer of a rich cultural legacy that reaches back centuries, Rwanda marries vivid folk traditions with up and coming contemporary artists. A few of our favorites are below. Who are yours?


Urukerereza in London

Traditional music and dance are still alive and well in Rwanda, with dance groups found across the entire country. Perhaps the most famous is the Urukerereza National Ballet, founded by President Juvenal Habyarimana over 30 years ago. Much lauded, the troupe brings together artists from all over Rwanda to promote and preserve Rwandan culture through song and dance. Watch their performance in the 2006 Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore in the video below.

King James

A relative newcomer to the Rwandan music scene, King James nonetheless managed to take three major trophies in the 2011 Salax Awards (Rwanda's annual music awards), winning Artist of the Year, Best Male Artist and Best R&B Artist. Like many popular musicians in Rwanda, King James balances his music career with his everyday life, where he's a student at Mount Kenya University.


Perhaps one of the best-known Rwandan musicians internationally, Corneille was born in Germany to Rwandan parents but spent most of his childhood in Rwanda until his parents were killed in the 1994 genocide. He fled to Germany and was taken in by family friends, living there until 1997, when he moved to Canada and embarked on the musical career that would eventually see his albums charting in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Corneille records in both French and English. The track below finds him trying to reconcile the confusion of his identity with the world we all live in.

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Rwanda, 2007

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To celebrate a million dollars raised, we're taking the opportunity to look back at the projects which your donations have made possible. Second in our series: Rwanda!

Known as "The Land of a Thousand Hills," Rwanda is a mountainous, temperate country in central Africa that boasts an enormous diversity of plant and animal life, including the critically endangered mountain gorillas. The population is young and predominately rural, with over 90 percent working in agriculture, producing the country's major cash crops tea and coffee. Continuously populated for at least 5,000 years, Rwanda is home to three major groups--the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, believed to have descended from Rwanda's earliest inhabitants.

Ethnic instability between these groups, particularly the Hutu and Tutsi, erupted in 1994. Within three months, 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed by organized government and rebel groups following the assassination of Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana. Two million others fled as refugees, though most have now returned. The conflict had devastating effects on the economic and social structure of Rwanda, and reconciliation is ongoing.

Rwanda possesses an innately fertile ecosystem with abundant rainfall; however, its population density (among the highest in Africa) and reliance on agriculture have taxed its natural water resources. Deforestation and erosion have reduced spring productivity, which is the main source of rural water supply. In addition, the civil war and genocide left up to half of rural water schemes inoperable in 2004, necessitating great infrastructure restoration.

Lack of water greatly affects the entire population, but women and children are especially hard-hit. In some regions, more than one in five households are more than an hour away from water, and even where water is available, waits of more than four hours at water sources are common.

The early 21st century saw increasing decentralization of the Rwandan government, giving local districts greater authority to develop and manage their own water infrastructure. Following success in neighboring Uganda, the local government in the Northern Byumba Province contracted out their service to the local private sector, leading to a private-public partnership that has since become the model supported by the national government for infrastructure investment in Rwanda.

Water access has since improved from approximately 41 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2005, and government figures show access continuing to rise to 71 percent in 2007. Despite the great gains in water access, sanitation access remains as low as 8 percent in rural areas. The Rwandan government has set a goal of universal access to water and sanitation by 2020, led by these public-private partnerships.

African Well Fund funded a project implemented by Africare that created a water point for the Kigeme Primary School in Nyamagabe District, with a goal of providing water for the 800 students at the school and 3,000 members of the local community. In addition, the project sought to improve hygiene through increased sanitation access.

To construct the well, water was tapped from a nearby refugee camp reservoir and directed to a newly constructed reservoir at Kigeme Primary School. Funds from AWF provided for the construction of the reservoir, and for the procurement of the booster pump, water pipes and fountains.

With a July 16, 2007 start date, the project was declared complete on Nov. 26, 2007.


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This page is an archive of entries from August 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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