September 2012 Archives

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Niger, 2009

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Not far from the African Well Fund's first Nigerien project in Tsamia Jigo, Kabefo village fought a similar battle to secure enough increasingly scarce water to survive. Like in much of the rest of Niger, rainfall in Kabefo is both inconsistent and inadequate, unable to provide a secure supply of water for the community. More than 77% of the population of Kabefo lived with both a severe food crisis and water shortage.


During the wet season, the water shortage was somewhat ameliorated by local ponds, which provided drinking water for livestock. Villagers shared this water as well, but at the risk of waterborne disease. When the ponds would dry up, often within a few weeks, the 1307 people in Kabefo had to rely on a single well. The government of Niger considers a well for every 500 to be an acceptable standard; Kabefo's well simply could not keep up with the demands of a larger village and dried up every day due to overuse.


As is often the case, the water shortage was hardest on women. Charged with securing water for their animals and their families, women would stay at the well until dawn in an attempt to carry home only a few liters of water.

Unlike some parts of Niger where the water table is fairly high at only ten meters, Kabefo's water table is much lower, between 40 and 50 meters, which made the construction of another well for the community a costly, unattainable proposition.

African Well Fund partners Africare identified Kabefo as critically in need of a new water source, and in 2009 AWF moved to fund the construction of a new 50-meter well.

Construction began in March, though progress was slow due to the challenges of digging in the area. Workers contended with landslides and and hard clay until the water table was reached in September.


In the meantime, Africare oversaw the formation of a local Water Committee. The eleven member panel, at least five of whom were women, were to manage the well and ensure it remained operational. In addition, a three-member control committee made sure procedures were properly implemented.

Contributions from committee members combined with those of the rest of the community made it possible for proper maintenance work to be done locally, while still having a source of funds to draw upon if more extensive repairs should ever become necessary.


Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Niger, 2008

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Niger Final Final AWF Progress report Feb 27 08-2.jpg
By far the largest nation in West Africa, Niger was 5,000 years ago covered in fertile grasslands, home to pastoralists who passed on a culture stretching back to at least 10,000 BCE. Their rock paintings show the complex lifestyle of so many years previous, with depictions of giraffes and domesticated horses meeting images of chariots and war.

Since then, however, Niger has slowly been subsumed by the Sahara desert, with just some eleven percent of the land still arable. This land supports the 80 percent of the nation's population who rely on subsistence agriculture for their living. Rainfall is irregular, causing frequent droughts and inadequate water infrastructure means sources of safe, potable water are in short supply.

In the village of Tsamia Jigo, 2000 inhabitants and their livestock have for years negotiated survival without an adequate water point. Located in the department of Filingué in the Tillabéri Region of Niger, there have been attempts over the years at providing villagers with a source of clean water. In 1985 a well was proposed and then abandoned when drilling did not reach the water table. In 1999, the government was able to drill a borehole which ceased working within a few years. Though the community raised 800,000 FCFA (approximately $1662.20 - an enormous sum for a country where per capita income is less than $400 a year), this amount was not sufficient to repair their water sources. They were left to rely on temporary swaps during the rainy season, though these swamps provided only dirty water, unfit for human consumption. When the swamps dried up women would walk up to 15 kilometers a day for water.

Niger Final Final AWF Progress report Feb 27 08.jpg
The African Well Fund moved to fund the completion of Tsamia Jigo's first well, drilling until water was reached, and installing pulleys to make pulling water to the surface easier.

Niger Final Final AWF Progress report Feb 27 08-4.jpg
Partner Africare undertook the construction of the well. They also provided training for members of the community's Well Management Committee, giving instruction in well maintenance and repair, proper hygiene, and how to best reduce the spread of waterborne illnesses. The community itself pledged 200,000 FSFA (or roughly $458) to be used by the management committee to operate and maintain the new well infrastructure.

Niger Tsamia 31-2412 Final Report May 2008-2.jpg
The project transformed life in the village. From our final field report:

On Tuesday May 6, 2008, labourers were relaxing under the biggest tree of the village after a hot day of work when they heard a big noise like that of a fired weapon. The villagers ran to the well and upon seeing the water exclaimed, "We have water!" as they jumped and shouted with happiness. Food was cooked by the village women for the labourers and neighbouring villagers who came to share in their happiness, followed by the largest feast that the village has ever prepared. Words of thanks were expressed to Africare and the African Well Fund by all the villagers. "Our water problem is ended forever. All our thanks to the African Well Fund and Africare," said 117-year-old village head who had a drink of water and showered himself with a sample of water coming directly from the well.

Looking Back: Kyasimire Evaleen

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Sixteen-year-old Kyasimire Evaleen, a student at Ruhama Secondary School, was excited to be among the female students benefiting from an improved latrine and water tank near the school's dormitories.


In her own words:

"After classes we would climb the Ruhaama hill to collect water for bathing and kitchen use. We traveled three kilometers from school and would miss extracurricular activities like games and other sporting activities."


"Due to overcrowding and fighting at the water points, we would ask boys to fetch the water then carry to the school. Fetching water at night exposed us to motor cyclist (boda-boda) in the village who would entice girls to ride on their bikes and sexually abuse them for small gifts. This put us at risk of getting infected with STIs and HIV. Some of our friends went into early marriages with these motorcyclists.

"We also had problems using the latrine at night because it is located far from the dormitory."


"I am so excited to see the new developments in our school. The time I used to spend looking for water will be used for my studies. I hope to improve my grades."


Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Uganda, 2010

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The first week in our 'Looking Back' series featured Uganda, a country where the African Well Fund has funded four projects. With a population of 25 million, as few as 30 percent of whom have access to safe water, there's much room for growth.

In 2010, AWF partnered with Africare on a project in the Ntungamo District of Uganda. The endeavor complemented work already being done in the area, namely Africare's COPE (Community-based Orphan care, Protection, and Empowerment) program, which aimed to reduce the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans and other vulnerable children. COPE worked in 73 schools in Uganda.

The COPE program was very successful, increasing school attendance while decreasing school drop-out rates. However, that very success strained sanitation infrastructure in rural schools. With more students attending, pupil to latrine ratios became untenable, reaching as high as 340:1 with waiting times as long as six hours per student.

An improvised latrine at Mato School

The cost of not using proper facilities was even greater. Eighty percent of diseases affecting rural communities are water related. Outbreaks of hepatitis E, diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera could all be traced back to a lack of protected water and proper sanitation facilities. The odds for school children were still worse- as many as 90 percent were endangered by worms.

There were other issues as well - girls were subject to harassment walking to and from water sources, and all children missed valuable time to learn and play while waiting in line for latrines.

In order to maintain the gains in attendance from the COPE program, as well as promote good hygiene, AWF funded new facilities in five area schools.

handwashing.pngA student using new hand-washing facilities

The exact make-up of the new facilities depended on need. Three schools received new ventilated pit latrines that were both user friendly and afforded privacy for students at school. Two schools received rainwater harvesting tanks. Another received a protected pump well. In addition, three schools had pipes laid which extended water to the girls' dormitories, providing a safe and private source of water.

AWFlatrine.png After: A new AWF funded latrine

All schools received additional training, both for students and adults. Community members were recruited to form Water User Committees for each school to ensure that the new facilities were maintained. Students participated in school hygiene competitions and performed educational plays on the importance of good hygiene.


Overall, 2,799 students and 15,000 surrounding community members were served by the project.

Stay tuned for a personal story from one of the students of an affected school!

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Mali, 2010

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Last week we looked at the African Well Fund's first project in Mali. In 2010 we had the opportunity to continue this work, helping to fund further wells in the areas served by Africare's Goundam Food Security Initiative.

Two of these wells - those at Tinbaradjen and Gombatou- were built in villages which, while located on the Niger River, had very little access to safe water as government and NGOs focused their attention on drier, neighboring areas. This lack of access to clean water led affected Malians to drink directly from the river, leading to higher incidence of waterborne illness and disease.

The other two villages served - Intallassa and Zouera - were located in arid zones in the north of the project area. Annual rainfall here averages less than .8 inches a year, making access to any sort of water difficult. The existing shallow wells were not sufficiently deep to meet the water table year round and tended to go dry frequently.

1c.  Mali Image Puits.jpg
As before, the project sought to both make clean water available and train villagers to manage the wells going forward. Overall, 6,185 Malians directly benefited from the wells, over twice as many as hoped at the project's inception. In addition, over 800 nomadic people benefited indirectly from the construction.

Sindibla Ag Mohamed Assaleck, the president of the well committee, said:

"We used to have lots of problems due to lack of clean water. In my village, we used to ask every household to pay 5,000 FCFA ($10) per week to install a water system in the village but it didn't work because people couldn't afford that amount, so we didn't have any choice than drinking untreated water from the river, 3 km away from the village. During dry seasons, we would sink holes in the river bed to get water to drink. Sometimes, we even came to the idea of abandoning our village and looking for another place to settle in.

"But with this precious jewel that you constructed that idea is behind us. Hope is restored in the village and you can see how women and men are happy today. We lack words to express our satisfaction in collaborating with Africare. Our thanks especially go to AWF who has made this dream come true."

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

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