Our own community borehole supports 50-60 households - about 300 people. That’s about the right number of people for one water source. We live on one side of the road to South Sudan. Our community organising group, Wakonye Kenwa, quickly identified that on the other side of Juba Road there is an extreme water crisis. In 2009, the health inspector of the area tested the water and declared it contaminated. There are so many long drop toilets nearby its no surprise the ground water flow brings lots of nasties to the spring. But what we really needed was evidence of just how many people rely on this water.
So, 15 members of our group took shifts to sit by the protected spring called ‘Lawula’ for several days and record data about every single person who came to get water.
Our results? While my borehole supports around 300 people, this protected spring supports 1596 people - a total of 289 households. We discovered people don’t mind so much how far they have to carry the water - they primarily care about how long they have to wait in line. In rainy season, its not so bad: 15 minutes to 1 hour. However in the dry season when the water flow reduces to a trickle, people reported waiting up to 7 hours to get water. Lawula is not only a huge health problem - it’s a time waster, a drain on the community’s productiveness.
Heres a few memories from those research days:
- A couple of ladies make their full time work to collect a jerrycan, carry it up the hill to the market to sell. That’s slow, heavy, hot work. They sell each jerrycan for 200 shillings (10 New Zealand cents).
- Isaac, one of our volunteers brought his guitar and played the same four chords he knew in our down time. As the sun sank, I was mysteriously transported to youth group camp in New Zealand.
- We had a print out of satellite photo of the area from google maps and stuck it on an old plastic tray, so everyone could ‘dot’ their home on the map. There were two reactions. Older water collectors were confused or disinterested. Younger folk reacted with extreme excitement to a) see their home from a photo taken in space and b) know that anyone in the world could see their home too. I think it made them feel connected.
For more about Nick & Tessa Laing and the work they are involved with in Uganda click here.
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