This month while in Nigeria, I have had a chance to get a look at some of the water spring catchment projects (Springs For Life) that have been constructed around the Mambilla Plateau with funds raised by Friends of the Fulbe Society. Over the last few years, our Fulbe partners (officially recognized in Nigeria as the NGO Nyalande Hesre New Dawn Initiative, or NHNDI) have helped us determine where we should build such a project, as a doorway to opening hearts to the hear the news of the Living Water, Jesus Christ.
Some of the criterion include the current condition of the community’s drinking water supply, the proximity to a suitable spring, the community’s willingness to contribute sweat equity into the project, and, harder to assess- the likelihood that they will take care of it, (If you would like to see an bit of explanation about how most of these projects are done, follow this link to a brochure we created. Water is Life This list of communities is kept by both Bernie Lemke, our technical advisor, and NHNDI, and if and when we are able to raise funds, the next highest priority project is commissioned, which is constructed and supervised by our Nigerian ‘engineer; Robert Ngalam.
Although every systems has its challenges, these gravity-feed systems are quite reasonably priced, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows, can accomodate multiple tap locations within a community, are generally manageable to maintain, and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, on the Mambilla Plateau.
The first thing I was able to observe is how these waterlines suffer, especially during the rainy season. Pipes are not dug extremely deep, as the ground is rocky and the work is done by hand, and the months of rain often cut channels right down to the pipeline. Where these lines cross a small road (ie motorcycle and foot path) they are at risk of breakage. Or, since the lines often cross streams on their way to the community, the force of the water in times of high water flow sometimes ruptures the joints on one or both sides of the stream/river. The former was the case in Medina a couple of weeks ago, and all the men on the water committee were out of town that day. Fortunately, one of the young men who has been spending time with them was able to trek up the line and find when the pipe had been ruptured by a motorcycle. Some digging, a couple of PVC pieces and joints and PVC glue and the line was repaired within the day. It took a few hours for the dirt in the pipes to flush out of the line, but before evening, clean water was flowing again.
Such prompt repair is not always the case. This summer while here on the Plateau, Jeff went to visit a number of projects. Two of them were completely inoperable, and appear to have been that way for quite some time. At the first one, the line from the catchment area to tank was broken, the main (cement) cover for the reservoir was found thrown a few metres away, and the tank had no water at all in it, but a whole lot of sticks. And nothing had been done to do the fairly simple repairs (which members of each community are trained to do).
So while Jeff and the team was visiting there, both communities were (gently) berated for failing to do their part and admonished them to get the work done. We are happy to report that the first community contacted Aminu and told them we could come anytime we wanted- they had done the work.
So we stopped in this week and are happy to see things in fairly good working order again, although the concrete cover is as little worse for the wear. Someone’s cows were on their way to be watered, so we beat a hasty retreat after our observations were completed.
We went this week to visit the second community, to see if we could prod them to action, and they had not yet done anything to fix the problem (three months later). I suspect the rebuke from Wakhili was a little more pointed this time, and some of the men were clearly embarrassed. I heard from the women here how they had suffered thru the last dry season, since they have to go all the way to the river to get water- probably at least an hour return trip, and it is uphill with full loads. There is a small stream for a spring pooling near their ‘road’, which is used for washing etc, but it will dry up early in the dry season, and is also used by the cattle to drink, so is not healthy for drinking.
After this visit, the leaders have agreed to launch their committee into action to see the work done and have requested some help from Madina. We are hopeful that this problem will be taken care of before the dry season- which is not so far away. Please pray that the leaders of the community and those responsible for the maintenance take seriously their responsibility to ensure improved health and quality of life in their communites. It is frustrating for me to see, as the mostly male leaders in some of the traditional villages often disregard the quantity of work done by women and children to obtain water every day, never mind the obvious repercussions of not having clean water. I encouraged the women and older girls in school to get involved in the committee and learn how to do some of the simpler repairs as well, so they are not stuck if a problem occurs when the men are away. To that end, I have put that on my own list of things to learn when the opportunity presents, so I can model that this is something a woman can do.
I think I’ll save my report on tank maintenance for another blog I should add, that although there are a variety of problems with these gravity-feed systems, they are quite economically feasible, (usually cheaper than wells), can be directed to multiple small communities if the flow allows, allow for multiple tap locations along the route, are generally manageable to maintain, and are providing good quality spring water to thousands of peoples, of all faiths and walks of life, in the Mambilla Plateau.
PS…..Of course I need to make a plug for supporting this: If you are interested in contributing to one of the water projects waiting for funds, please contact Bernie Lemke at 780-987-2024 or by email- email@example.com (note that this is a new email address, and may be different from what is on the old brochures) Or you can donate thru their financial partners- FOR WE CARE – online at http://www.forwecare.org/Donations.aspx or by cheque, to For We Care Outreach Network Society, PO Box 44091, RPO Southcentre, Calgary, AB, T2J 7C5
(For We Care is a member of Canada Helps. If you are in the US you can donate by cheque or online, as above, but they cannot issue you a charitable receipt- sorry!!)
You can also donate to other related Fulbe ministries at Special Projects on the NAB website. https://nabconference.org/give/special-projects/ Scroll down to the Cameroon projects and look for Friends of the Fulbe. Charitable receipts are available for donors from both America and Canada here, but you cannot donate to the water projects here.