Saturday, July 4, 2015

Abela At the Water-Point: Ethiopia Day #6

What do you do when there is drought and the only place to get water in your community is a small spring coming out the side of a steep mountain? If you are Abela, a woman living in Erob, you get your 20L jerry can and you go get it. 

In doing so each day you risk both your safety and also your daily water supply since spills frequently occur when trying to carry large amounts of water in such a precarious way. Today, Abela no longer has to take that risk, and neither to the women of the other thirty households in her community, thanks to the Water-Point created by a project of the church here with the support of Development and Peace.

Find the red circle that marks the water-point.
We are standing at the edge of a mountain road and Sebhatu Seyoum, the social development director for the diocese here, is pointing out a grey speck about 2km away on the mountain across the valley. “That is the water-point,” he says. The grey speck is actually a small reservoir that the spring now feeds into further down the mountain where it is safer. Beside the reservoir is a series of taps where Abela can safely get the water.

This kind of project is not simply about constructing a physical water-point though and simply leaving it to the community. When Sebhatu starts talking about the software they had to set-up for the project to succeed, our group is at first confused: is it a computer-operated system?

The "Key"
 ‘Software’ is actually a metaphor for the community organizing that has to be done to ensure the success of the project. It is in contrast to the ‘hardware’ of the actual construction. The Church provided technical training as well as training in how to govern its use through a committee made of people from the community. This committee is responsible for maintaining the system, guarding and managing access to it as well as collecting small fees from the community to pay for that maintenance. 

A few of us jump down from the road onto the terraced mountainside to make the trek over to get a closer look.  As we get closer, we are joined by a few people from the committee. A child from the home nearby, the son of a committee member, comes running up with an orange tap handle – it is the key to open the tap on the reservoir so the water can flow. We are given a demonstration.

At the water-point.

Black Pipes travel from further up the mountain down into the reservoir, capturing all its water. It is approx. 25 feet in diameter and about 7 feet deep. A solid pipe flows from the reservoir to another concrete block with 3 taps on either side. 

Abela at the water-point.

 “Since this project,” says committee member Haleka, “The woman have stopped losing water and also hurting themselves from falling. Collecting the water in the reservoir also means that the precious water does not get wasted.” We ask about water quality and are told that the local government conducts tests to ensure its safety.

It is at this point, we meet Abela. She is a quiet and beautiful woman who shows us how to carry the 20L jerry can full of water from the tap using only her back and a cloth rope. To the amusement of us all, especially the Ethiopians, Elizabeth from our group gives it a try to see for herself just how heavy it is. Her life will now be easier. She points out to us where her home is, less than 100 yards away.

Haleka insists on offering us hospitality and so we all retire to the simple home of his family for lunch. They offer us cactus fruit, injera, bread and egg. We watch the eggs prepared on the small charcoal stove. It is one of the best meals I have had while I am here. The next time there is drought, Haleka, Abela and their community will be better prepared to survive it.

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