On the way down.
This girl is from a community that has to walk 2.5 kilometres to their nearest source of water.
Peul herder infront of non-functioning well in the arid north of the Gorgol watershed.
Well digging: at up to 55 metres deep, a donkey (in background) is needed to extract the rubble. Each well is lined with cement using the moulds in foreground.
Preparing to go down.
Please see Latest News for updates and details of Well digging activities.
A great many of the small villages in the arid north of the Mid-Gorgol region of southern Mauritania have extremely poor access to water. Often that water is from temporary wells dug in distant riverbeds, where it is both difficult to extract and dirty. Sometimes, the villagers have to travel 16-kilometre round trips to their nearest permanent water source.
Life is hard enough for these impoverished Peul and Harratin livestock-herder communities. They are amongst some of the most disadvantaged and unrepresented of communities in the country. Traditionally, they are used to a semi-pastoral life of migrating seasonally from permanent settlements to find fodder and water for their animals. This lifestyle is becoming increasingly difficult to follow, however, due to climatic, economic and political reasons.
Water is a fundamental prerequisite let alone an UN-proclaimed human right for all people. Without decent access to water, and as sources are pushed ever further off by drought, communities like these must spend large amounts of time and energy extracting and ferrying it. Women have little time for other economic activities and damage their joints and strain their hearts carrying large containers from childhood. The men likewise must devote time to the business of extracting water from the holes dug in riverbeds instead of concentrating on other activities. Livestock herds are naturally restricted in size by availability of water and, most importantly, the poor quality of water taken from open holes or stagnant pools causes a great many health problems. Without decent water sources, the very existence of communities like these are in question.
Wells improve livelihoods immeasurably. Women have more time for household or income generating activities; children are freed up to go to school; men can devote more time to livestock husbandry; there is less sickness, small vegetable plots can be established: even better houses can be built as the improved access to water allows for superior building materials to be used.
All the wells we dig are wide access and long lasting. They are cement-lined and have a lifespan of 20 years or more. Sometimes being as much as 50 meters deep and penetrating hard rock, they are neither easy nor cheap to construct. To the communities for whom they are dug, however, they make a vast difference. As in all the work we do, community participation is essential. Direct involvement at both the concept and digging stages are therefore integral to this activity, as is participation in organisational and health training sessions.