Increasing Access to Water in Mali
Many villages use wells they have dug by hand and place logs over the opening to stand on while drawing water. These wells can collapse dangerously, sometimes livestock or even people fall into them, and the wood must be replaced every year from extremely scarce tree resources. If they are not deep enough, wells may go dry late in the dry season. Also, when the rains begin, storm runoff washes debris into them, polluting the water, if the opening is not raised and protected.
Tandana has assisted with the stabilization, improvement, and deepening of several wells, such as in Kansongho, Sal-Dimi and Sal-Sombogou. Villagers often prefer open wells to closed boreholes with pumps, because when a pump breaks no one can get any water, whereas with the well they can always access the vital liquid. Often, they find even pulleys to be too limiting, as during peak times more than 20 people may be drawing from the same well. Women and men have different techniques for pulling the rope up from a well with a bucket full of water, but almost everyone participates in some way in the provision of water. Even young children carry buckets full of water on their heads without spilling a drop.
Once they have adequate sources for household water, many villagers seek additional water options for livestock and gardening. Sometimes, dikes can retain water from the rainy season for a number of months. In other cases, additional wells provide for these needs. A water tower with a solar pump is a dream come true for gardeners, allowing them to irrigate vegetables and fruit trees and produce food throughout the dry season.
Well Restoration in Kansongho, Mali
In 2008, Tandana was able to provide the funds needed to restore and deepen a well in Kansongho, Mali. This project is of utmost importance to the village's 800 inhabitants, since their other two wells both dry up towards the end of the dry season. The well had collapsed and was unusable; often women had to walk great distances in search of water or use dirty sources, and shepherds had to refrain from watering their livestock. The village contributed cash to this project in addition to the unskilled labor and local materials and is thrilled to have completed the project. Now, villagers have a nearby water source that they can count on year-round. The well also now has a clean, raised opening to keep pollutants out of the water and a basin for watering animals. In 2010, Tandana provided funds to repair and restore a second well in the village. An internal collapse had made it too dangerous to use, putting extra pressure on the other two wells. Now it is stabilized and strong. Kansongho men took turns assisting the skilled masons with the work. In 2012, villagers, with help from a local contractor hired by Tandana, also improved and stabilized the oldest traditional well in their village. Now all three wells are secure water sources.
Well Restoration in Sal-Dimi, Mali
The village of Sal-Dimi had two wells, both traditional, meaning they have been dug and maintained by hand. About every two years, the logs supporting the opening had to be replaced by new trees, which are becoming more and more scarce as the Dogon Plateau is deforested. During the rainy season, when the water is high, it erodes the mud and clay walls of the wells, leading to frequent collapses, which can be dangerous. Each year the villagers had to repair, restabilize, and rebuild the openings to both wells. They asked Tandana for help to permanently stabilize their wells, and we hired a local contractor to reinforce both wells with cement walls and create a raised opening for cleanliness. On the day that we announced that the first well would be restored, the village elders were covering the well with thorny branches because a collapse had made it too dangerous to approach and draw water. The villagers were thrilled with the news that it would be improved, and quickly mobilized the sand and gravel that would be needed for the reconstruction work. They also contributed the labor to assist the skilled masons, and several of the elders were so excited that they donated sheep to be roasted and feed all those who were working on the project. The second well has now also been stabilized and is safe to use.
Well Restoration in Sal-Sombogou, Mali
The village of Sal-Sombogou has one main well near to its homes. It was dug by hand, with mud walls that were subject to collapse, and residents had to stand on wood, which had to be replaced annually, while drawing water. The well, pictured above left, was dangerous, and not infrequently livestock were lost into it. The villagers sent a delegation to visit Tandana representatives while they were in nearby Sal-Dimi, asking for assistance in stabilizing and improving the well. Tandana hired a contractor who provided the skilled labor and non-local materials, while the villagers pitched in with labor, sand, gravel, and water or the construction project. Now, they have a secure and stable well, pictured above right, with a raised opening to keep debris and livestock from falling into the water. They also have a watering basin, where they can easily give water to their goats, sheep, and cattle.