Water resources are in tremendous demand in the arid Sahel, including Mali's Dogon Country. Decreasing rainfall and desertification make water rarer and more valued every decade. Most community members draw water by hand from deep wells for drinking and household use. The depth of the water can vary from 1 to 25 meters, depending on the location, the time of year, and the amount of rainfall received that year. During the brief rainy season, from June to August, the water table rises, and then it falls during the rest of the year. In highland Ecuador, water is much more available, and priorities focus on delivering it to homes, purifying it, and protecting watersheds by planting trees. Tandana assists in improving water access and quality with materials, volunteer labor, and training.
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 digging of a new well in Ologuiné and the stabilization, improvement, and deepening of several wells in Kansongho, Sal-Dimi and Sal-Sombogou. Community members 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 community members 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.
New Well in Ologuiné, Mali
The residents of Ologuiné did not have a well within 1 km of their homes, which meant that women had to walk long distances, up and down a rocky slope, to get water. In the rainy season, they would get water from a river that was also used for laundry and for watering livestock. For many years, they sought assistance to dig a well near their village, so they could have access to clean drinking water without having to walk long distances. Tandana responded to their request, hiring a contractor to bring drilling equipment and work with the residents to dig a new well. Now clean water is available year-round very close to the homes. The new well has already facilitated several new construction projects, including classrooms and latrines for the school, and it offers a convenient location to water livestock using the attached watering basin. It also saves women a great deal of time and effort which can now be put into other activities, such as market gardening and transforming cotton into cloth.
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 residents, 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, residents 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, residents, 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 residents had to repair, stabilize, 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, several elders were covering the well with thorny branches because a collapse had made it too dangerous to approach and draw water. Residents 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 village 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 residents 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.
In highland Ecuador, water is much more available, and priorities focus on delivering it to homes, purifying it, and protecting watersheds by planting trees. Potable water systems may serve one or several communities, and often need to be expanded as population grows. Some systems involve purification, while others do not, and improvements to purification methods are also a goal of some communities. Tandana has assisted in expanding the capacity, providing purification equipment, building a filtration tank, and general maintenance of several water systems, including the Panecillo Regional system, the La Banda system, and the Achupallas-Muenala-Huayrapungo system.
Panecillo Regional Potable Water System
Since 2005, we have helped to make improvements to the Panecillo regional potable water system serving five communities. Collaborating with The Traveling School and Deer Hill Expeditions, we helped to replace inadequate water pipes with larger pipes so that all homes in the communities of Agualongo and San Juan Loma could receive running water. Visiting student groups worked with local community members to install the new pipes. We also coordinated the purchase of a chlorine machine for the Panecillo regional potable water system with donations collected by a Traveling School alumna. This machine separates salt, creating a highly chlorinated solution that is used to treat the water for the five communities regularly. In 2012, with the help of an Alternative Spring Break group from Northeastern University, we built a retaining wall to protect a spring that is one of two water sources for this system.
La Banda Potable Water System
In 2010, working with an Alternative Spring Break group from Northeastern University and the community of La Banda, we built a water filtration tank that settles sediment out of the water before it is delivered to homes in La Banda. In 2018, Tandana volunteers again worked alongside residents fo La Banda to build a wall to collect water at the community's water catchment site and also to lay pipes to that all homes in the community could have access to running water.
Muenala, Ecuador; Water Storage Tank
In 2018, as part of an Alternative Spring Break Program, 11 students and 1 university representative from Northeastern University in Boston spent a week in the indigenous community of Motilón Chupa. They worked together with community members to build a concrete water tank for the community's irrigation system. Above is a picture of community members and students working on digging the hole for the water tank. This storage tank is very important in that it allows the community members to store water in a safe place. It allows them to continue to have access to water even during dry spells when they normally would not. They have plans to continue the system so they can irrigate crops in places where they normally would not have good access to water.
La Banda, Ecuador
From June 10th to the 17, 2018 five students and five chaperones from the Greater Dayton, Ohio area participated in a cultural exchange program in Ecuador. They worked side-by-side with community members from La Banda to improve the community’s water supply system by building a retaining wall for the tank that regulates the water supply from a natural mountain stream and by laying a new water pipe. Each day, 15 or more community members worked with the group. Above is a picture of the group working in La Banda.
Water Tower, Solar Pump, and Basins in Kansongho, Mali
Residents of Kansongho, Mali were thrilled when the government dug a bore hole for them near their orchard. Immediately, they expanded the orchard to create vegetable plots as well. To be able to irrigate their garden without always drawing water by hand and carrying it in buckets to their plots, they asked for help installing a solar pump, a water tower, and a set of watering basins inside the garden. Tandana helped to make this dream possible, and now the gardeners simply carry water a short distance from the basins to their plots.
Gasoline Pump and Basins in Kori-Maoundé, Mali
The students and teachers in Kori-Maoundé, Mali had been working hard in their school garden, but found it was difficult to irrigate the vegetables and fruit trees from water sources outside the garden. First, they asked for help to build basins inside the garden, which would be gravity fed from the manual pump outside the garden. Then, they found that the pump did not provide sufficient water and frequently broke down, so they sought a gasoline-powered pump with hoses. With this pump they can bring water right where they need it.