Jump to Content or Main Navigation

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Splish-Splash: Narratives from Kenya

Water in Africa

Related Publication: Water in Africa

Drew Denzi, Ololulunga, Kenya
People in the United States use much more water than we do in Kenya. We have no running water and no flush toilets where I live. In the morning we brush our teeth using only one cup of water. We wash our faces with about two cups of water, using the same water for both of us, and are off to school. At school also there is no running water. Hot tea is served at 11:00 a.m., and then we are home for lunch. We drink water or Kool-Aid with lunch and then return to school to teach. At night we cook with water to boil rice or noodles, and we use some water for bathing. We take the boiling water and add it to cold water in a bucket until it is nice and warm, then we "splash-bathe" using about three gallons of water each. We collect the bath water that goes down the drain in buckets outside the house and use it for watering our garden. We reuse as much as possible. Most people here use water the same way I do. Our neighbors may go to the river to bathe or wash clothes. Everyone relies on rainwater for watering crops; only the rich can afford to collect and store rainwater just for personal use.
Patrick Campbell, Mombasa, Kenya
The first thing I do when I wake-up is to check to see whether or not I have running water. If I do, I fill my 1 gallon kettle and put it on my kerosene stove to boil drinking water for the day. If there is water at my house I can also take a shower. On days without running water I use water from my 26 gallon barrel to "splash bathe". I pour about 2 gallons of water into a basin, wet myself down, soap myself up, and rinse myself off. It is important not to get soap in the water or you’re stuck with soap in your eyes. Also, trying to get water out of the barrel without getting soap into it and polluting your only source of water (until the water comes back on) is very difficult, especially if you have soap in your eyes. I use water here in Kenya for many of the same things I did in the United States (drinking, bathing, washing clothes, dishwashing, and cleaning my house). The difference is I use much less here in Kenya. For example, I can hand-wash a load of clothes with about 3 gallons of water, quite a bit less than my washing machine at home would use. There are days though, when I have sore knuckles from hand-scrubbing clothes, that I still miss the washing machine.
Barbara Hinsman, Vigeze Village, Vihiga, Kenya
The rising sun wakes me at 6:30 am, and I wake drowsy-eyed into the kitchen. I find a large pot full of water on top of my gas stove which I boiled last night. I pour the water in the pot through a filter and put about ½ gallon on the stove to heat for my bath. I also boil water in my kettle for my morning cup of coffee. Noticing that both of my 12 gallon water barrels are low, I check the backyard tap to see if by chance any water is trickling into my 5 gallon "jerry can" I can usually leave under the spigot. No luck, today is Friday; tap water has not come in a week. Even worse, rains have been scarce. I guess all my dirty clothes will have to wait another day since I don’t have enough water to wash them. The water I do have, I must save for drinking and taking a bath. But the distance clouds on the east give me hope that the rain might come this afternoon. If not, I’ll have to pay a mama to go to the river for me tomorrow. I remember the day I tried to fetch water for myself from the river and I laugh because I had such a hard time carrying my "jerry can" home. Many mamas were nearby and laughed with one of the mamas finally carrying it for me on her head. She lifted it up to her head as if the container were empty and balanced it so effortlessly. Since that day I have asked these mamas for help. After bathing and eating breakfast, I go to work- on my way home I meet Brenda, the seven-year-old of my friend Zibborah. Brenda is carrying a bucket of water from a local spring, and she looks very tired. She told me this was her sixth trip to the spring today, because Fridays are clothes-washing days. Each trip she has to balance a bucket of water on her head on a very steep bath between the spring and her house. I reach my front door just as the heavy rain begins. Once inside, I grab all my basins, pots, jerry cans, and other containers. I take them outside and place them in strategic places under the roof where the rainwater falls the most. I need to collect as much water as possible. Finally, I sit by the window rest and watch the storm cool off the hot land.
Molly Campbell, Amisano, Ghana
A great thing about living here in Amisano is we have many sources of water. During the dry season when there is very little rain, it is sometimes hard to come by. Even though I have piped water, I always boil and filter it before using it. The water pipes in Ghana are always breaking and the water isn’t always clean. I also use the piped water for washing clothes and for taking my baths. In my house I have a flush toilet and a sink for washing my dishes. One thing that is much different here in Ghana and the United States is doing my laundry by hand. I don’t use nearly as much water as I did in the US. I’ve come to realize how precious water really is.
Nell Todd, Mafi-Dove, Ghana
Instead of taking a nice long shower, I take a bucket bath. Instead of turning on the faucet, I turn my water filter tap for drinking water. Instead of putting my dirty clothes in the washer, I put them in a plastic bucket and scrub them by hand (Oh, my knuckles)! Instead of putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, I put them in another bucket to wash by hand. I also have to pump water by hand, carry it to a large blue container, and fetch it when I need it. Instead of having lots of things to drink, I always drink water. Water doesn’t go down the drain here; when wastewater fills up in a bucket, I use it to water my bushes.
Amy Wiedemann, Gbefi, Volta Region, Ghana
My use of water here in Ghana is much different from the way I used and thought about in the United States. I have no running water so every drop counts. All the water I use first has to be fetched, carried home and stored. I use water for the same things here as I did at home, but I use a lot less. Instead of a long hot shower, I use less than one full bucket for bathing. Instead of rinsing food under a faucet, I rinse it in a small basin, in which I also wash my hands. I then add soap and wash my dishes. I store all my clean water in a large barrel, but I store my drinking water in a separate container because all my drinking water needs to be boiled first. Other villagers around me use water in much the same way, but they also use it for their crops. In times when there is very little rain, they haul water from the river to their fields to prevent crops from dying.

About the Author

Water in Africa

The Water in Africa project was realized over a two-year period by a team of Peace Corps Volunteers, Coverdell World Wise Schools classroom teachers, and World Wise Schools staff members. The authors of these narratives are just a few of the Peace Corps Volunteers that participated.