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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Daily Usage: Burkina Faso

Water in Africa

Africa, Burkina Faso

by Jonathan Coleman, Pensa, Burkina Faso

In the morning, I pour water into a wide basin and wash myself with about two liters of water and a washcloth with local soap. I boil water for coffee and tea, and pour the remains into my flowerpot (I've got romantic ideas about turning the desert green). I wash my dishes by adding more soap to my "bath" water and using a scrubber. Then I rinse everything off.

But where does all this water come from? Seydou Ouedrago, the son of my village chief, carries water for my 100-liter bareek every three days or so. He takes a 30-liter bidon (bee-DAHN), or tank, and after filling it, straps it to his bicycle. Then he takes it one kilometer to my house. He taught me how to do this, so now I can carry my own water that I draw from the bareek for my everyday needs. At the health clinic, we have water barrels that are supported on six-foot stands. They're filled early each morning by our 60-year-old guardian. We use the water to wash our hands (it's necessary to do this whenever possible; I usually wash about eight to nine times each day), scrub out instruments, and clean the maternity table and floors.

We all try to save and re-use as much water as possible, not only because it's heavy and hard to carry, but also because it isn't always available, especially during the driest, hottest part of the year. I use my morning bath water for a cool rinse in the evening after work (or to soak my feet: mmmmm...). Water from cooking spaghetti or beans can be saved and re-used as dishwater when soap is added. It's remarkable exactly how little water you can use when you put your mind to it!

Women carry water in large, earthen pots, called canneries, by balancing them on small fabric cushions on top of their heads. Sometimes they carry them miles from the pumps to their homes. Because of the way they're made and because of their coloring, canneries always keep water cool inside. It's nice to have a cold (or at least cool) drink once in a while!

by Jenelle Norin, Safane, Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, I use much less water than I do in the United States. I can usually make it through an entire day on only two buckets of water. In the United States, that would be impossible. Think of how much it takes just to flush a toilet. (We don't have that wasteful luxury here!)

I take a bucket bath twice a day. (You would, too, if you lived in 100-degree-Fahrenheit heat with no air conditioning.) I also use water to cook, clean dishes, and wash clothes.

One big difference between the United States and Burkina Faso is that, back home, I rarely thought about water. Here, I always have to wonder if the water is clean. During the dry season, I sometimes go the pump to draw water, but draw mud instead. All water has to be viewed as potentially contaminated, so unless I'm at home drinking my filtered, bleached water, I'm in danger of getting sick.

How I miss walking up to a faucet, twisting the handle, and having safe, clean water pouring out! How annoying it can be to have to fetch water from the well, filter it, bleach it, and wait to drink it! I have to be very careful not to run out of filtered water, because the whole process takes at least six hours.

by Anne Hong, Bassan, Burkina Faso

Every morning, I water my garden. After I'm done, I take a shower with about 10 liters of water. At some point during the day, I'll strap a 20-liter container onto the back of my bicycle and go to the water pump to fill up. I usually use a total of 40 liters a day.

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer has made me conscious of where, why, and how much water I use every day. Just taking one shower in the United States uses at least twice as much water as I need to water my garden, take a bath, drink, cook, and wash my dishes. Contrary to what many people may think, I find the 20 liters that I use to bathe, clean, drink, and cook very sufficient for my needs.

by Shana Miller, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

I use the water from my kitchen faucet to cook and wash dishes, and the water from the courtyard spigot to water plants and wash clothes. If I want warm water, I heat it on the stove.

I've become much more conscious of how much water I use and where to get water. For example, our water is frequently cut off after rainstorms, so during the rainy season I place a large tub outside to catch the water from the roof.

by Bruce Karhoff, Loumbri, Burkina Faso

As soon as I get up at 6 a.m., I put some water on the stove for coffee. While the water is heating, I take a bucket bath. Throughout the day, I drink four to seven liters of filtered, chlorinated water. Since I eat a lot of pasta, rice, and couscous, I need water for cooking. I also use water for my garden. I go through about 15 to 22 liters of water daily.

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