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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Daily Usage: Lesotho

Water in Africa

Africa, Lesotho


by Peter Yurich, Ha Khayensti, Lesotho

There isn't much water available because we had a very dry winter and no rain this spring. I usually try to use only one to one and a half liters of water a day. This includes bathing, cooking, and cleaning dishes. Once a week I wash clothes, but try to use as little water as possible.

My day starts by boiling two liters of water. I use less than one liter to bathe; I drink two cups of coffee; and then I save the rest for cooking and cleaning dishes. If the tap is working, I may indulge myself by using a little more for bathing.

My host family uses a little more than I do because there are more people in the family. They use a wheelbarrow to carry two 10-liter buckets of water. Right now they use more water because they are making dung smear for the floor and walls of a new building. The building was constructed from rock and held together with a mud mixture that dried and became hard.

by MaryAnn Camp, Ha Rantubu, Lesotho

I fill my coffee pot the night before with 2 1/2 cups of water to boil upon awakening. I also begin to heat water for my morning dishes and daily clothes-washing (socks, underwear). I use one cup of water for coffee and use a small amount of water to wash the morning dishes—the remaining 1 1/2 cups of boiled water is used for rinsing the dishes. Then I combine the water in a basin or a pail for washing the towels or some laundry. If the floor needs washing, I then use the water to wash the floor. After washing the floor, the water is quite dirty, but fine to use for watering inside plants or the outside herb garden.

My community washes blankets and sheets in a nearby river and spring. My host family does most of the cooking on an outside fire and there is always a pot of water heating for family uses.

My workplace, which is the local school, has a water pump that we use to get water for our cooking classes and for mixing paint for the school library we are building. We needed a great deal of water for mixing concrete to make the library floor. Women brought 20-liter containers of water to pour in large drums for the concrete mixing.

My use of water in the United States is as conservative as in Lesotho. I live on a rural piece of property with a well. My well invariably goes dry every summer. I use a sump pump from a stream to water my garden, thus not using well water. I had a septic tank replaced just before entering the Peace Corps, which cost $22,000, so I'm very aware of water and the cost of using it. Bathing in a basin in Lesotho has its advantages.

by Claire Hilger, Christ the King Mission, Qacha's Nek, Lesotho

I use a lot less water here than I did in the United States. I bathe everyday and this usually amounts to two to three liters of water. I use water for cooking and washing, and for tea, but in much smaller amounts than before. Usually a liter or less of water can wash the whole day's dishes. I have a flush toilet, but usually use wash water to flush it and follow the creed—"If it's yellow, let it mellow." Water is used for the same purpose in the community, but sometimes in smaller amounts as they have to fetch it on their heads.

by Cynthia Holahan, Ha Nkoka, Thaba-Tseka District, Lesotho

On average, I fill a 20-liter bucket of water every two to three days for daily use. This varies, of course, according to how often I bathe and wash my hair (Sorry, Mom!). In the evenings I boil about two liters for the next day's drinking. I began boiling after a long bout of giardiasis, an infection of the small intenstine. At first I found it tedious and "un-Peace Corps-like" to boil, but having a routine of boiling to get rid of giardia is actually not a problem at all. I bathe indoors using a basin. It's truly amazing how little water is actually required to bathe! I use roughly three liters to bathe and three to wash my hair. During the dry season, when the river is nothing more than a series of stagnant puddles, I also use tap water to wash my clothes, as do others in the village. The Basotho are very particular about washing themselves, their clothes, bedding, and dishes on a daily basis, so their dependence on the village water system, particularly during the dry season, is strong.

I don't even know how I can compare my use of water in the Peace Corps to that in the United States. My life here depends on the availability of water, rain, and the weather in general, as it never did growing up in a big city. I am so completely conscious now of how every drop is used, of how to use water more efficiently, and of the fact that I never know when or if water will not be available.

by Becki Krieg, Qacha's Nek, Lesotho

My water comes from various sources, and sometimes the water from these different sources gets mixed together. So to be safe, I boil all water I use for drinking, especially my favorite drink, Kool-Aid, sent from the States!

There is no running water at my house. I store water in two large buckets inside my house. I need to scoop the water out of the buckets to use for cooking, cleaning, or bathing. But Lesotho can be very cold. It even snows in the wintertime. So I certainly don't want to pour that cold water over myself for bathing. That means taking the extra time to heat some water before taking a bath. A bath means a few inches of water in a bucket. I certainly can't cover my whole body in hot water. Winter baths are cold!

Because water is so difficult to get, I have learned to conserve and recycle water. I usually have only 60 liters of water for an entire week for all my needs. I can recycle water when washing clothes. The water used to rinse one load of laundry is used to wash the next load (all washed by hand, of course). I have also learned how to get clean by bathing in a bucket with only four liters of water. That's only two 2-liter Coke bottles of water for an entire bath!

by Amy Bratsch, Ha Thamere-Qutin-Mount Moorosi, Lesotho

Right now we are having a very dry season. Every other day when the taps are expected to be turned on, I take my bucket to the tap at about 6 a.m. and put it in line. Your bucket's place in line is very important because the water is on for a limited time and water might run out before all the buckets are filled. A person living near the tap will open it and when she hears the water starting to flow she will begin to fill the buckets in order. Word that the water is running travels quickly. The women and girls come for their buckets and carry them on their heads to their homes. In order to make sure my water will last, I use the same water to wash my hair, take a sponge bath, wash my underwear, and clean the floor. Large laundry is taken to the river until the river becomes too low. I always set aside water for drinking and cooking. The school has its own water tap, but they too get water only every other day. On no-water days, a tub is set out for the students to rinse the eating containers they have brought from home. The school does cook the porridge.

by JeanMarie Mitchell, Ha Tebelo, Lesotho

My day begins with a knock at my door at dawn from a neighbor. She knocks to tell me to come to the well and fetch my water. Each night A'Me comes and takes my bucket to ensure I am the first to receive water.

I have never valued something as much as I value water now. Honestly, I never thought twice about the water I used or how much or where it came from. Now, receiving only 5 liters a day, I save every drop I can! I recycle dirty water for use in my garden and my family also uses rainwater catchments. People here wait all day to get water and travel long distances to fetch it. The Rural Water Supply (government water works) has been promising for over a year now that it will come to my village and deep-drill a borehole, but they still have not arrived. Will they ever? I only hope.

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