The Source of Our Water: Madagascar
Water in Africa
- Africa, Madagascar
by Clare Sandy, Andranomena, Madagascar
In Andranomena, there is a pump that constantly spews water, rather like an open fire hydrant. We are lucky because this water is clean, clear, abundant, and constantly available right in the village. The villagers get their water from the pump in buckets. Various people drive through town and fill big jerry cans there, and a couple of local companies come to fill huge tank trucks or barrels almost daily. Neighboring villages, however, have no means to transport water other than to carry it by hand. They must use the closest water source they have, which is likely to be less clean and less convenient.
In Marofandilia, the source is a stream during the rainy season. During the dry season, the stream dries up, and people must walk to one of a series of water holes, progressively farther away, as the closer ones dry up. Finally, when the water hole that is a 15-minute walk away is used, the villagers dig a well in the dry streambed that provides water until the rains come, and the cycle begins again. The water in the ponds is very dirty, and the well water is not much better, especially at the end of the day when the level is very low from so many people getting water all day.
by Rob Roberts, St. Augustin, Madagascar
I consider myself a lucky Volunteer: I have a well 10 feet from my back door. I don't know what most other Volunteers' water situations are like, but I could imagine being a lot worse off. The water is also very clean and tastes good. It doesn't have a trace of salt in it and, considering that I live in a coastal town, that seems pretty amazing. There must be some underground freshwater system running close to the coast.
Although my well can come pretty close to running dry sometimes, the availability of water seems fairly good. There are many wells throughout town. Some people do have to walk a little bit, but no more than a quarter of a kilometer or so. There definitely isn't a lot of easily accessible water, but everyone appears to manage the situation quite well. And there is a river just a short walk away, if things get really bad. I have yet to see that dry up.
by George Ritchotte, Andranomala Nord, Madagascar
My water comes from Zahemena National Park, nearly 70,000 hectares of mid-elevation to upland rain forest, which begins just east of my village. Thanks to the forest, the peripheral communities have a dependable, abundant water supply year-round, even during the dry season and when the rains are poor. For instance, farmers in my region fared much better during last year's drought than their lowland counterparts, who are completely dependent on the rains to flood their rice fields.
Drinking water is provided by the village pumps, which also have their source in the forest. A forest stream not far from the village has been dammed. Water is piped from the dam to a concrete reservoir on the hill above the village, and from the reservoir to the pumps. The pump water is extremely clear, especially since the reservoir has been cleaned recently.
by Robin Larson Paulin, Andranofasika, Madagascar
Our water comes either from a well about 600 feet from the house or from a small stream about 300 feet from the house. Water in the stream is always available, but it is especially shallow toward the end of the dry season (September–October). It's about 4–5 inches deep and about 5 feet across. Water from the stream can also be quite sandy or cloudy and we must wait for the sand to settle in the bucket before using it. Surface waters in this area are contaminated with schistosomiasis, which is another consideration when choosing to use the stream. Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasite in water that enters the body through the skin. It is debilitating, but curable with medication.
There are three wells in our village. We prefer to use well water because it is cleaner, since the water has been filtered through the ground, as opposed to the surface stream water, which collects surface runoff, especially after the rains. The wells were built with the help of the previous Peace Corps Volunteer. Many Malagasy people use the wells, but others still go to the stream, because that's what they are used to. The wells are open all day, but are locked at dusk (6 p.m.) and reopened at dawn (6 a.m.).
Our region has been struck by a cholera outbreak, which is caused by bacteria (fecal–oral) and can cause death quickly by dehydration. We add bleach to our drinking water and dish-washing water to kill the bacteria.
by Jina Sagar, Ambalahenko, Madagascar
Ambalahenko lies just outside the Loko Be Nature Reserve. It is a rain forest reserve with three kinds of lemurs, rare palm trees, chameleons, and fresh water. In 1997 a water pipeline was built from the reserve to the three communities in the area. The spigot is in the center of town, so I carry a bucket back up to my house for drinking and another for showering. Before the pipeline, the villagers had to walk up to two km to where the streams from the reserve hit the ocean. The water is both reliable and clean in the wet season. In the dry season, however, water does not make it to the town at the end of the pipeline. I had never expected water shortages in the rain forest. Tensions are high between the two towns as a result of the shortage. It's only a matter of time before the rains begin and tensions are eased with the sweet flow of water.
by Mark Danenhauer, Namoly, Madagascar
Namoly is situated in a valley in the mountains on the central high plateau of Madagascar. The water runs off the surrounding mountains and enters the valley in the form of two rivers. There is always an abundant amount of water in the river. People use this water for all of their needs, including cooking, drinking, washing clothes, watering gardens, and irrigating the fields.
Every day, women or young girls can be seen fetching water from the river in brightly colored buckets. They balance full buckets of water on their head for the trip home. Never once do they spill the water, even though the majority of them have babies tied to their backs with lambas.
However, a few of the villages have water pumps, built by World Wildlife Fund, saving them the walk to the river. My water comes from one of these pumps, which I collect in the buckets every morning. Often I wait my turn with the young girls fetching their water.
The most interesting and beautiful aspect of water here is how much water is used for irrigation of the rice fields. Irrigation canals run everywhere in the valley, sometimes creating a complex mosaic.