In western Burkina Faso and Ghana, Helvetas promotes the building of pump wells and raises awareness about the hygienic use of precious drinking water. These efforts go in parallel with a large-scale resilience project run by partner organizations in the region.
To survive natural disasters such as severe droughts, for example, many poor farming families cut down on meals and sell off their jewelry, cattle and all the equipment they can live without. Some even sell their land. Then, when better times come along, they do their best to maximize crop yields, depleting the soil in the process. As a result, they lose a bit of the most important thing that has helped them through crises in the past: namely the resilience which they – as a family and as a whole community – have developed over the course of generations.
Large non-profit partners of ours from the US have started up a project to boost the resilience of farming communities in western Burkina Faso and in Ghana. The farmers preserve and nurture the fertility of the soil by utilizing organic fertilizers and new (or traditional, rediscovered) farming methods. What they lack, however, is access to water. Half of all families in this impoverished region have no choice but to use contaminated water in the household. So it is only natural that 55 to 70% of all illnesses reported by local infirmaries are caused by contaminated water.
Helvetas works closely together with organizations there to support efforts to supply clean drinking water as well as water to irrigate the fields. This project is about far more than providing infrastructure. The first step involves pointing out alternatives to the use of distant and dirty waterholes. Helvetas then suggests forming water management committees and women’s committees to maintain the planned wells. Municipal authorities are trained to carry out the initial planning of water supplies, draw up budgets, award drilling contracts and supervise contractors. Simultaneously communities are trained in small-scale irrigation and agro-ecological farming.
In parallel to the building of wells, the interconnectedness of hygiene and health is driven home by information campaigns in schools, street theater and video clips. Teachers are trained and parents’ groups are formed to make sure well water is kept clean in the home.