Recently, I was listening to a talk from the 2012 Global Leadership Summit put on by Willow Creek Community Church.
Author Sheryl WuDunn was speaking and said this, “50% of water wells fail within one year.” She wasn’t speaking about water. In fact, she was talking about something else entirely.
Author WuDunn just threw it out there as something she knew to be true, and she’s right. A quick search on the internet will help you discover this is true. (For example: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16835-wasted-wells-fail-to-solve-africas-water-problems.html) Some call it a dirty little secret. Some call it discouraging. I’m not sure its either, it is just a fact. There are tens of thousands of wells sitting dormant all over Africa that are no longer working. Many of them only worked for a short time. One billion people without water, and some are due to pure hearted, yet careless efforts.
I have learned one thing is an absolute truth when it comes to providing water in Africa, Every well will eventually break down. The question is, do you have a plan in place for repair? At Engage Burkina, we do. Let me give you a couple of recent examples from the ground from our field team leader John Arnold. I’m basically showing you some of our ‘in-house’ emails so be kind to us as you read. 🙂
“The Founza well completely broke down because of the galvinized pipes. I bought new stainless steel pipes for the tune of around $800 and they were put in on Friday. The Mayor, and Chief of Police and the Prefet for the whole area were there to see it and were very happy with the stainless steel. They have great water now and they are going to write it up in their history of what the church has done for the town.”
“The drilled well in Saneba is up and running. However the galvinized pipes had been stored for over a year and the rats had urinated on them causing them to deteriorate. We put in stainless steel in that well this next week to the tune of $1050. It needs to be done to have drinkable water.”
These are just two quick examples of the benefit of having personnel on the ground. That’s part of our little plan. Many American non-profits don’t have representatives on the ground to help ensure quality. They hire companies and trust that wells will get done. We tried that for a while. I’d go to Burkina a couple of times a year and get reports and put eyes on what I could, but we knew that would not work long term. Now with five team members on the ground, lots of work is happening every day.
A couple of other quick things we do. Every well we put in is under the care of a Pastor. If something goes wrong, they call one of our team members (mostly John), and we work to get the problem fixed as quickly as we can.
Finally, a Pastor named Abdias created a model for repair that has worked many times over. He would charge a small amount to use a well under his care, and then use those funds to repair when a well broke down. Remember, every well breaks down. However, this is not a perfect plan. Abdias is the Pastor of Founza (mentioned above). People living in the bush on less than $1 a day need are going to have a hard time coming up with an $800 repair. Founza is important. It is a village with a a market, and a crossroads for many different people groups. John helped get the well repaired and made a big impact on the leaders of that village.
If you have given to general gift to Engage Burkina, but didn’t give to sponsor a whole well, your money may have been used to repair wells like these. You may feel like your gift is small. It is the small gifts that allow the big ones to succeed and sustain. Thank you. Thanks for providing water, and for keeping it flowing.