Clean Water

A watertank under construction

Day 16: Problems

So, Mbontsem turns out to have more than its fair share of problems. The committee, although large (far too large, in my opinion) is essentially not functioning. I found it difficult - very - to know what attitude to present; it would have been hard enough to navigate the local politics and personalities had this been in an english cutural setting, nevermind one so unfamiliar to me.

On the one hand, the committee members have little knowledege of basic procedures that would assist with managing the supply; (simple things, such as allowing the glue to set on repairs before sending water through the pipes). I tried to teach these without appearing patronising - difficult when speaking to village leaders twice my age who have lived here for their whole lives. At the same time, I felt the need to point out that some of the problems are of their own making, through self-interest and failure of leadership. All of the houses with private connections to the water supply (to save walking to public standtaps) belong to members of the committee, and most of the committee have not contributed the agreed fee for maintenance this year. It's hardly surprising that other villagers refuse to pay!

It's a frustrating situation, especially as it made it difficult to see who was genuinely keen to learn and improve the situation for the whole village, and who was only out to grab as much as possible for themselves. However, lunchtime brought a welcome - and very amusing! - interlude. On the way from the meeting to lunch we were followed by a giggling group of children. They would scatter and run off whenever I turned round; they were eventually joined by a crowd of perhaps 50 children, maybe more, and I played a running game of What's the Time Mister Wolf with them for half an hour or so. That was with essentially no common language; it seems that standing out here as a 'kimbang' (white man) can be good fun sometimes too!

In the afternoon, we tried to collect water samples from the standtaps around the village. However, leaks meant that we couldn't get water from any of the taps, so couldn't collect samples and run the analysis. To be honest, I'm not sure how much use it would have been anyway, since the problems here are far greater and more systemic than the issues of water quality that we saw in Wvem and Djottin.

Day 17: Happiness in Kovki

© Aidan Reilly 2013