Waiting for the winds to blow for water


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Tsehay Worku, like many women in her village, was happy to hear that she is now able to access water from a nearby shallow well. Finally, she can bid farewell to a wind-powered water pump that her community had to use since 2015. Although fitted with a 10m3 water tanker to store water during low wind speed (or absence of), this is a story about how the delivery of an inappropriate technology option posed great challenges for the Botoro community to access clean water for five years.

Wind blows intermittently. When there is no wind, rotor blades become idle. When this occurs, Botoro’s children would climb the tower to manually rotate the water pump’s rotor blades. Seemingly modern and efficient, the well was non-functional. It failed to deliver a sustainable solution to the water problems of the community.

Residents, especially women, opted to travel long distances to fetch water from unsafe sources. Tsehay Worku, said ‘Upstream, people wash their clothes and bodies, and animals drink and drop their dung in the river. Yet, we collect water downstream. Waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea and eye diseases, commonly occur. This problem persisted for five years.’

Users requested rehabilitation works from the Woreda Water Office, but to no avail. Financial and technical issues were some of the problems that the Woreda Water Office could not easily respond to, back then.

All these changed upon the arrival of SNV Ethiopia’s WASH for Trachoma Elimination (WASH Tra) project. Working with the Woreda Water Office, the project swiftly provided and installed a complete set of hand pumps with a depth of 45m and trained WASHCOs to manage the water system. Reflecting on these improvements, Tsehay said ‘Now we are able to collect safe water without restriction; wash our face, body and clothes regularly; and our utensils are kept clean. We use water for our latrines. We no longer wake up before dawn to travel long distances. Our children go to school on time.’

Another member of the community, Aberu Tolcha, shared a similar story ‘We no longer gaze up waiting for the wind. We use the shallow well, collect adequate water and instantly get back home. I am happy that there no longer is a queue for water collection.’

To date, the WASHTra project has rehabilitated 171 water schemes benefitting 68,000 people, 33,143 of whom are women. With increased access to water, the WASH Tra project maintains that residents receive heightened opportunity to wash their hands and faces to prevent the spread of trachoma.

Lema Bekele

WASH Engineer