We do host opportunities to visit Ethiopia and the work of Water is Life several times a year. Making a visit is the best way to establish relationships with Ethiopians that will change you forever in the way you think and feel about life. Ethiopians are our teachers to aspects of life we take for granted. You are welcome to explore this opportunity to visit. It is a self-funded trip that is a minimum of 7 days including travel days from the States. In addition to covering all in-country costs, we also expect additional support from the group to help fund the well you will help to build.
Ethiopia has a high population and ranks as the 6th poorest country in the world. Over 45 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. The statistics alone should catch the attention of the world. However, the personal connections of the Harding family developed over three generations provides a wonderful network of trusted leaders and organizations to form a network of partnerships that enables solid and long-lasting work.
Ethiopia is a very paternalistic society and women have been marginalized into specific labor roles. Women are often ready to try new ideas to overcome the depths of the poverty that they feel in hopes of a better future for their children. They are risk takers. They are also very influential in adopting new behaviors that will benefit the health of their children. They are the key to reducing infant mortality and creating a better environment for learning. We want to empower women to be the change-leaders in Ethiopia.
No, we do not think the best way to help the poor is to give a handout of cash. Rather, we ask them to give their own money by teaching them how to save and generate income. This allows them to make their own decisions out of what they have, not what they don’t have. This approach restores their dignity and gives them a platform to make progress in life.
It is important to invite people with similar incomes at the lowest levels to form trusted teams. A wealth ranking is conducted by door to door surveys and the poorest of the poor in the community are invited to self-organize. The organizing principle is their wealth, not their tribe or religion. Once they have organized themselves into teams of 15-20 people, they formalize the group with their own by-laws and goals. Training and coordination is provided to get started but not money to capitalize the group. The money comes from their own pocket. Trust and learning take root in the SLT to build solid relationships that last a lifetime.
Getting access to clean water is a big deal so picking the place to drill a well takes into account many sensitive decisions. Ultimately, the government determines the location but we work with the local community to serve the most number of people and to find the most favorable spot geologically that is not too expensive.
The main national dish is injera and wot which is like eating a big pancake used with your hand to scoop up a variety of spicy and well-flavored dishes like chicken stew or vegetables. Western menus are also available at many for the restaurants in the cities. In rural areas, you must stick with the local diet or else bring your own snacks.
Often people immediately think of hot and humid climates when talking about Africa. While Ethiopia has some of the hottest places on earth such as in the Danakil Depression, it also has high elevations like Ras Dashen at over 14,000 feet above sea level where it snows and gets very cold. The elevation makes all the difference. In the capital Addis Ababa, it is about 8,000 feet and the climate is pleasant and temperate. The mean annual temperature in Addis is 60 degrees F. Temperature variations occur from rainy to dry seasons.
The well should last indefinitely if it was constructed properly with quality materials. There are times when a well may need to be re-developed to clean out sedimentation that may be blocking the flow of water. The pump, on the other hand, will need regular maintenance and replacement parts depending on the amount of use and the quality of the materials. Lifetimes of five to 10 years can be expected for hand pumps. It is estimated that in Africa, approximately 50% of the pumps are not in service due to disrepair, but the well may still be good. In these case, pump replacement is all that Is needed with a commitment from the community to keep up with maintenance by paying for the water.
The cost depends on many factors so the question is similar to how much does a car or a house cost if you ask in general terms. It all depends on the factors at play. For wells, some of the factors include the depth the well needs to be to reach a reliable supply of groundwater. The deeper the well the more expensive it will be to drill and to fit it with a larger pump to lift the water out of the hole. Another factor is the hardness of the geology which determines the type of equipment required to drill. Hard rock requires more expensive equipment and energy. The distance from home base determines the cost for mobilizing and de-mobilizing the team, equipment and material. Generally speaking, shallow wells with manual percussion drilling will cost about $6,000 while wells up to 90 meters in depth will be over $25,000. More complete water systems including solar applications may cost around $100,000, but they serve many more people. This cost is all-inclusive of getting approvals, establishing a Water Use Committee to oversee long-term maintenance and community training in sanitation and hygiene.
Ethiopian mothers often take infants with them when collecting water. It’s common for girls under 5 to begin assisting with this task, often as soon as they can physically carry a container of water. Some young girls carry almost their own bodyweight in water for many miles each day. This has a devastating effect on their health, often leading to life-long spinal deformities.
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