Underground water raises hope in northern Senegal

Mekhe- Senegal (PANA) -- The pumping of underground water has raised morale among Keur Gora villagers in the northern Senegalese district of Mekhe, under threat of desertification.
A week ago, World Vision International's technicians embarked on a two-day process to test the volume of underground water that could be pumped out of the village's borehole.
Women were particularly excited to witness 41,000 cubic metres of pure water being pumped out per hour from the soil they never imagined could contain so much of the vital liquid.
In a typically African fashion of showing gratitude, the women engaged the spouse of Olsen Torres, World Vision's director in Senegal, into a local dance.
The women wriggled to the rhythm of music provided by a strange assortment of water collection utensils.
Mrs Torres had accompanied WV staff members on a daylong familiarisation tour of projects in Mekhe and Bambey.
"I thank World Vision on behalf of my fellow villagers for bringing us water from underneath the ground, which will enable us to cultivate even during the dry season," said Keur Gora's headman, Ablaye Seye.
World Vision's water project manager Emeth Gueye told PANA at Keur Gora that water has to be pumped for two days to determine the volume of underground water available for domestic use, irrigation and livestock.
The water is also laboratory-tested to see if it contains harmful bacteria.
"This enables us to choose the type of equipment to install, including where to erect the water tower," he told a journalist who accompanied the WV personnel on the tour of projects sponsored by the Christian NGO.
"We expect to erect a water tower capable of supplying a minimum 35 litres per person in 10 surrounding villages," explained Gueye, who had worked with the Senegalese bore-hole drilling company before being recruited by WV in 1992.
This would enable villagers in Keur Gora and their neighbours to engage in dry season agriculture as women in Maka Sarr have been doing since World Vision offered an initial investment and training.
According to Gueye, the availability of abundant underground water in the arid northern Senegalese area is a sign that water shortage problems elsewhere in Africa could be solved if there is willingness to invest in training qualified personnel and technology.
Between 1986 and 2000, World Vision had established 600 bore-holes, 293 of which are in Louga Region, 200 in the Sine Saloum and 60 in Thies region, where the NGOs drilling machine is currently preparing a bore-hole to cater for 980 villagers.
"Hydrological surveys indicate that there are 80 other possible bore-hole sites in this area where the climate is very harsh," Gueye told PANA.
According to Amadou Dia, the Co-ordinator of special projects at WV's operational centre in Mekhe, Maka Sarr is a shining example of WV's concept of initiating projects and handing them over to local communities to sustain them.
Maka Sarr's most important project is the irrigation project that has enabled women to plant a hectare of tomatoes, a similar surface of okra, as well as 0.
30 hectares each planted with egg plants and pepper.
In 2000, the women harvested 14 tonnes of tomatoes, half of which was consumed locally and the remainder sold in nearby markets, earning the village women's co-operative 1.
5 million F CFA.
(1 USD = 750 CFA francs) The women also harvested 10 tonnes of millet, which was sold within the village.
The women's group has also planted two hectares of trees in the highly arid area.
"Production is expected to increase and the government needs to make arrangements for marketing these crops to prevent post-harvest losses, which could discourage the producers," the WV water project manager told PANA.
The original water pump provided by WV had broken down recently, but the Maka Sarr women withdrew funds from their reserves and installed a new one at a total cost of 1.
6 million CFA francs.
According to the vice chairperson of the Maka Sarr women's project, Jobe Leye, the co-operative obtained a loan of 5.
2 million CFA francs from the African Development Bank after paying 10 percent of the amount.
The first repayment is scheduled for November.
As to what would happen in case of crop failure, Leye said the co-operative could take funds from other projects in the village.
These include a village shop whose total capital is four million CFA francs, a millet grinding mill, iron cereal silos and an oil pressing machine.
The village shop is the only one in the remote village.
"Thanks to the assistance from World Vision, women's chores have been simplified thus enabling mothers to engage in other actitivies and allow their children to go to school," said Leye.
On his part, the WV water project manager affirmed that the availability of water had solved 90 percent of hygiene and health problems in the areas his NGO operates.
Maka Sarr villagers, in a sign of gratitude, handed one hen to the little daughter of the WV country director.
On the way back to Dakar, Christine protested vigorously every time a suggestion was made that her gift be slaughtered to make a good "Yasa" dish out of it before she and her family left for holidays in the USA.

28 june 2001 22:43:00

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