Yesterday was an amazing culmination of a couple of weeks of tough work and frustrating delays. We finished the well at “Thirsty” and the community was so excited that they decided to change the name of the village to a different local word that means “the place where water runs!” This is the first of a series of wells we’re going to be doing in this community. Interesting that the local folks were hard-pressed to believe that we’d return. I guess they are used to people saying that they’ll do something . . . and it just never happens. I had to assure them over and over that we would indeed be back and will start the next well as soon as we can! First we’ll spend some time manufacturing a complete new drilling rig and tools so that the next well should go without so many of the learning difficulties we experienced on this one!
With the provisional pump installed, several of the people told me they were already using this well for bathing, drinking and cooking. One old man said it was finally possible for him to get water without having to wait for someone else to come help him!
Here are a couple more photos of the finished well, and a snapshot of the community meeting under the mango tree where they decided both to change the village name . . . and to select the next site for the second well.
Note Bosco straddling the new concrete work in process by the villagers. This is one of the great challenges of getting the cost of the wells down to a manageable level. We’re working hard at it, but getting the price near $100 is still a challenge. We’re aggressively looking for local alternatives to bentonite (which we need to secure the walls of the hole as we drill). Even after being imported to the US from India or China, the US cost is about $15 a bag. Here in Uganda, that same bag, brought from India costs nearly $100! I’m exploring other import options as well as local clay products that might work as well. Also, because of the proliferation of NGO’s, every community expects a concrete apron around their well. The concrete and bricks add extra cost; they also need a chain and lock to protect from the handle and piston getting stolen . . . which means more $$. The extra-heavy well head you see in this photo is about $50 local cost and seems to be a good alternative to the ~ $1,000 model most often employed by other NGO’s.
I wish I could show more than just 2 wells completed in the time we’ve been here, but the learning curve (for me, anyway) is great, the raw materials are difficult to find, the tools are limited and access is difficult. For example, it takes about an hour to get to this one well site, including dirt roads (sometimes only as wide as an animal or human footpath) littered with potholes, ant hills and other debris. Once you get off the highway, trees and bramble are generally scraping both sides of the vehicle! I’ve already almost ripped off the Land Rover “steps” by coming just a bit too close to giant ant or termite mounds!
The ladies really complain when I show up in the village without bringing Sherry! She has won them over!