Despite the concerted efforts and diverse contributions of NGOs and other development partners, access to potable water remains a challenge in Burkina Faso. The problem is especially acute in rural areas where access to safe drinking water is very low. The USAID WA-WASH Program introduced affordable safe drinking water solutions for improved livelihoods across 21 communities in Burkina Faso. In the target villages, the Program promoted manual boreholes equipped with rope pumps to meet the domestic and productive water needs. Goudin Yameogo, a 65-year old man is one of the manual boreholes beneficiaries. He heads his household in Tiogo Mossi, a village on the outskirts of Koudougou, in the Center-West region of Burkina Faso. With his three wives and 32 children, Goudin has experienced what he calls “true fetching of water”. The difficult task of fetching water consist of traveling kilometers in search of that precious commodity. This has been part of his daily life since 1960. “The problem of water was the principal challenge that we encountered in the village and that preoccupies me the most as a head of household” said Yameogo when asked about his major concerns during his life in the village. This situation aroused in Yameogo a strong desire to have a water point near his home. “Since the time of the first president of Burkina Faso, I have always aspired to have at least a hand-dug well to meet my water needs. Many others projects promised to install boreholes in our community and we saved money several times to contribute in the water point installation”. But none of these projects came back and we have not seen any results.” Consequently, Yameogo’s family members, including men, women and children, had to walk at least two kilometers a day to fetch water. Yameogo felt affected by the problem to the point that he considered moving to a place where water access will be less difficult. “If not for the lack of financial means, I wanted to move my entire family to escape water shortage problems” he said.
Hence the USAID WA-WASH Program was positively welcomed by the rural populations as it addressed important issues facing rural communities such as water scarcity (especially during the dry season), high prevalence of water-borne diseases, conflicts over access to the few functional water points in the village, and the impossibility to practice any livelihood activity requiring significant amounts of water. “I have cattle but I am obligated to entrust them to the Fulani for grazing because if I keep them with me, I would not be able to water them. So, I entrust them to nomadic Fulani despite the risks of doing that,” said Yameogo.
At one point, before the improved well-boreholes were constructed, Yameogo believed that he was abandoned. “Since we are farmers and the village is poor, neither the politicians, nor the NGOs were interested in us; in our community we were helpless,” he said. Yameogo continued to feel this way until the day he was introduced to improved water points promoted by USAID WA-WASH. Since 2014 when USAID WA-WASH helped him with a well-borehole equipped with a rope-pump, he no longer speak about the challenges of fetching water.
“This pump is a true relief for my family in general and me in particular,” explains Yameogo. Now, he makes use of a well-borehole which provides him with water for domestic use. He also notices that this infrastructure is having an impact on his family members health. “Since I took advantage of this improved water point, no member of my family has suffered from dysentery. The Program brought us health,” he said. Six of his children are still attending school. They now have more time to dedicate to their studies since they are no longer spending time fetching water. This has situation ultimately improved their school performance. Yameogo, is also proud to see his three wives and his daughters-in-law relieved from the distance walked to fetch water. “My wives are also relieved because they no longer have to walk long distances to draw water. Now, they only need to take a few steps to have water on hand before starting their chores. They are no longer subject to fetching water,” he says enthusiastically.
The borehole has not only ended the physical suffering for Yameogo’s family, but it has also triggered the economic empowerment of the women in his family. With access to water his wives are developing revenue-generating activities, like producing soumbala (a local ingredient made with African locust beans). They now have the time to take care of their businesses and the additional revenue allows them to financially contribute to their household’s various needs including the costs of health care for their children. Women’s participation in family management is, thus, reinforced and Yameogo is no longer the only one in the family responsible for expenses. He speaks of “real relief” and even encourages his wives to diversify their activities in the dry season by incorporating the production of dolo (a local beer) that requires water.
Yameogo is envisioning to retrieve his cattle entrusted to the Fulani as he now has a reliable water source. He is also considering practicing gardening during the dry season in order to maximize his revenues and ensure food security for his large family. USAID WA-WASH has subsidized Yameogo’s water point at 75% of the costs. Keeping in mind that his personal contribution alone could not fund the water point, he decided to share the water point with his neighbors who have experienced the same water problems.
As part of its empowerment strategy, USAID WA-WASH supported Yameogo in setting up a simple and reliable management system to ensure the sustainability of the water source. Yameogo’s continued benefit is rendered possible by the MUS integrated approach which provide low-cost potable water sources in rural communities since 2013.