We have tried to follow the latest thinking of gurus in the aid world. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it. Experienced management on the ground is needed to assess and evaluate a project, to plan and monitor it as well as motivating the locals involved. Well-meaning tourists had previously visited the village of Bafaluto and made promises of help but nothing had materialised. However we returned to the area and had a combined meeting with representatives of 5 local villages. We carried out a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) and after a lively discussion, there was a vote taken whereby it was agreed that the priority was clean drinking water and a village garden to grow vegetables and fruit. We chose Bafaluto (pop.600) as the first village.
We had been lucky to meet Mr Momodou Joof, vice-principal of St Theresa’s School in Serrekunda. He had done courses in Community Development and was due to retire. He had set up a local organisation, Future Farmers of the Gambia, with the aim of training young people how to work the land adjoining their villages and become self-sufficient. This has a synergy with our future aspirations. Momodou agreed to work with PING and began establishing costs and timescales for the two-pronged project. During a visit in July 2007, a final budget with start & completion dates was signed off.
The Gambia is Africa’s smallest country. It is bordered on north, south and east by Senegal and the Atlantic on the west, only a 6hrs flight directly south from London. It stretches 300 miles inland along the River Gambia which splits it inconveniently into north and south.
Population : 1.6 million (44% aged under 15 yrs) - Life expectancy : 56 yrs - Infant mortality (under 5yrs) : 112/1000 (EU 6/1000) - Lack of clean water and malaria are major causes of these infant deaths.
The Gambia gained independence from England in 1952. The current President came to power after a bloodless coup in 1994. A growing Tourism business is helping the economy to grow but on the Economic Development Index, it is rated at number 192 out of 208 countries.
Unfortunately most of the tourism is in the form of packaged holidays with flights and accommodation being paid for in the European country of origin. However it is a growth area with 6 flights a day now compared with 1 or 2 a year ago. Some of the new hotels are very luxurious and while this may be at odds with poverty in the local villages, they do provide a source of employment (wages £30 to £40 / month) and a market for vegetables & flowers.
Gambians are friendly sociable people, the majority of whom speak English. When given support and the opportunity they have responded with hard work & commitment. Educating their children is a very high priority and an obvious driving force among those we have met.
A major consideration before making the huge infrastructural investment (Euro 70 / 80,000) of providing a long term supply of clean water is whether the village has sufficient economic activity to pay the relatively small annual maintenance costs plus build up a surplus for any major repairs
in the longer term. We are determined that when we “finish a village” it will have the ability to ensure its own long term supply of clean water. This is the model we aimed for & achieved at Bafaluto, the first village. We will return to Bafaluto later.
What influences the cost of providing a clean water system for a village? Firstly there is the current population and projected natural population growth. With hindsight, the availability of reliable clean water had a larger impact on the future growth of the village than we had anticipated; not just by improving the overall health of the villagers, but there was an inflow of people who wanted to come to live in the village. Once we had established the current population & figures for 5, 10 & 15 years ahead, we used the World Health Organisation’s of water consumption per person per day. We then had a figure of how many litres or cubic metres of water per day we had to “lift” from the Borehole up into the elevated Storage Tank from where gravity would push it around the village to a number of strategically located Standpipes. (Mathematical aside: WHO’s recommended figure is 30 lts /person/day. Bafaluto current pop. is 850. Hence, 850 *30lts = 25,500 lts / day. One tonne is 1,000 lts, so we have to have the capacity to lift 25.5 tonnes of water every day from the Borehole at a depth of c.300 ft to the elevated Storage Tank 30 ft above the ground.)
Back to costs, now that we have determined how many tonnes of water we have to lift everyday, well documented research tells us that there is a very adequate aguifer running underneath most of The Gambia. The depth at which this water is accessible is usually between 90 & 110 mts (that’s 280 to 340 ft). Firstly we have to sink a Borehole to approx. 300ft, inner diameter is 6” and must be securely lined to ensure the sides don’t collapse. Depending on the depth & the severity of the rock through which the drilling has to carried out, the cost of this Borehole varies between 7 & 8,000 Euro.
At this point we now know the depth from which the 25 tonne of water has to lifted every day. This enables the next calculation to be made; what size of a submersible pump do we need and how much energy to drive it?
Sequence of events in Ngongon
Having learnt from our first village, we set the bore hole and tank on high ground near the road.
We only put in 6 stand pipes to affect the structure of the villagers gathering to collect water less.
The market garden is bigger and they all pay an entry fee to have a plot and contribute monthly which goes to the water maintenance.
WE brought in two brick making machines from India and now can construct our own water tanks with training from the original company,our villagers can now make their own bricks and are constructing a brick making area as well as an animal husbandry building.
We purchased a tractor to move the bricks around and to cultivate wider areas to plant produce out in the wet season.
We have a training school in Njongon and that is where the skills are being taught,with the brick production,bee keeping,gardening,dying fabric,jewellery making and animal husbandry. This is to try to keep the young people in the village.
Another village MbUllet Ba asked for water but as our funds were depleted we were struggling to help but with a bit of lateral thinking we asked if another pipeline could run from Njongon’s borehole and the water company were able to upgrade the pump and the villagers laid the 3 km of piping and a third village now has clean water with 5 standpipes in the village centre.
We know talking to the women that these changes have massively changed their lives for the better and improvements are now being generated by themselves.
So far we have spent over 200k stg and over 3000 people have clean water and economic activities to support it,as we left The Gambia last time full of success another chief was standing asking for help for his community of three villages which could be served by one bore. We have had it costed at 85000.00 stg complete and would give 900 people clean water which we believ to be be great value for money long term.
Until we can find more money we are making and selling jewellery and helping Njongon finish the animal building and the brick building unit.
Contact Pamela Morgan 0034606561681