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A Drop in the Bucket


Ladies leaving the well carrying water in a huge bowl.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country with several rivers, only two of which have water year-round. Finding water can be a huge problem during the dry season. Although 76% of Burkinabe now have access to an improved water supply, there is a sharp difference between urban and rural areas in water development. Urban areas have a system of pipelines, even in Dano, where a household can be on “city water.”

However, once one travels out to the remote villages, that is not an option. Instead, people have access to either wells or groundwater that collects in low-lying areas. Unfortunately, many of these wells are old and broken, or the wells are uncovered, leaving them susceptible to disease. If the well in their village is broken, women will often have to go very far on foot to carry water back to their homes by balancing a large bowl or other container on their heads. It’s a lot of lost time and effort.

Closely tied to water sources is the issue of sanitation. Especially during the dry season, it is common for the only water source for people to also be the only water source for the area’s animals. They might also wash their clothes in the same water. Then of course, there’s “bathroom use”; it’s estimated that 77% of people in rural areas just go anywhere they see fit. This can also seep into the water supply. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the link between sanitation, hygiene, and their health. A lot more instruction needs to take place on this subject.

A typical watering hole already evaporating in dry season.

Burkina has several dams such as this one which are helpful in sustaining water sources.

Things are changing, especially in the area of providing clean water to people. The government has many programs going and has made improvements in the last 20 years, but the job is huge. There is still plenty of work to be done. The most urgent and efficient way of helping those in the remote areas, is to repair existing wells and dig new ones in key places. Our teammate, Geoffrey, in conjunction with Living Water International, is heading this ministry. He has also trained two different teams of Dagara men to repair wells. In the past two years, over 50 wells have been restored to villages who had no source of clean water for a long time.

The scene of the repair. The truck is long enough to haul pipes, tools and parts for the well rehabs.

A typical rundown well. The large tube is part of the process of pumping out the stagnant water.

As soon as the water starts running clear, women will start collecting it in their bowls.

Geoffrey walking towards the well to begin installing the new pump.

When the team begins a well repair, they first have to take apart the old well, pulling out the old parts and pipes. Then, using a generator, they pump out the water that has been sitting for a long time. They keep pumping until the water is clear again. Then it’s time to measure the depth of the well and put in the new pipes. The new well is then attached and people can start pumping clean water.

This is one of the rusted pipes that was keeping this village from having potable water.

Parts of the pipes had broken; most were rusty.

They have taken off the old pump and are pumping out old water.

Starting the installation of the new pump.

They use shea butter to grease the ends of the pipes.

Lowering the pipes into the well.

During the time it takes to pump out the old water, Dagara Christians give a lesson from the Bible and do a skit of a Bible story for that village’s school children. At this well rehab, they did the parable of the sower.


People are clapping and smiling as the first person tries the new pump.

At this particular well repair seen in these pictures, the crowd was made up mostly of students and other children, but many times there are more people of all kinds from the whole village. There can be singing and celebration going on the whole time, followed by a meal they prepare for the workers as a thank you. Each one varies as much as the overall personality of the village. Whatever the specific situation, they are always extremely grateful to have a renewed source of clean water.

What do you think? Water is a basic need that we often take for granted. Where do you get yours? What are some concerns you have about water in your area? Have you ever tried to walk with a heavy, sloshing object on your head, or any object?  Women here are so graceful because they learn this ability from a young age. It’s hard! 

The well is repaired!