Friday, April 27, 2007

Update on water

The Australian government has announced that the Murray-Darling water system, one of the biggest river system in the world, has run out of water. Unless there is good soaking rain widespread across the catchment in the next six weeks, there will be ZERO water allocation for farm use or for environmental flows across the whole 2,700km length of the catchment. The only permitted water use will be drinking and sanitation water for the towns and villages. The Murray-Darling contains 42% of Australia’s farmland and produces 40% of the nation's food. So you can see what is at risk.

Tanzania also knows the burden of drought. A young volunteer with the Peace Corps in Tanzania writes –

The poverty is crushing, pervasive and absolute. For me, the image that captures life in rural Africa is women carrying buckets of water on their heads. This single image is deceptively simple and genial. In fact, it is the figure of women walking, shouldering these heavy burdens, that most fully captures the poverty, the suffering and the culture of rural life.

Driving into a village means passing women and girls lining the road either on their way to the well or returning from it. These water sources can be 5-6 kilometers from the village and these women must make this journey twice a day. Often, this trip can take four hours round trip. Imagine walking 3 km in the morning, making the return trip with a full bucket of water, then, using that water for all the work of laundry, cooking, and cleaning, only to have to walk those same 6 km again in the evening, often returning after dark.

Girls from the Girls' Secondary School in Korogwe carry buckets of water to the garden: Water Wise Schools

Anthea, an Arusha local, has commented that she never sees students from St Jude's carrying water, unlike students at most other schools. It seems to be a special privilege that kids can go to school and actually spend most of their time learning instead of labouring!

In her talk at the book launch, Gemma gave an update on the School’s efforts to guarantee a reliable water supply that I blogged about here. She said that on their sixth attempt, at around $15,000 for each attempt, they have found water at 95 metres. Our ChipIn contribution will help ensure good water supplies for the school. As Gemma said,

It doesn’t matter how much you give. $10 will buy a bag of cement and that will lay two courses of bricks in a wall that will serve generations of kids.

So, as you stand under the shower tomorrow morning, spare a thought for the women and girls in Tanzania who carry buckets of water for kilometers every day. And be glad that your contributions to the School of St Jude are giving some of the smartest girls in the Arusha district the chance to break out of the relentless cycle of poverty. No wonder they are glad to come to school on Saturdays.

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