The Source of Our Water
by Jonathan Coleman, Pensa, Burkina Faso
In Pensa, my water comes from a pump that is about one to
two kilometers from my house. The son of the village chief,
Seydou, carries water for me from the pump to my house. But
because malaria is so rampant during the rainy season, Seydou
is often ill and can't carry water for me. So I usually make
three to four trips a week to the pump near my health clinic
for my water. Although there are five other pumps in a five-kilometer radius, as well as many marigots, or
ponds, where water collects from rains, the best water comes
from pumps. Pump water is fairly clean and free of bacteria
and viruses, but you still have to boil all drinking and
cooking water, just to be safe.
The pump itself is a kind of a social hangout,
kind of like an office water cooler or a bar like on the
TV show Cheers. Everyone who needs water comes to the
pump, hangs out, talks about village news or the families
or who is visiting the health clinic (the maternity building
is easily within site of this pump). A good way to learn
about what's going on in the village is to hang out and pump
water for the women and children as they arrive. Besides
hearing about who is getting married or who is fighting or
who is not working hard enough in the fields, you can also
find out who is not vaccinated, who is not going to the
health clinic, and whose children have malnutrition.
There is also a small barrage on the
northern edge of town where people can go fishing,
bathe, and wash their clothes. In the rainy season,
there's enough water to sustain the fields of millet,
sorghum, peanuts, and beans. But in the dry season,
the villagers plant and maintain vegetable gardens on
the reclaimed land as the lake dries up. They can grow
tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, and other
vegetables that add to both the community economy and
No matter the state of the marigots and barrage (which
dry up during the March/April hot season), water is
always available at the pumps. Sometimes, it takes
the work of many strong men to prime the pump—so you
have to be prepared to work, sweat, wait, and speak both
French and Moore if you want to get a simple bucket of water!
by Jenelle Norin, Safane, Burkina Faso
In Safene, my water comes from a well. There are wells in many family compounds. In my compound, there is a well that I share with my neighbor. We are lucky because there are only two of us, so our water never runs out. We always have water to bathe and wash clothes and dishes.
During much of the year, this well water is potable (after filtering of course). At the end of the dry season (March and April), however, the water level is low and the water becomes very dirty. At this time it is no longer a good idea to drink it. I am then obliged to get water at one of the pumps.
Since most of Safane's wells run out of water, the lines at the pumps are very long. Luckily, there is a pump at the secondary school where I teach. As a teacher, I get special privileges when I arrive at the pump for water. The pupils often grab hold of my water container and fill it up for me.
by Anne Hong, Bassan, Burkina Faso
Most people in Bassan get their water from a well or a pump. There is also a solar-energy-powered pump that brings water to three different sources.
My own source of water varies. Usually, I get my water from a solar-energy-powered pump source. Because it is often difficult to find someone with a key to the solar-panel pump, I often manually pump my water during the cultivating season (June–September).
For most women, getting water usually means making several trips every morning and evening to a well or pump. The quality of water coming from the wells isn't very good. The water from the pump is better, but it can still can cause disease when untreated. The solar-powered pump gives the best quality water.
by Shana Miller, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
Bobo Dioulasso has a municipal water system, so my water comes from a tap. In my house, I have a kitchen sink, a bathroom sink, and a shower. There is also a spigot outside in the courtyard. Most people have only a spigot in the courtyard; a few have indoor showers.
Since there is a municipal system, the water in Bobo is relatively clean. Sometimes the pipes break or leak, which allows impurities to enter the water supply. Although some Peace Corps Volunteers drink water straight from the tap, I filter my drinking water to remove dirt, rust, bacteria, and parasites.
Our tap water is often cut off for periods ranging from several hours to several days. Because of this, I keep a reserve of 25 to 30 gallons of water in my kitchen.
Once the water was cut off for three days, and my tank was almost empty. In the middle of the night I heard the pipes hiss, a sign that the water had returned. I got out of bed to fill up my tank. It was a good thing I did, because the water stopped again the next morning and didn't start running again for another day.
by Bruce Karhoff, Loumbri, Burkina Faso
Like many of my neighbors, I get my water from the village pump. A few families, however, have their own well.
by Amy Toellner, Yako, Burkina Faso
I live in a town rather than a village and, in the four months that I've been here, I haven't experienced any water shortages. Like most of my neighbors, I get my water from a well.