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When a borehole is not the solution

Late last year, the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) team at the Fields of Life office stood in the Kumi District, Eastern Uganda, with a checklist for a well.

Donor; tick. Drilling rig; tick. A community in need; double tick.

So why did the checklist not finish with a tick for a borehole?

The community in Kogil, Kumi District had been eagerly awaiting a borehole to provide them with clean water and now the possibility of this not happening was frightening.

Moses Oluka, from the community, said; “The minute the district officials told us we could not receive a borehole due to the geographical set up, our hearts sunk! We felt terrible because our children would continue to suffer from water related diseases caused by drinking unsafe water.”

Since 2007, Fields of Life has supplied water to vulnerable communities across East Africa using the common borehole/hand pump technology…drill deep into the ground, find water, construct a borehole, problem solved.

However, what would be done about the water problem for communities where the landscape could not permit the use of this method.

Pascal Olinga, Fields of Life WASH Manager, stated; “We know how important water is for the community in Kogil and all of the villages facing a similar problem. It is not just as a want but an absolute need, especially in reducing water borne disease and increasing school attendance, particularly of young girls. So we had to think hard and outside our box to come up with a solution.”

Last year, Fields of Life piloted other options for supplying water, including the protection of natural springs. Springs are where the groundwater naturally comes to the surface, filtered through rock and soil. This water is considered to be safe unless it is contaminated at the surface.

Protecting a spring involves protecting the catchment area to ensure the water remains clean, for example fencing it off, planting trees around it or digging a drainage ditch to carry away surface runoff and waste water. A “Spring Box” is then built from bricks/concrete to help protect the water from contamination.

The clean water is directed to run continuously through a pipe outlet which is set at an appropriate height to allow containers for fetching water to be placed below it. To prevent wastage, the continuous water flow is channeled to the surrounding gardens for irrigation.

To date, Fields of Life has now protected five springs in the Kumi District as an alternative water supply method with a good yield of safe and natural water. Each of these protected springs serves an average of 300 people.

Now Moses is happy to report; “We had really lost hope, but Fields of Life has put the smiles back on our faces with these protected springs…we are very grateful.”

Now when the Fields of Life WASH programme speaks of providing clean water, it is not just the boreholes drilled but also the springs protected. Bringing us even closer to our goal of providing clean, safe drinking water to over 1 million people in East Africa by 2020.