It is not often that one gets the chance to run a project that will have a long term impact on a community. This has been the case for me, and I am privileged to have been able to contribute to the village of Time in the Kona region of Mali. During my years of travels in Africa, I have heard about the condition called river blindness, (Onchocerciases), caused by a parasitic worm and carried by the black fly, which breeds in fast running rivers. The village of Time, some 90km North of Mopti in Mali is one such location where this condition is prevalent. Villagers have to walk some distance to fetch water from the Niger River, a breeding ground of these flies.
In discussion with people from the region on how InterAir South Africa could be of assistance to them, many options were presented such as donations of cash, vehicles, clothing, foodstuffs, schools or medical supplies, as I have done for many other regions in need of help. In assessing the needs of the Kona region it became evident that I could contribute something of a more permanent nature, in the form of wells. To alleviate the need to source water from the river 1.2km away, and run the risk of being bitten by the flies, it was decided to sink two wells right in the village. Added benefits would be access to fresh drinking water for the inhabitants as well as for livestock. The lives of those who would normally collect and walk with large heavy containers of water would be made easier. Food gardens could be planted and irrigated and general hygiene uplifted thereby improving the health of the villagers.
The discussions and planning started in November 2005. It took some time to obtain all the necessary government permissions and get the equipment to the site as we had to contend with a three month rainy season when the roads were impassable. The actual construction of the wells was done in such a way that each well is secured with a lockable lid, to prevent any mishaps, with children falling in, and to keep sand out. Each well is surrounded by a wall, which on one side has an outlet into a trough for livestock to be watered.
The wells were inaugurated on March 29th, 2007. On that day, I was overwhelmed by the reception afforded me by the whole village. I was treated to a fine welcome, being walked through the village with singers and dancers adding to the occasion, accompanied by the elders, Mr. Ama Barry, the mayor, and the good doctor from Bamako. A wonderful homage meal of barbecued lamb was enjoyed by all. The thing I noticed was the exceptionally warm welcome and how enlightened the villagers were about current events. Their appreciation was shown in such a heartwarming way. They were concerned as to how they could repay us. My response to them was that one day, when they come across someone who is in need, for whatever reason, they can just pass it along.........
Please enjoy the accompanying photographs of Time, the new wells, and its colorful people.