The traditional people of the Azawak of Niger, a grassy plain the size of Florida that runs along the edge of the Sahara Desert, have for generations been nomadic herders, following their livestock across the plains in seasonal patterns.
In recent years, though, severe drought is changing the ecology of the Horn of Africa. The rainy season — called "the happy season" by local tribes people — has shrunk from five months to one, and the once lush plains where livestock grazed are desiccated.
With their herds dying off, many people have abandoned the pastoral lifestyle to cluster in small villages of 100 to 4,000 people, where they try to find other ways of making a living, such as the manufacture of leatherwork or jewelry.
In the Azawak, there are few sources of clean drinking water. When there was no rain, people relied on the brackish water from marsh wells. It was not unusual for women and girls to travel more than 30 miles each way to fetch muddy water from deeper wells. In the remote town of Ebagueye, this was so common that many people had never known water to be any color but brown. Waterborne diseases were rife.
Amman Imman, an NGO whose name means "Water is Life," chose Ebagueye as the site to drill a borehole through solid bedrock to bring clean, clear water up from an aquifer deep below the surface. The project was funded by a collaboration between TPRF and Vibrant Village Foundation (VV), which provides direct assistance to help people in vulnerable communities around the world. VV's founder and president, Ken DeLaski, sits on TPRF's Board of Directors.
The project was completed in mid-February, just before the dry season reached its peak, and its impact on the lives of the Ebagueye community has already been dramatic. The people not only have clean water to drink and bathe with but they have more time to spend in revenue-generating activities such as the manufacture of leatherwork and jewelry and small-scale agriculture. The villagers have even begun planting trees.
Freed of the need to spend their days searching for water, children are returning to school.
Such is the abundance that cattle and other livestock now have plenty of water to drink and to wallow in.
"Already large groups of populations are traveling near and far to utilize the Ebagueye borehole," Amman Imman's Executive Director Ariane Kirtley reports. "Hence, the Ebagueye borehole is providing relief to tens of thousands."
Photos courtesy of Amman Imman.