The Gift of Water in drought affected Borana

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Mallicha Wario sits comfortably next to her two-year-old Sawyer water filter and new-born daughter, Mote Wario. The water filter drips confidently into a large white bucket, now half-full with clean water.

At 30 years old, Mallicha is the mother to nine daughters she cares for with her dedicated husband. Mallicha lives alongside her extended family of pastoralist in Borale village, part of a small village cluster just a few kilometers north of the Kenyan border in southern Ethiopia. Mallicha and her family’s sole income is from the sale of livestock and the occasional sale of maize or Haricot beans, but only if seasonal rains have been plentiful. These days they rarely are, and Mallicha’s income is far from sustainable.

“Life is hard out here, with drought recurring on an almost annual basis, we are finding it challenging to keep our livestock alive. No livestock means no income. We don’t have any other options.”

With seven cattle, four goats and nine children to look after, Mallicha’s primary concern is to secure the precious life-sustaining resources of food and water. Borale village, however, is situated in southern Ethiopia’s Borana zone, a deeply water-stressed region stretching from the Kenyan border north to the Gedeo low lands. Water, as Mallicha recalls, has always been a major worry in her life.

“Our family have lived in Borale for over 30 years and for the vast majority of that time the only water source has been out by Marimo. On foot that takes me about eight hours for the round trip, although there’s always a queue in Marimo so it’s usually longer."

And whilst the distance is far, it isn’t the only problem: “For a long time my children would be sick with diarrhoea and stomach aches, vomiting and high temperatures, but I didn’t know it was unusual, I didn’t know anything could be done about it.”

Mallicha has spent most of her life walking the eight-hour route to collect unclean, salinated surface-water, saturated with salt from the surrounding geology and contaminated with water-borne bacteria and diseases, soon to be consumed by her family causing sickness and ill-health throughout. Yet Mallicha did not understand the dangers to herself or her children. Life was simply about survival.

In 2016, Trócaire funded an integrated programme in Borana zone to deploy a network of sustainable, interwoven technologies and systems to help increase resilience in drought-prone communities. Trócaire employed a cash-for-work scheme to offer an income to local villagers who were willing to participate in the excavation of a new water source. This not only introduced a system to capture and store water but paid the villagers an income for constructing it.

“The Trócaire cash-for-work programme helps us generate an income whilst enhancing the resources in our community, it’s hard work but the money makes everyone feel more secure about the future, and most importantly we now have a new water source.”

Paying each participant a one-off payment of 1100 birr, and the community 120 birr for every cubic square meter excavated, the Trócaire cash-for-work programme helps to support communities financially whilst sustainable resources are put in place. Once active, the community maintains the resource independently with the help of locally elected committees.

Now, with a 10,000 cubic meter water source outside her home, Mallicha no longer has to walk eight hours to collect unclean water. She no longer has to miss out on house work, her children no longer have to miss days of school staying at home whilst Mallicha collects water. The water she collects from the local water source now takes her just 30 minutes and is filtered into safe drinking water with her Trócaire funded Sawyer water filter, another complementary integrated technology.

“Before we had access to clean water, I didn’t understand about the dangers of drinking surface water, there was no information out here to tell me otherwise. Drinking surface or unclean water was just a part of my family’s life. When we received the Sawyer water filter from Trócaire and finished the pond excavation, I was unsure as to their effects on our life here. However, in just 2 months my children were feeling, and looking, so much better and have not needed any medication for the last two years. They no longer have to take time off school and I no longer have to travel the eight hour route to collect unclean water. Now I can look after my family like a mother should. Our life is completely different, I would never want to go back to drinking unclean water ever again.”

Mallicha is one of the many participants in Trócaire’s highly effective integrated approach to providing support and aid when and where needed. By offering not only clean resources to sustain life, but also financial remuneration for work and sustained motivation, Trócaire is helping Ethiopia to build a better future in Borana zone.

The Gift of Water is one of the life-changing gifts you can purchase in Trócaire’s Gifts of Love range.