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Water: Solar-Powered Initiative Rescues Benue Communities

Posted: May 21, 2015 at 12:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Onche Odeh 

Epeilo Community WASHCOM Chairman, Akor, stands at the base of one of UNICEF/DFID Water projects in Ogbadibo LGA, Benue State

Epeilo Community WASHCOM Chairman, Akor, stands at the base of one of UNICEF/DFID Water projects in Ogbadibo LGA, Benue State

It is maximum relief for about 70 communities in Ogbadibo Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State, as their age-long problem of access to water for domestic consumption is being resolved by a basic component initiative.

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) supported initiative, built on the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has ensured that these communities are served potable water from taps that are just a few metres from their homes. This is miracle for most of the people, as they were born into the hardship associated with long-distance search for water.

A unit of the project consist of a 250-300 metres deep motorised borehole from which water is transported with a solar-powered pumping system to a set of 2000 litre volume tanks suspended on a platform that is over 30 metres above the land surface.

Its working system is simple. Turn on the main control tap, located in a secure brick box at the base of over-head tanks and water is released for dispensing at the dual feed taps at each of the dispensing units. Water is pumped into the tanks intermittently to replenish the storage in the over-head tank.

As basic as the technology seems, it has liberated not less than 100,000 people across 70 communities from the pains of travelling very long distances in search of water for drinking, cooking and bathing. 64 units of the installations are currently deployed in Ogbadibo, one of the most water-challenged LGAs in the country.

It was a gale of testimonies from the communities, as residents relive tales of sufferings in search of water in the past when Daily Independent visited.

Clan Head of Epeilo Community in the LGA, Bala Ameh, who was excited at the chance of telling the story of how the community’s long-suffering for water was eased with the UNICEF/DFID initiative said, “Growing up was full of unbearable pains of search for water. We go as far as 15 kilometres to fetch water, which is expected to be used for drinking, cooking, bathing and other domestic uses.”

For Ameh and almost every member of Epeilo and other communities in Ogabdibo who spoke with Daily Independent, the story goes beyond the long travel in search of water.

“Going to the stream to fetch water is the easiest part of the trouble. Sometimes you become so weak carrying the mud pot of water on your way back that you end up throwing it away before getting home.

“We thank God, this has all ended since UNICEF brought the water project to us,” the clan head who is in his late seventies said.

For the women, it is an even bigger relief. Mrs. Mary Ameh, a petty trader in palm produce who recounted her own experience to Daily Independent during the visit to Epeilo said, “Going to the stream takes almost everything out of you. One has no time to cook good food for the family. In fact, some times the family will sleep without dinner because  you end up throwing away the water because of fatigue.”

With the new lease of life, the communities are, however, taking full ownership of the projects by doing everything to protect and maintain them.

One of the water dispesning points of the UNICEF/DFID sponsored water projects in Ogbadibo, Benue State

One of the water dispesning points of the UNICEF/DFID sponsored water projects in Ogbadibo, Benue State

Septuagenarian, Joseph Akor, who retired as Warrant Officer in the Nigerian Army, is the Chairman of Epeilo WASH Community initiative (WASHCOM). He has custody of the keys to the control taps, from which the people access water.

He said, “Imagine the burden that has been taken away from us. What else do we owe the people that brought this to us. Apart from the big thank you, we need to protect and maintain it.”

The community, through donations and levies, paid N200,000, being the mandatory five per cent counterpart fee required of them.

To sustain the project, Akor said, “We charge a token of N10 (ten naira) per container, regardless of the size, from anyone who requests to use the water. This is the money we use to maintain the facilities when the need arises without necessarily going into the WASH account.”

Giving further details, WASH Coordinator in Ogbadibo LGA, Felix Agada, said, “There are 64 units of the project across Ogbadibo LGA. The least served community in terms of population is about 500 to 800 with an average community having not less than 2000 people.”

He said the initiative, which has cured, to a high level, the biggest problem faced by the people of Ogbadibo could do better with more government support.