Shallow Wells for Rural Uganda

wellaThe people of Makondo, a rural village in Uganda, gave Sister Dympna the name 'Namayanja'. It means 'bringing water from the big lake'.

She didn't actually bring water from any lake. She helped the people get it out of the ground under their feet through a series of shallow wells. It is clean water, right there where the villagers need it.

"When we went to Makondo first we did a survey. The wells in the villages produced very dirty water. All the dirt from the hills was flowing into them. We went around just to see which wells could be improved and which couldn't. It took us ages to get at these wells. We had to educate the people that there was something wrong. After all, their grandfathers had been drinking from these wells and they survived. That's where health education in village life comes in. We have to help the people to see the importance of clean water and that good hygiene is important for good health.

"The local authorities were very helpful. Masaka District Local Authority sent out consultants and technicians. The people themselves provided the labour. Before long everybody had become involved. The women cooked food for the workers; the men did the digging. The consultants worked from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm, then moved on to the next site, leaving the local people to finish it off. When they first saw the clear water flowing the people said it was like the miracle of the wine at Cana.

"So far twelve wells have been completed. There are about eight more to do. Each well supplies about three villages. These are close enough for the people to walk to without much hardship.

"We don't pipe the water. It is the tradition that people come to collect it. Piped water gets lost because people leave the taps on. They bring twenty-litre jerry cans to the well, which has a hand pump. If the jerry cans are clean, then the water they take home will be clean. This is what is taught by the village health workers."