Fetching Water on a Saturday Morning


Local children using a well pump donated by JICA - Japanese International Cooperation Agency in Mara River Basin, Tanzania. Photo credit: Ana Lemos

Local children pump ground water in the Mara River Basin, Tanzania. © Ana Lemos 2016

On a typical Saturday morning in Miami, you can find children playing on the beach, in the yard, or on their tablet in the living room. On a typical Saturday morning in rural parts of the Mara River Basin in Tanzania, you can find children fetching and hauling water, farming, or minding their younger siblings.

Fetching water is a task left almost exclusively to women and children in many parts of the world. Culturally, men do not fetch water in most places in the world because they are busy with farming, animal husbandry, or other tasks assigned a gender divide. This is particularly true in underdeveloped rural areas. The SELVA field team discovered that this is no exception in the Mara River Basin during their March 2016 field trip. Through discussions with local water users in villages, we found that children, such as the group in the photograph, and women can take up to 2 hours one direction to fetch water during the dry season. Depending on the size of their family and containers for hauling, this trip is taken up to 6 times in a single day. Simple math can illuminate the fact that this means approximately the entire length of the daylight hours is spent in pursuit of water. This work leaves little time for anything else.

Women and children use plastic containers, like jerry cans and 20-liter buckets, to transport the water on their heads.  Water pumps, such as the one here donated by JICA – Japanese International Cooperation Agency – produce clear, but salty water . This water is not good for drinking. Local wells produce grey colored water. Wells provided by other development groups produce no water at all. There are only a few rain catchment systems, donated by the local chapter of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). Otherwise locals must use surface water. The Mara River is available year-round, and a few tributaries, secondary rivers that enter the Mara, flow during the rainy season.

There are risks associated with hauling water directly from the Mara River that threaten women and children’s lives and health. Risks include wildlife threats like crocodiles and hippos, exposure to water borne disease such as malariacholera and schistosomiasis, and the river itself can flood suddenly or the weakened riverbanks can collapse. When mothers send their children to bring water, they do not know whether they will return safely. Improved water supplies can help to address this particular set of risks associated with the security of women and children in their relationship with water resources.

Learn Swahili language

mamba: crocodile  |  kiboko: hippo  |  maji: water

Posted in communities, ecosystems, environment, Mara River basin, SELVA, sustainable water, Tanzania, Uncategorized, water resources, water security