Welcome to the Community
Mapeh Village is full of farmers who belong to the Susu Tribe. The village was given to the Susu by the Temne. The warring Temne Tribe used to fight off all invading tribes to control the vast lands. The Susu people normally depend on fishing, but in this part of the chiefdom there is no river to fish so they instead have turned their attention to farming.
They get up early in the morning to start the one mile walk to the farm. Children and parents gather pots and everything they will need for the day's work. Walking along the foot path that is three to four feet wide, the children sing with a stick at hand to scare away any snakes that might be along the roadside.
At night after an hard day's work, the community gathers around the elders of the village to tell stories. There are no televisions here, but there is a young man with a portable DVD player, and people gather around his house to watch. He gets constant gifts from the villagers to get the opportunity to sit at the front. This village has no access to electricity, so charging phones is an all day event. It takes a long walk or a motorcycle ride to the nearby village to charge their phones. In a village of more than three hundred, only two people have telephones.
There are two hand-dug wells in the village. One is monitored by us, and the other belongs to a joint venture between the government and a foreign organization. This other well is supposed to have a warranty, but the Kardia pump ends up sitting in disrepair for a long period of time.
The well we monitor is located at the entrance of the village. Children are not allowed to use the pump, which is a rule that has limited the amount of repairs we've had to make.
Both of these wells stop working every dry season for anywhere from two to six months, causing the community to depend on dirty surface water.
Retired farmer Pa Alimamy Suma said, "The worst time of the year for us is when the wells dry up and we are left with no choice but to drink swamp water." This poses great danger to all in the community. Children have to take a bushy path to the swamp, risking snake bites. At the swamp, water is muddy and filled with tadpoles and small fish. The children suffer so much during these dry seasons without the wells; malaria, diarrhea, typhoid, and rashes are common as stomachs bloat with illness.
A handful of households still don't have a pit latrine of their own. These families instead share with their neighbor. The latrines we observed are made from palm leaves braided together into walls. But even though the majority has a pit, they still prefer to use the woods when nature calls; the latrines are left for guests and older people who can't make it to the woods.
There are no hand-washing stations here, but about half of homes have either a dish rack or clothesline.
Plans: Sanitation and Hygiene Training
Training will last for three hours a day for three days. The facilitators have already assessed sanitation here and decided that hand-washing and using the latrine will be strongly emphasized. During our hand-washing sessions, community members will be taught how to make their own hand-washing station out of a plastic jerrycan, sticks, and rope. These are the best solution for rural areas, since all the materials are all easily replaceable. Though pit latrines in this community are well-built, we also require that every family have their own.
Training will also result in the formation of a water user committee that will take responsibility for their new well. The members will manage and maintain the pump to the best of their ability, and will call our office if they need a mechanic to make a repair.
Plans: Well Rehabilitation
The well marked for this overhaul needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year round. The pump will be removed, and a man will be lowered inside with a hand auger. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a new water table, which will ensure the well supplies water throughout the drier seasons. As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming this hand-dug well into a pseudo-borehole. PVC piping will connect this lower system directly to the pump, a construction that we know will also improve the quality of water.
Once this plan is implemented, everyone within the community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.