March 18th-March 25th
Dear Friends of the Azawak,
We spent another week in Niamey, meeting with various individuals and organizations, and repairing my truck. The truck is finally in tip top shape, and we'll be off tomorrow for the bush of the Azawak. I've been waiting for this moment for such a long time… but I'm also apprehensive… we are leaving during the hottest and hardest time of the year. Water fetchers will be making their 30 mile round-trip treck for water in up to 120 degree heat. Wells will often be dry, and the few functioning wells will be severely overcrowded. This is the time of the year when the death rate for children soars sky high due to the woeful lack of water. Our team will have to be strong when dealing with the heat, lack of water, and most importantly, our emotions when witnessing the extreme suffering and hardships. Despite all this, I am certain that we will be welcomed with smiles and laughter, and showered with gifts of meat and milk.
We had two very rewarding meetings this week. The first was with the water program coordinator at UNICEF. He was very interested in our project, and would like us to submit a proposal for a partnership. UNICEF is already working south of our target area, and would like to extend its work to the north. UNICEF could help finance a few boreholes, and would use our help determining sites, conducting the geological study, and instating water resource management committees.
The second meeting of particular interest was with the Traditional Chief of Tchintabaradène, our target region's leader. He is extremely supportive of our work, and has offered to help Amman Imman. He thanked us for helping his people, and confirmed that organizations rarely show interest in his region. Before I could say anything about the type of water sources we hope to build, he said, "shallow wells, you see, have to be dug so deep and they dry up. They are too difficult to use. If you really want to help, please consider building boreholes". I assured him that this was our plan, and then asked how many people use one well at a time during this time of the year. He answered, "you won't believe me if I tell you… up to 20,000 to 25,000 people and at least double or triple that amount of animals".
This meeting confirmed everything I have been saying for the past year. I have been criticized by many people for claiming that so many people use one water source at a time. I have also been highly criticized for wanting to build expensive infrastructure, even though I repeatedly say that one costly borehole will serve the needs of a very large number of people, therefore rendering the cost minimal and worthwhile. Due to all the criticism I have received, I had begun doubting myself and the entire project. Yet ever since our team arrived in Niger, authorities such as various members of the Ministry of Hydraulics, and public officials from our target region have repeatedly reiterated everything that I have been claiming ever since Amman Imman was founded. I will now document the truth with photos and video so that those unable to travel to the Azawak can witness the real conditions in our target region for themselves.
I will do my best to be in touch while away in the bush. Please keep the Amman Imman team in your thoughts and prayers.