I cannot take credit for the Bacho Community Survey attached to my May 18 post. My wife Marianne and I and Karimu’s other volunteers spend only ten days out of each summer in Bacho, not enough time for a painstaking look at the villagers’ lives. So we commissioned a friend of ours to arrange a survey. This was Julian Page, founder of the Livingstone Tanzania Trust (www.livingstonetanzaniatrust.com), who enjoys the freedom to stay much longer in Tanzania. Unfortunately, Julian speaks little Swahili. For this reason he farmed out the task of going door-to-door to his Tanzanian friend Jason Kahembe, son of Joas Kahembe, without whose vision and hard work neither Karimu nor the Livingstone Tanzania Trust would ever have come into existence; I’ll talk about Joas in forthcoming posts. Yet Julian wrote up the survey results at his flat in London, which explains the Briticisms apparent in the few words from him that I quote below. (Already this past March, when he stayed with us in California for a week, he had steeled himself against the inevitable heartache of the World Cup, now less than two weeks away.)
Julian notes on page six that “in every case Bacho are better off than other communities” in the region with respect to “proximity of services,” including education, healthcare, and a source of firewood. He does not indicate an average distance to collect water but reports on page three that the “community do not lack water and so food security and vulnerability are not concerns.” Indeed, Bacho’s verdant hills and valleys evoke Hawaii for Marianne and me and, on our first visit to Africa in 2007, came as sweet consolation after our experience of other parts of northern Tanzania. Marianne in particular had reacted with shock to the frequent sight of women and children carrying plastic buckets full of water—up to five gallons, possibly—on their heads. We saw them walking next to roads stretching without end over dry, dusty flatlands giving no hint that water might lie nearby, so we asked our driver, Francis, how far they needed to walk. “From here it’s about five kilometers to the closest water, and the village is another five kilometers back that way.” We had not overlooked the village Francis referred to because we couldn’t, since its demoralized scatter of mud huts announced privation of every kind. Then, a little later, “For the people in this village, it’s harder: probably fifteen kilometers to water.” People who live by farming the land cannot cluster around a source of water. They have to disperse widely across the land—especially where moisture is scarce and even backbreaking labor yields very few calories per acre.
In contrast, Bacho has plenty of water, but we worry about its cleanliness. Jason Kahembe’s data (page seventeen) show diarrhea as commonplace in the village, not surprisingly since it is, as Julian says on page eighteen, the “second largest killer of children under 5 on a global basis.” The villagers seem unconcerned about their water, yet perhaps only because malaria and intestinal worms assault them far more often. I have written before about Karimu’s plans to bring mosquito nets and a campaign to encourage handwashing to Bacho. Now I should give credit to one of the volunteers for our trip this August. Tiffany Wise-West, a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, will test the quality of Bacho’s water and has already prepared recommendations in the event that, as we anticipate, Karimu must find a way to clean it up. I am not an engineer and this kind of thing lies well outside my field of expertise. After we return from our trip, though, I will report Tiffany’s findings and draw upon her knowledge to explain the solution she proposes.
That assumes Tiffany will identify a water problem which demands a solution, of course. In the meantime we can hope that Bacho’s water is as healthy as the villagers believe and that we will not need a solution.—Don Stoll