Women & Girls

Solar-powered well delves for clean water in the desert

By Heifer International

March 21, 2019

Solar-powered well delves for clean water in the desert

In This Article

  • Although life has never been easy in Africa's Sahel region, where rain isn’t seen for 8 months of the year, the effects of a growing human population led to increased soil erosion and desertification.
  • Water is scarce, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get.
  • Every day before and after school, 10-year-old Khardiata Alassane Ba gathers water wherever it can be found, including muddy puddles left from rare rainfalls.
  • A solar-powered well is in the works to help Khardiata's community and others have access to clean water and a better life.

Daily life in the community of Nakara, Senegal, is not easy, and it takes a whole family pitching in to make it. But for thousands of families in the northeast of Senegal, finding clean water will no longer be a problem thanks to an ambitious solar-powered well.

In between two iconic landscapes, the vast Sahara Desert to the north and the tropical grasslands of the savanna in the south, Africa’s Sahel region stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. 

The Sahel is nearing a population of 100 million people. Although life has never been easy in a place where rain isn’t seen for 8 months of the year, the effects of a growing human population led to increased soil erosion and desertification starting around 50 years ago.

In the community of Nakara in northeast Senegal, as in most places in the Sahel, water is  scarce, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get. Every day before and after school, 10-year-old Khardiata Alassane Ba helps her mother, Mariame Modi Sow, with the chores, which includes gathering water wherever it can be found.  "Almost every day, you go and look for donkeys," Khardiata said. "When you come back, you take a donkey cart. If you don't have a bucket, you need to do everything to get one. Take it and go get water."

In addition to water for drinking, families must find water for cleaning, tending to animals and other activities. Khardiata and her mother also collect water to mix with cow manure to make biogas.

In the near future, families in Nakara will have a cleaner, more accessible source of water through the Heifer Senegal project. A well is under construction between Nakara and Younoufrere, another community pariticpating in a Heifer project.  Pipes will carry water up from a nearly 400-foot borehole. Since the well is so deep, a traditional handpump won't do at all. So, a solar-powered generator will be brought in to pump the water up from far under the ground. Once the well is finished, it will provide clean drinking water for two communities. The water will also be used to irrigate vegetable gardens and keep animals healthy. 

Khardiata and her family also received chickens from Heifer Senegal. The eggs provide both income and valued protein in their diets. Additionally, families in Nakara received hair sheep, which Khardiata sometimes milks with the help of her friend Aminata Harouna Sow. 

Before the sun comes up, Khardiata starts her day with ablution and morning prayers. In addition to all her chores, some days Khardiata uses a wooden notebook to learn the Koran during her informal religious schooling. Unfortunately, her family cannot yet afford to send her to the community's school. For a child to attend primary school in Nakara, it costs the family about $80 a month, a fee Khardiata's family cannot currently pay. But that will change soon through the family's invovelment in the Heifer Senegal project, starting with clean water.