A broken rope-washer pump installed last year in a small community on the road to Pejehun

The rope on the rope-and-washer pump in the compound has broken again today. It happens about once a every 2-3 weeks and it means until it can be repaired there is no way to collect water without making the 15 minute walk to the well down the road.  The interesting thing is though that this event doesn’t seem to worry anyone in the compound enough to motivate them to repair the rope in the same way that, say, running out of fuel for the generator would.

The, perhaps more pertinant thing, is that the same attitudes exist in rural villages where there isn’t another well just down the road.  Villages where the broken well is the only source of safe water for the community, the alternative being a long walk to the nearest stream.

The people I’ve met here in Sierra Leone are generally some of the most resourceful tinkerers I have met anywhere.  Their capacity to repair vehicles, generators, even mobile phones (need a new circuit board or screen soldering in? No problem…) yet when it comes to pumps and water supply, the motivation just doesn’t seem to be there.  And yet these communities fully understand the risks they face drinking unsafe water.

If I can return to the UK with at least a tentative understanding of why this disparity exists I’ll really have achieved something.


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