The IoS Christmas Appeal: Solar power frees thousands from risks of search for water

Simple pumps have saved villagers from a dangerous job

Imagine that, instead of turning a tap, you had to walk more than 10 miles every time you wanted water. And that you then had to descend into a crumbling pit dug in a dry riverbed, to scoop out dirty water with your bare hands, knowing that it could make you and your family sick.

In the drought-stricken areas of Africa where the charity Practical Action works, this is the fate of thousands of village women. They are also at risk of rape, attack by wild animals – or, in Sudan's Darfur region, where Practical Action was one of only a handful of aid organisations to remain throughout the conflict, death at the hands of marauding militias.

Even in Kenya, normally considered more stable, lingering drought in the northern Turkana region has led to violent clashes over water sources. No wonder that Eshe Emase, of Namoruputh village, said: "Every time I am forced to fetch water, my legs shake with fear." But women like her, whose men are often away seeking work, have no choice. If they bring back no water, their families face not only thirst but eventual starvation, because their animals would die.

Practical Action, which is being supported by The Independent on Sunday's Christmas Appeal, exists to find appropriate technological solutions for problems such as water supply. The answer for Namoruputh was brilliant in its simplicity: if climate change has left Turkana with too much sun and not enough water, use solar power to pump water up from underground reserves. The village now has a solar pump which brings up to 10,000 litres of water an hour from a 100m deep well, serving more than 10,500 people.

"We used to have regular cases of water-related disease, including diarrhoea and typhoid, but that's a thing of the past," said Mark Amojong, the village chief. Ms Emase and her children no longer have to spend two hours a day collecting water, carrying containers weighing 20kg over long distances. The children now go to school, and their mother can grow more food, such as cow peas, kale and pumpkins, for the family. "Soon I won't be going to the market to buy vegetables," she said. "I will be going to sell my own instead."

While the initial investment in solar pumping, at nearly £7,700, is relatively expensive, that is only 74p a person. Practical Action makes sure that local people are trained to keep the system running for as long as 25 years.

Many of the charity's techniques are as cheap as they are ingenious. In Sudan, where fresh food quickly perishes in the blinding heat, the charity has devised an earthenware "fridge" called a zeer pot, which can keep 12kg of produce fresh for up to three weeks. A small clay pot is fitted inside a larger one, with a layer of wet sand in between. Fruit and vegetables are stored in the inner pot, which is covered with a damp cloth and left in a very dry, ventilated place. As the moisture evaporates, the temperature in the inner container falls several degrees, preserving the contents. The improvement in diets is dramatic. The zeer pots cost just £12.50 to make.

No people are more vulnerable than those who have lost their land because of drought. Living in camps, dependent on food handouts, they are easy prey for armed groups. Yet with help from Practical Action, communities across Sudan have built dams to capture such rain as does fall, enabling thousands to stay on the land and improve their lives. Many can now eat three meals a day.

Lubna Mohammed Adam, who lost her husband in the Darfur conflict, helped carry blocks of stone to build a dam near her village of Abu Degaise. "Now there is water where there was none," she said. She can grow sorghum, watermelon and cucumber – some to eat, some to sell. One of her neighbours, Mohammed Yahya Mohammed, said people could previously grow crops for only four months of the year, and had to migrate to the capital, Khartoum, in the summer to look for work. Since the dam was built, the growing season had doubled to eight months, transforming the community.

In eastern Sudan, Mohammed Nor faced leaving the farm that had supported the family in the time of his father and grandfather, but another dam, built with Practical Action's help, saved their way of life. "For too long we felt forgotten," he said. "I was determined that my family wouldn't move, but we were struggling to find a way to survive. Now we are farming, growing crops to sell at market: we can rely on ourselves."

These people are testimony to the effectiveness of Practical Action's methods. Your donations to the IoS Christmas Appeal will enable the charity to deliver direct help where it is needed most.

What your money can buy

You could help transform poor families' lives. So please, give whatever you can to help lift more people out of poverty today.

£60 helps 80 people get clean water from a solar-powered pump.

£125 buys ploughs and tools for a community to irrigate their land.

£200 pays for zeer pots for 16 families.

£570 could purchase two sets of sluice gates for earth dams.


Suggested Topics
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice