In the last edition, we brought to our readers the position of the Gambia Government with regard to Water and Sanitation as stated in the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment blueprint (PAGE) 2012 -2015. We also promised to bring in subsequent editions issues dealing with the water situation in rural Gambia and given village by village coverage.
We will be focusing on the scarcity of water in Jahanka Village in the Upper Fuladuu west district, Central River Region North of the Gambia, to show how the villagers are compelled to travel to Kerr Saineh village in the neighbouring Republic of Senegal to get water for domestic consumption, as well as for their cattle and small ruminants.
Rural developmental experts have argued that in order to broaden opportunities for rural poverty reduction and economic growth, there is need for a broad approach to rural growth and emphasis on the larger rural non-farm economy.
They go further to state that a focus on these two areas: smallholder agriculture and the rural non-farm economy, requires particular attention to and increasing investment in four issues namely:
Improving the overall environment of rural areas to make them places where people can find greater opportunities and face fewer risks, and where rural youth can build a future.
To do this, rural developmental experts argue that greater investment and attention are needed in infrastructure and utilities particularly roads, electricity, water supply and renewable energy.
The focus of this edition is on the lack of water and proper sanitation in rural Gambia.
Public Health Scientists have also argued that adequate and safe water is important for human health and well-being, economic production, and sustainable development.
Failure to ensure safety and access to drinking water, Women and young girls, who are the major role-players in accessing and carrying water, would be prevented from doing income-generating work or attending school, as the majority of their days are often spent walking from their village to other villages for their daily water needs.
Although drinking water is a basic human right, many people do not have access to safe and adequate drinking water in rural Gambia.
WATER SITUATION IN JAHANKA
To go to Jahanka, one has to branch off the Soma- Basse highway, constructed by the European Union, at Sololo and travel 24 kilometers on poor road to reach Jahanka.
A woman from Jahanka, whose population increases in size on weekly market days but relies on a neighbouring village in Senegal to have access to water, thus depriving the villagers of proper sanitation and of having water to even perform ablution in their mosque, has this to say:
“Our main problem in Jahanka as women is the lack of water in the village,” said Fatou Ceesay.
When asked how they are coping with the water scarcity, Fatou stated that they do travel to a nearby village in Senegal to get water which, she said, depends on whether one has the means of transport.
She said for those with the means of transport, they use horses or donkeys to transport water from Kerr Saineh in Senegal, and for those without horse or donkey cart, she said, they have no option but to fetch water from the muddy well in the village and keep it for hours so that the mud would settle down in the container and then they would use it.
Also explaining how the villagers get water in Kerr Saineh in Senegal, Matar Ceesay stated that there are two options in Kerr Saineh with regard to getting water. One option is that if one needs water free of charge, one can get it from the well by encountering the hardship of fetching it manually from the well, and the other option is to get water by fetching it from the standpipe and in that case one has to pay D1 per 20 litre container, he said.
The villagers asserted that the most pressing need of the village is the lack of clean drinking for their only source of clean drinking water is a hand pump well built by a charitable organization and which now has a problem.
They call on the Regional and Central Governments, as well as all those human beings who are interested in the health and wellbeing of people living in rural areas, to come to their help in providing them with clean and safe drinking water which is indispensable to their health.