Blog

August 27, 2009

MALI: IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME: TURNING TRAGEDY INTO TOMORROW

A testimonial by Marc Joubert

In November of last year I traveled to Mali to produce a documentary film called Running the Sahara. We went to Africa to document three ultra-runners on an expedition to be the first men ever to cross the Sahara Desert on foot. But along that journey our trip took on a new purpose…

While in Africa I became acutely aware of the clean water crisis that plagues the Sahara: Vast stretches of land are uninhabitable due to the lack of water; Other areas are serviced only by contaminated, unfiltered, or otherwise insufficient primitive sources of water. Without this crucial resource, many of the local people are forced to live as nomads, carrying all their worldly possessions on their backs as they trek for days at a time to the closest source of clean water.

But in Mali, I saw hope. Africare had just implemented a water filtration and delivery system. Before, locals had to manually filter the water (which is largely ineffective,) then funnel it through open-air dirt ditches. But now, with Africare’s system in place, a motorized filtration unit and enclosed “pipes” carry clean, safe water relatively long distances. This water resource development could be used for irrigation to help create healthy crops that benefit the local’s health and nutrition, as well as their economy.

I watched as generously donated North American money was put to good use, making immediate, significant, and practical changes for many, many people, desperately in need of help. We could actually see the enormous benefit of just a small amount of money: A sustainable well in Saharan Africa can be created and maintained over a five-year period for as little as $10,000 (which equals just $10 a day).

It was inspiring to watch this transformation happen right before my eyes. Knowing I too could make a difference encouraged me to do more. Together with the documentary’s Executive Producer and narrator, Matt Damon, we founded the clean water initiative H2O Africa with a mission to support sustainable and integrated water programs: Programs accompanied by training and maintenance, to create a system that will live for the long run, and programs that complement other initiatives in the region, such as education and infrastructure development.

A clean-water well can provide a crucial resource to hundreds, or even thousands of people. But its benefits are even greater: These wells become epicenters of sustainable agriculture and then, in turn, economy, education, health care, human rights, environmental management, and more. They turn lands into towns, and nomads into villagers. They turn despair into hope, and tragedy into tomorrow.

To learn more about the clean water crisis and what you can do to help, or to make a donation to H2O Africa, please visit www.H2OAfrica.org

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