Within a few days of traveling through Ethiopia you will notice countless donkeys and Jerry cans all across the region. They are interdependent to one another. Where humans reside, you will see soon see the dynamic duo in close proximity. What is a Jerry can? The Jerry can is an extremely resourceful tool used throughout Ethiopia for various tasks such as a means to transfer materials to a construction site, as a sink to wash hands before eating, as a stool to sit on after a long day, or as a storage container but most importantly the Jerry can is used to transport water to the household.
Jerry’s counterpart, Donkey, often called “the helping hooves” of humankind, has been used to transport people, materials and cargo for over 5000 years. Donkeys are able to travel all terrains, and with their strength and excellent memory capabilities they are valuable assets in developing nations. As one Ethiopian saying goes “A farmer without a donkey is a donkey himself”. For most people in Ethiopia automobiles are too expensive to acquire therefore they use donkeys as their mode of transportation.
Ethiopia is home to over 94 million people, with about 76 million residing in rural, remote areas. Due to the majority of the people living in such remote areas it is often difficult to deliver improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services to those villages. Currently, about 50% of the people do not have access to clean water and about 80% do not have access to adequate sanitation. Therefore most of the families who reside in rural villages rely on unimproved water sources like streams, rivers and hand dug wells to collect their water. These water sources are shared with animals and are polluted with animal and human wastes. Open water sources are host to various water-related diseases that contribute to debilitating illnesses. Often the water source is located many miles away from the village, which can take up to 2-3 hours to collect water for the family. The chore of fetching water belongs to young children and women, varying in all ages. This is where Donkey + Jerry come in. The women and children travel to their water source up to 3-6 miles, up to 3 times a day to collect their water with their jerry cans. They fill them up and carry them by back or by Donkey to provide water for their families. Fortunately, there are organizations like WaterAid Ethiopia (WAE) that work with local NGO’s like Ethiopian Orthodox Church – Development and Inter Church Aid Commission (EOC – DICAC), Emmanuel Development Association (EDA) and local government offices to launch WASH services to these villages. They work to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services through education, funding and sustainable project installations. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling the field with WaterAid Ethiopia and ECO-DICAC to witness the growth and challenges of installing water and sanitation services throughout rural Gonder and Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Before any WASH project begins, WAE and local partners make sure each village is educated in sanitation and hygiene practices. They also assist the village create their own action plan for continuous sanitation and hygiene practices for communal accountability. Once the village has passed their sanitation evaluation, WAE and local partners begin installing their improved water project. As part of the action plan and agreement the community must contribute a minimal fee and in-kind donations of physical labor to assist in the building of their new and improved water source. They do this to ensure every village member senses ownership for the project. It ensures the continued success of the project and it creates responsibility, accountability and community-efficiency. Although much progress has been made, there is a long way to go to ensure that all communities have the opportunity to receive WASH services for a better, healthier Ethiopia. http://www.npr.org/2013/01/10/168894175/clinics-come-to-the-rescue-of-ethiopias-overworked-donkeys 01/10/13 http://country-facts.findthedata.com/l/84/Ethiopia 02/25/15