Update on the Well Project

It’s been a little more difficult to find time to blog lately.  One of the best things about our life and work in Soddo last year was the flexibility of our time.  We were busy and had lots to do, but we mostly controlled our time and when we worked.  Those days are over now that we’re back at “real jobs” in the city.

Nonetheless, we wanted to give a little blog update on our well drilling project.  For those of you who followed our fund-raising campaign at www.glassofhope.org, you’ll know that we met our goal of $80,000 by the end of September.  We were amazed at all the generous people who gave to the campaign.  It was a real “Obama-style” fund-raising campaign with lots of people giving $100 or so until we reached our goal.  Again, we want to say a huge thank you to all who supported the campaign.

So now that we’ve got the money raised, it’s time to get this well drilled.  We’re working steadily towards that.  As with everything in Ethiopia, projects tend to move a little slower than one would like.  We’ve been delayed recently ensuring that we have the best drilling location selected and the best drilling company for that location.  Our originally selected location for drilling, recommended to us by the hydrogeologist, was in the gorge below our compound, about 20 meters outside of our lower fence.  Before drilling, we wanted to compare costs with a drill location within our compound, which would make it a little closer to pipe the water to our storage tanks and would make it a little easier for the drill rig to access the site.  The problem is that now that we live and work in Addis, many of these arrangements take a little more time to coordinate and they involve long day or weekend trips down to Awassa to meet with Water is Life or down to Soddo to meet with the hydrogeologist.

(And as a side note… These trips aren’t any easier when you have to pay a police bribe in order to make a meeting on time because the officer insists that your right brake light doesn’t work, even though it was working fine that morning and still working fine later that day.  Or when you rent a car that doesn’t have a functioning fuel gage, and you end up out of gas on the side of the road in the middle of rural Oromia, 50 km from the nearest fuel station).

Our exploration of this alternative drill site revealed that drilling within our compound fence would increased our depth estimate considerably (from 180 meters to over 200 meters), which meant we had to reach out to some other drillers with the capacity to drill to greater depths.  The companies that operate these larger drill rigs are considerably more expensive because they are purely for-profit drilling companies, they use more expensive equipment, they use larger drill bits, which drill a larger borehole, and they come from Addis.  So, after 6 weeks of exploring this other option, we have concluded that our original plan was the best plan.

We are now hoping to be drilling within the next month.  We lost our slot in line with Water is Life during our exploration of the other option, so we have to again wait for them to have their drilling equipment available.  We also need to secure a written agreement from the Soddo municipality to drill on the public land outside our compound (we currently have a verbal agreement, but are still awaiting on the formal written agreement).

So despite the delays, we’re still very excited about this project and moving forward with it.  If all goes well from here forward, we still hope to have the project completed by mid-dry season so that the Children’s Home doesn’t have to suffer through months with no water again this year.  Thanks again for all your support.  We’ll continue to keep you updated and once the drilling does begin, you’ll be able to track the progress with pictures on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/hainesgotoethiopia).

We were able to spend the week in Soddo last week.  Spending the week with the kids again reminded me why we’re doing this project to start with.  We’ll close with a couple of pictures from last week.

 

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Sticker Shock

Eighty thousand dollars is a lot of money.  A price tag with $80 thousand on it causes some sticker shock.  This is what we’re trying to raise for the deep borehole well in Wolaita Soddo for the kids at the CCC orphanage.

We’re at nearly $60 thousand.  A lot of people have given generously to help us get to this point.  We have enough to move forward with the drilling and casing of the well, which is scheduled to begin in October.  We’d like to express a big thanks to all of you who have donated to this cause.  We still need $20 thousand more to fully complete the project.

In the process of raising funds for this well, we’ve experience some push back from some people asking why it costs so much to drill this well.  These are very legitimate concerns.  It is a big price tag and with the amount of wastage and corruption that sometimes happens with “aid and development” projects, I fully respect these questions.  If people are going to donate to a cause, they want to be assured that their money is going to be used wisely and effectively.  Below I have set out to provide a little explanation of the costs for the CCC well project.

The price is a combination of factors, mostly connected to the depth to which we have to drill and from which we have to pump in order to have a consistent, reliable water source, given our location.  People who haven’t been to Ethiopia, do not always realize that much of the country is highland terrain.  People often have images of dry, low-lying savanna and desert.  There are certainly parts of Ethiopia that are hot, low and dry, but the majority of the country actually sits on terrain above 6000 feet.  The capital city of Addis Ababa, for example, lies mostly between 7500 and 8000 feet.  The town of Soddo in the Wolaita Zone, where the CCC orphanage is located, lies between 6000 and 7000 feet (the CCC orphanage itself is at 6500 feet).  This elevation, combined with the specific geological and hydrological characteristics of the area, means that in order to hit an aquifer that will supply year-round water, a deep borehole well on our compound will likely be between 500 and 600 feet deep.  That’s a very deep well.

There are very few places in North America where people have to drill to 500 feet to hit a consistent water source.  I grew up with my family home on a well outside of Moncton, NB, Canada.  Our well of 90 feet has served my family home well for over 30 years.  I just did a quick search online of well logs in various regions of the United States.  This is by no means an exhaustive piece of research, but in Ohio I found most wells between 30 – 80 feet deep.  In Oregon, I found wells between 100 – 200 feet deep, with a few over 300.  In Missouri, I found wells everywhere from 50 – 300 feet.  Even in Colorado, where the elevations are similar to Ethiopia, I found most wells between 200 – 400 feet, with very few over 500 feet deep.  In fact, in regions of Colorado where the elevation was similar to Soddo (between 6000 – 7000 feet), most of the wells I found were still less than 200 feet deep.  The same would be true of most of the African continent.  There would be very few places in Africa with terrain at the elevation that it is in Wolaita Soddo.  Every well will be different and very specific to the exact drilling location, but the point is, drilling to over 500 feet to find consistent water is a problem quite unique to our location in Wolaita.  Drilling to this kind of depth is expensive.

The best quote that we received for the drilling and casing of our well is through Water is Life International (www.waterislifeinternational.com) and their drilling partner Hawassa Salem Drillers PLC.  They have quoted us at $80 / meter.  Of course, once a well is drilled, it must be cased to keep the well from collapsing.  Our costs for casing will be at $60 / meter (for PVC casing because steel was just too cost prohibitive).  Obviously, the deeper one has to drill and case, the more costly a well will be.  At these costs, just the per meter costs of drilling and casing a well to 180 meters is over $25,000 and that doesn’t include mobilization costs for the rig and equipment, purification and testing costs for the well, site preparation costs, etc.  It also doesn’t even touch on pump purchase and installation costs, water storage costs, piping costs, labor, taxes (15% VAT here in Ethiopia), etc.

Another unique aspect of the CCC compound is that it sits on a side-hill that slopes at a 60-degree angle, down into a small gorge about 600 feet below the children’s home.  Our hydro-geological survey and report for the site recommends that we drill on the lower end of the compound because that is the cheapest and most probable place to hit water.  What this means, though, is that we have to, not only pump water to the surface of the well, but we have to pump it up our side hill to the top of the compound and then to the top of our storage tanks.  We will, therefore, need a pump with the capacity to pump water a total of 1,100 vertical feet (over 500 feet from water level to the surface of the well, then an additional 500 vertical feet from the surface of the well to the top of our water storage tanks).  These kinds of pumps are expensive, to the tune of $12,000, plus they require 3-phase electrical power, which the orphanage compound does not currently have.  Installing 3-phase electrical power with a 21 KW transformer on our compound costs another $9000.  You can quickly see how these costs are adding up.

As we explored this project and costs of it, we researched all the cheaper options available.  Unfortunately, each of these options failed to meet the specific needs of our orphanage compound.

First, we looked at hand-dug wells with hand-pumps.  These types of wells are very popular around Africa because they’re cheap.  You can dig a well with local, unskilled labor and install an pretty low-tech pumping system like the India Mark II or the Afridev or even a rope and washer system and have a well completed that can serve the needs a 100 or so people in a village for probably between $500 – $1000.  The cost-to-impact ratio of these types of wells is fabulous.  Let’s say a $1000 well with India Mark II pump serves a community of 100 people.  That’s $10 / person.  That’s really ensuring that donated funds have maximum impact.  The problem is that the CCC compound has a hand-dug well that’s 18 meters deep and is completely dry and useless for almost half the year because shallow groundwater simply isn’t sufficient in Wolaita to supply year-round water.

Second, we looked at new hand-drilling technology like what is being used by groups like iDE in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia.  This technology involves a human-powered bit apparatus that can drill through soft geological formations down to 200 feet using only local manpower.  These drill teams are charging about $6 / meter (as compared to the $80 / meter that we’ve been quoted).  This type of technology is having a huge impact on communities in the Rift Valley because it’s bringing a consistent water source to farming communities for drinking and irrigation at affordable costs.  A 200-foot well, installed with a small diesel pump, can provide water to a community of a 100+ families.  With drilling, casing and pumping, this kind of deep well could be done for well under $10,000, which could easily provide water for 500+ people with a cost-to-impact ratio of less than $20 / person. The problem is, this technology cannot handle the medium-to-hard geological formations of Wolaita, nor the 500+ feet of depth required for a year-round well in Wolaita.

Third, a lot of people have suggested to us water filtration systems.  Biosand filters have become a popular tool for purifying water in developing countries.  These filters can be developed for about $100 and can serve about 100 people.  That’s a great cost-to-impact ratio; that’s $1 / person to provide clean drinking water.  Obviously, though, the catch is that one needs to have a water source in order to purify water through a filter.  In Wolaita during the dry season, its not only an issue of unclean water, it’s an issue of water period.  If we don’t receive water from the town (we commonly only receive a few hours / week of town water from Dec. – Mar.), we have to rely on “donkey water,” which is water carried in jerry cans on the backs of donkeys from a spring 30 min. away.  As we learned last year, it’s very difficult to run a healthy children’s home of 60 kids when our only source of water many days is by the jerry can.  It would take 1 donkey water carrier with two donkeys all day to make the 6 trips to and from the spring necessary to supply enough water for us to barely function at the home.  Barely functioning meant that drinking water was rationed, toilets weren’t flushed, and cleaning and bathing was limited.  Our issue at the CCC orphanage is less about water quality and more about water access.

So it is very true that the cost-to-impact ratio of our well project for the orphanage is poor in comparison to other possible water projects one could donate to.  You could donate $1000 to an organization installing Biosand filters and impact 1000 people.  You cold donate a $1000 to an organization digging hand-dug wells and impact at least a 100 people.  You could donate a $1000 to an organization involved in hand-drilling technology, and together with 10 other like-donors, you could impact 500 – 1000 people.  Or you could donate a $1000 to our glassofhope project for a well for the CCC orphanage, and only after we raise another $79,000, could you help to impact 60 kids.  If you base it on the cost-to-impact of your donated money, our project does not make sense.

But here’s the thing.  Donating to all those other great water projects doesn’t help get water to the 60 kids living at the CCC orphanage in Wolaita Soddo, because those projects don’t work for the CCC compound.  There is sticker shock with this project, but it is the only way to provide consistent, year-round water for the CCC orphanage.  We only have $20 thousand more to go; please help us keep the momentum going.  Please share, email, facebook, tweet, blog, etc.

 

P.S.

Just to put it slightly in perspective…  the two presidential candidate campaigns for U.S. president during the month of July alone received a total of $175 million in donated funds.  I’ll leave it up to the reader to do the cost-to-impact analysis of those funds…

It’s Green and Wet Now…

When we lived in Chicago, Richelle worked for a number of years with a refugee resettlement organization.  As a result, we had a lot of contact with new-to-America refugee families, many of which, for a few years, were from East Africa.  During the summer, we were often part of planning picnic events at the park with these families.  Often refugee families had been told by resettlement case workers about how cold Chicago gets in the winter, but having recently arrived in Chicago, sitting on the beach in July watching their kids swim in Lake Michigan, it was very difficult for them to imagine.  While playing soccer, barefoot in the sand, it was impossible to explain to them how in January the lake freezes over, there’s snow on the ground, and the lakefront is completely void of people, because even with parka coats, gloves, hats and boots, the cold biting wind can chill you to the bone.

Ethiopia does not have such seasonal differences of temperature, but its annual cycles are no less extreme.  In Ethiopia it is precipitation that sets the seasons apart.  This morning, looking off the veranda of the CCC Home, I see beautiful, green, lush, rolling hills descending to the south and west of Soddo.  The Wolaita region received decent belg (spring) rains and it’s now krempt, the main rainy season, during which the region, like most of Ethiopia, receives about 80 – 90% of it’s total annual rainfall.  Farmers in Wolaita have corn, barley, wheat, sorghum and lots of vegetables growing. It’s a very fertile time of year.  Because of sufficient rain, streams and springs are running and shallow wells are giving water.  With all the rain, there will be plenty of water for the next several months.

But it doesn’t remain this way in Ethiopia.  If someone was just visiting the country for the first time right now, it would be difficult to imagine why this country often suffers from drought and food shortages, but that’s the seasonal extreme of Ethiopia.  Come December in Wolaita, the landscape will be brown, all the streams will be dry, the springs will have deteriorated to a trickle, and the hand-pump wells will pump nothing but air.  The fine dust will lie like snow banks on the sides of the dirt roads on the outskirts of town, and the clayish soil will harden and crack like bricks.  It will remain this way from early December through the end of March.  Wolaita actually has one of the shorter dry seasons compared to most regions in Ethiopia.  The fact that it remains relatively green through into Nov. is unique in this country.  But the problem in Wolaita, with both food and water, is compounded by population density.  Despite being overwhelmingly rural (88.5%), Wolaita is the most densely populated region in Ethiopia (a population in 2007 of 1.5 million in a area a little smaller than Delaware; this gives it a population density similar to Rhode Island, the 2nd most densely populated state in the U.S.).   This is why, despite being relatively fertile with relatively high levels of precipitation, there are problems of malnutrition and there is a lack of access to water.  The resources and infrastructure are not sufficient to sustain the population.

During the dry season (Dec. – Mar.) the town water system wells run low, so the supply of water from the town is greatly reduced.  The system is unable to supply consistent water to the growing population of the town.  During the best of weeks during this time of year, the CCC Home only has running water from the town system a couple of days per week, and usually not for more than a few hours at a time.  In addition, the compound hand-pump well runs out of water by Dec. and usually is not useable again until sometime in late April or May when enough rain has replenished the well.  All this means that for several days per week from Dec. – Mar., the CCC compound is without water, making the entire operation of the home of sixty children (cooking, cleaning, flushing toilets, washing clothes, drinking, and bathing) dependent on water carried from a spring 30 minutes away in jerry cans on the backs on donkeys.

The issue of access to clean water for the African continent has become a very popular cause in recent years.  A quick google search of water and well related charities involved in Africa will pull up a long list.  Some of these organizations have some very heart-rending stories on their websites.  We get a little fatigued with over-sentimentalized stories of hardships in Africa, so I’m going to try to describe the water needs at the Children’s Home with an example that I hope will help readers understand without over-stating the problem.

Summer in the U.S. for many American families involves sending kids off to summer camp for a week.  Now I want to be very careful about comparing the Children’s Home in Soddo to a summer camp.  It very much is not a summer camp.  The Children’s Home in Soddo is a permanent home for our 60 kids because they have no other home.  They don’t have parents to come pick them up at the end of the week.  Many of our kids have or will spend most of their growing up years at the Children’s Home.  Having said all that, imagine arriving at a summer camp to pick up your kids at the end of a week-long camp experience and learning, after your dirty, stinky kids have hoped into the car, that the entire camp compound had been without water for the whole week.  In order to cook and provide some limited drinking water for the campers, the camp manager had placed a bunch of old jugs in the back of his pick-up, had driven out to a spring 30 min. away and had filled up the jugs.  But because of the limits of how much water could be carried in jugs on the back of his truck, the camp staff were forced to severely ration the use of water.  Water was used primarily for cooking, washing dishes, washing hands before meals, and providing some rationed drinking water to the campers.  Most of the remaining water, after these priorities were covered, was used at the end of the day in the toilets so that toilets could be flushed at least once to reduce some of the stink from the bathrooms.  Because of the lack of water, there were no showers or baths, and no cleaning of floors, cabins or clothing.

If this went on for just one week at a summer camp, it would not be the end of the world.  Probably a lot of campers don’t bother to shower while away at camp anyway and most parents expect to pick up dirty and stinky kids.  That’s part of the camp experience, right?  But you can imagine how conditions at the camp would deteriorate if it tried to function an entire summer season under these circumstances.  You can imagine how filthy, stinky and fly-ridden bathroom facilities would get.  You can imagine that the camp would have to contend with lice, fleas, bed bugs, ringworm and head-fungus at increased rates.  You can imagine that there’d be more sickness because of unclean drinking water, dirty dorms, reduced sanitation in the kitchen and a lack of camper hygiene.

This is a pretty accurate depiction of the months of December through March at the Children’s Home in Soddo.  This past year, we would get up each morning to check if there was any water from the town system in our storage tanks.  If yes, we’d ration it out for some drinking, cooking, and high-priority cleaning.  If no, we’d scramble to track down a donkey-water carrier to bring us some water from the spring 30 min. away.  We figured out that it took about 12 donkey’s worth or water (4 jerry cans / donkey) to get us by on absolute-minimal mode per day.  Given the distance to the spring and the lines at the spring to fill up, it would often take one donkey carrier with 2 donkeys all day to make the 6 trips necessary to get us this bear minimum amount of water.

The Children’s Home needs a consistent, year-round source of water.  This is necessary for a number of reasons:

  • cleanliness of rooms, bathrooms, eating area and kitchen
  • washing of clothes and bedding
  • showering and bathing of children
  • water for cooking and drinking
  • flushing of toilets and washing of hands

Unfortunately, getting access to a consistent, year-round source of water is not easy in the Wolaita area of Ethiopia.  We have explored all the options:

  1. Fight with the town water dept.:  During the months of Jan. – Mar. this past year, I made weekly visits to the water dept. to speak with the manager.  I had his personal mobile number on speed-dial on my phone.  He was a very helpful and cooperative man, always willing to listen to my complaints and usually doing his best to squeeze out a little more water from the system and direct it our way, but he was limited by the system itself and the amount of water available during dry season.  The town water system is dependent on a series of wells around the outskirts of the city.  During dry season, the water levels in these wells run low leaving little water to be rationed out to the town.
  2. Install an additional water storage tank: Up until the beginning of last Nov., we thought this idea would greatly improve our situation.  If we could store more of the town water when we got it, we could stretch out our stored supply until the next time we got town water.  Then the dry season hit us and we discovered that the water pressure coming from the town when we did get it was so low that it wouldn’t even ascend the pipes to fill our elevated storage tanks.
  3. Dig another hand-pump well:  We have one already that’s about 18 meters deep (60 feet).  That’s pretty much the maximum depth for a hand-dug well and from Dec. – Mar. it’s useless.  If it was servicing a single family, it might be possible to get by year-round on this type of well, but with 60 kids, we’d need to dig about 15 of these hand-dug wells if we wanted to get through a dry season with water.
  4. Use new hand-drilling technology:  There are some well related organizations that have developed hand-drilling technology.  It involves a drill bit apparatus that can be operated with the manpower of several people.  This is fabulous technology that has been used with great success in some more lowland parts of Ethiopia (in the Rift Valley, for example).  It’s very economical.  With local labor, it costs less than the equivalent of $10 USD / meter to drill with this method.  The technology has the capacity, depending on the geological nature of the drill site, to drill down to 60 or so meters (200 feet).  Unfortunately, Soddo sits on highland terrain (above 7000 ft. elevation).  We’ve had a hydro-geological survey completed for our site and we’ve looked at the other deep borehole wells in the area.  We’ll need to drill down beyond 150 meters (500+ feet) to hit an aquifer that can supply year-round water.

So that leaves us with one final option.  We need to bring in a drill rig, drill to a depth of 150+ meters (we’re budgeting for 180 meters), case, install a submersible pump, and set up a water system that will allow our compound to be water self-sufficient.  Because of the cost of materials in Ethiopia, the depth to which we need to drill and case, the size of a submersible pump necessary to pump from that depth, and the 3-phase electric power necessary to run such a pump, this is a costly endeavor… costly to the tune of $80,000 USD.

Here’s the good news:  we’ve already raised $42,000, we’ve already partnered with a drilling organization (www.waterislifeinternational.com), we’ve already paid for the 3-phase power installation, we’re already scheduled to start drilling in mid-Oct. and we’ve already lined up the pump supplier and installer.  If we have the funds, we’re completely on track to have this whole project finished and online by the end of Dec., just in time to be water self-sufficient for dry season.

Aerie Africa has just launched a concerted fund-raising effort to raise the remainder of the funds for this project.  You can find out more about the project, Aerie Africa, the fund-raising campaign, and how you can contribute by going to our newly launched fund-raising site at  www.glassofhope.org.

Please consider how you can help and please pass on this blog and the site address to others you know.  As always, don’t hesitate to email us or respond with questions or thoughts.

Gardens and Water… Making Progress

We haven’t provided much information lately about our two most popular blogging topics:  the garden project and the well project.  We’ve been intentionally trying to diversify the topics a little.  But since there has been exciting progress in both of these projects, I guess it’s time for an update.

The Garden Project

I (Nathan) and the kids have been enjoying the garden project.  We’ve had a good wet spring since the beginning of April.  We have lots of garlic and red onions growing, plus some carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas and lettuce.  Richelle and I have been enjoying a few green beans and some lettuce already (by buying them off the kids who grew them).  We hope that the kids can be harvesting their first round of garlic and red onions in about a month, then turn around and get a second planting in so they can harvest again in October or so.

We’ve learned a few things along the way.  For you gardening experts out there, these may be obvious lessons, but they’ve been new to us:

Number one: garlic likes a good chilling.  A gardener can spur-on the growth of garlic if the bulbs are chilled for a while before “cracking” and planting.  This is why in North America, most people plant garlic in the fall.  The winter cold, followed by the warming soil of the spring, helps initiate growth within the clove, so that long before the ground is warm enough to work and plant other vegetables, the gardener can already see garlic shoots above the ground.  We don’t have a cold winter season here in Ethiopia… but we do have mountaintop villages where the nighttime temperatures dip consistently down into the 40’s.  That’s why the locals in the market all suggested, if we’re purchasing for planting, that we seek out the ladies selling garlic from the top of Mt. Damota (the mountain just north of Soddo, which rises to about 10,000 ft).  Unintentionally, we did a little experiment.  We bought our first round of garlic from the ladies from Damota.  The ladies even opened up some cloves to show us how the shoot was already beginning to develop within the clove.  Once planted, we had shoots above the ground within a week.  When we ran out of the first round of garlic and the kids still wanted to plant more, we went to the market again but couldn’t find any ladies from Damota, so we just purchased some random garlic.  It took over a month for the second round to show shoots above the ground.  We had almost given up, but just recently, shoots are popping up.

Number two: when you use compost on your gardens, you get the added excitement of seeing what random things grow from the compost.  We have maize, tomato and potato plants growing in the most random of places… places where they were never planted.

Number three: buying small red onions from the local open market and using them as onion sets can result in some ugly onion “clumps.”  Without access to prepared onion sets, we just selected out small onions (1” diameter or less) in the market and planted them as sets.  It seems, though, that some of these “sets” that we planted were either already “split” (harvested from an onion plant that had already bolted) or for some reason, once planted, they split immediately.  Instead of nice single-bulb onions, we have these weird clumps of 2-4 onions growing from the same “set.”  We’re going to experiment with a couple of clumps, try digging them up, separating them and re-planting.  We may also try letting some go to seed and try planting some from seed next time around.

Finally, number four: given the incredibly powerful rainstorms that sometimes hit Ethiopia when rain does come, we have learned that terracing a side-hill is not enough to prevent erosion.  We have spent many hours digging ditches to control rain run-off.

The Well Project

We are still moving forward with our deep borehole well project.  We have already begun the process of installing 3-phase electric power to our compound (needed to run the submersible pump that we’ll eventually have).  We hired some workers the other day to level out a path next to our football field so that an electrical utility truck can get in to install the transformer.  We hope to begin installation of the high voltage line and transformer within the next couple of weeks.  We have chosen to work with Water is Life as our partner for the drilling and casing stage.  Water is Life is a U.S. registered non-profit that operates out of Hawassa, Ethiopia and works on well and water projects throughout southern Ethiopia (check them out at www.waterislifeinternational.com).  We are planning on drilling in Oct. after the ground dries out a little from rainy season.

After drilling and casing, we’ll be purchasing a submersible pump, installing the pump and setting up the water system from the well to our current system.  We hope to have the whole thing up and running by the end of 2012.  Of course, Aerie Africa has also been working on fundraising for this project.  Because of the depth that we must drill to hit quality, consistent, year-round water, the whole project will likely cost between $70 and $80 thousand.  We’ve already raised over half that amount (if you’re interested in contributing, please feel free to email us or go to www.aerieafrica.org).

As always, we’re very interested in feedback (and gardening advice or contributions to the well project).  Please feel free to reply to this post, email us or post to our facebook page at www.facebook.com/hainesgotoethiopia.

Three Updates and Motorbike

Update 1:  The Garden Project,

All of the terraced gardens are fully set up and divided out to the kids.  Kids have been working this past week to till up the soil, spread and mix in compost, etc.  We’ve been preparing some seed this week (onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes as local vegetables and some green beans, peas and cucumbers as “farenge” – foreign – vegetables).  The irrigation system is all set up and working well, though with only one legitimate rain in the past week, the irrigation by itself hasn’t yet been sufficient to start planting.  We hope to be planting soon.  We are trying to gather all gardening tips and knowledge, both local here as otherwise.  If you have tips for growing any of the above vegetables, we’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to email, reply to this post, or message us on facebook (nfhaines@gmail.com, www.facebook.com/hainesgotoethiopia).

Update 2: Water and a Well,

With the town back up on the electric grid, we’re back to getting water from the town a couple of days / week.  With our storage tanks, that means water from taps for portions of four days / week.  Our hand-pump well is still dry, so that still means donkey water the other days each week.  As for the deep well, we’ve been working hard behind the scene and making progress.  We’ve been reviewing our hydro-geology report, collecting official cost bids from drillers, and we’ve been in communication with one well-drilling NGO regarding collaboration.  We’ve also been working towards some grants and have recently been very encouraged in that area.  We’ll very soon have our official cost estimates and some arrangements with a driller.  Once we have the official cost estimates from the driller, we’ll put out some information about needed funds, fund-raising, etc.

Update 3:  Our Home-going,

While this is a still a far way out, we’ve become forward-looking in a farther-out sort of way then we ever were.  We purchased our tickets for a visit back to the U.S. this past week.  We’ll be state-side from the Aug. 7 through to the Sep. 17.  Our calendar for that visit is surprisingly busy already.  We’re looking forward to re-connecting with family and friends.

… and a Motorbike

Recently we acquired the use of an older motorcycle.  Motorbikes, or “motors,” are very much the way to get around in smaller towns in Ethiopia.  They’re much cheaper than cars, good for riding on bad roads, easier to maintain and cheap on fuel.  Most of the motorcycles around town are small Indian-made Bajaj bikes with whopping 100cc motors (great on fuel, weak on power).  The bike that we recently got access to is a “Red Fox.”  It’s not ours… it’s an organization bike that has long been in the garage under-going a pretty significant re-build.  It finally got operational and we have use of it.   It’s a bit of a beat-up, but is running well now and gets us around town.  Contrary to the Bajaj bikes, we’re riding around with 250ccs (though the body says 175, I’m told that it’s actually 250 and the bike we took the body pieces from was a 175), which is a fun amount of power to ride three us up our big hill into town with no effort.  The outer body was busted up, so we replaced it with some body parts from another bike that don’t quite fit right.  It’s loud and ugly, but a lot of fun.  Titay loves it and has decided she needs to have a motorbike when she grows up (she also decided this week, after a “Bubba School” history lesson, that she wanted to be like Dr. Martin Luther King when she grows up… the image of those two future goals combined struck me as kind of funny).

Enjoy the photos of our “new” motor.

“Donkey Water”

(Note:  this is a long one, but with some good info. on the water situation here in Soddo)

Yesterday evening we arrived back at our home (and the Children’s Home) here in Soddo, Wolaita, after a few days break away in Addis.  This morning I got up to assess the water situation on the compound.  It’s now been two weeks since the town electrical sub-station blew up.  For the past week, Soddo has had some inconsistent and low-voltage electrical power by re-routing some lines and connecting Soddo to a sub-station further north.  Unfortunately, the electrical power has not been sufficient to run the town water dept. water pumps and thus the town water system has remained inoperable for the past two weeks.  This has left the whole town relying on donkey water or small hand-pump wells (many of which are dry this time of year, including ours).  Because of increased demand for donkey water, prices have doubled and it has become difficult to arrange delivery from a donkey water carrier.

Last week before we left for Addis, because of some special donations to Aerie Africa, we were able to contract with one donkey water carrier to supply the Children’s Home exclusively on a daily basis.  We arranged for him to bring 12 – 14 donkeys worth of water to the Children’s Home daily.  This is what is required daily to cook, clean, wash clothes, bathe children and for drinking.  This morning I learned that our contract was working out reasonably well.  The carrier has been able to deliver between 10 – 14 donkeys worth of water to the Children’s Home per day for the last week.  The inconsistency is based on how busy the spring is and how long he has to wait in line to fill up his jerry cans.  This particular carrier has two donkeys, therefore he has to make between 6 – 7 trips / day just to supply the Children’s Home with water.  As I discovered this morning, the walk from the Children’s Home to the spring and back is about one hour round trip, not including wait time at the spring.  So, though this has been an additional expense, getting consistent, daily donkey water has allowed the home to function and the children to remain clean (at 15 ETB / donkey, this costs the home about 1,260 ETB or $75 / week).

As the first donkeys were arriving this morning with water, I decided to go for a little hike to find the source of the donkey water these days.  Prior to the sub-station problem, most donkey water simply came from a town tap in a part of town that had running water that day.  Without the town taps, the donkey carriers have been forced to travel outside of town to springs and small streams.  So this morning, I grabbed my camera, took along a few friends who are visiting us, and went in search of the nearest spring.

Our hike took us out our compound main gate, down the road heading away from town a few hundred meters, then to the left down a small path that ran along outside the south fence of the Children’s Home compound.  This path descended down hill, then to the right and basically continued for about 30 minutes in a westerly direction downhill into the valley west of the town.  After about 30 minutes, the path crossed the dirt road that runs towards Jenka in Gamo-Gofa southwest of Soddo.  Shortly after crossing this road, the path turned right and opened up into a large flat field area, in which there are lots of people, donkeys and cattle.  There were three springs at three edges of this field and some small ditches of water running across the field from the three springs (and apparently a fourth spring a little further beyond the field that we did not go to).

One of springs was really more of a well.  It had been hand-dug, cased in cement and capped off.  There was a small square opening in the cement cap where people lined up to dip their buckets and jerry cans to fill up with water.  Because this well required dipping buckets down into the water, the water was pretty dirty, but there was little to no line to fill up.  One donkey water carrier who was filling up as this well told me that he often uses this well because he doesn’t like waiting in the long lines at the other springs for cleaner water.  He said he was recently charging 20 ETB / donkey in town for the water from this well, but if customers wanted the cleaner water, he charged more.

Across the field there was a second spring.  At this spring we found a crowd of people trying to fill up their jugs and jerry cans.  As we approached, there was a small scrap that broke out between several people as they struggled to get their buckets under the pipe.  This spring has been capped with a concrete structure with three pipes running from it.  The water running from the pipes seemed pretty clean and the people standing around waiting for water told us that it was good and clean for drinking.  The third spring as further across the field again.  This spring involved one large pipe flowing out of the side of a concrete structure.  At this spring, a few boys seemed to have imposed some organization.  People were lining their jerry cans up in one straight line and waiting while the boys filled the jerry cans one at a time in order.  When we asked if there was lots of water, everyone said ‘yes’ and that they’d never seen the spring dry.  Some of the people were from just nearby and said that they’d always come to this spring for water (they’re far enough out of town that there are no town taps any way).  Others in line were from further away or were donkey carriers and said that though there was always lots of decent water at these springs, it was far from town and involved a lot of walking and waiting since the town water system stopped working and more people were coming to these springs for water.

We’ve had a lot of emails from people trying to better understand our water situation here at the Children’s Home.  Sometimes it’s difficult to explain exactly the issue that we have here.  While currently, because of our reliance on donkey water, water cleanliness is somewhat of a concern, our primary concern is water access.  There is plenty of good quality water underground here in Soddo, but because Soddo is on highland terrain, this water is deep underground, somewhere in the range of 150+ meters down.  On the outskirts of town, particularly where the terrain slopes down into valleys, there are springs and good wells much closer to the surface.  Cleanliness of our water currently is an issue mainly because of the way in which the water is transported – in old, dirty jerry cans on the backs of donkeys – and because we can’t guarantee that our donkey water carrier is always waiting to fill up at the clean springs.  There are, however, fairly economical ways to purify water for drinking here.  There are these Indian-made “candle” water filters (“Welofil”) that work well (we use one in our house and we’ve just bought another so that the Children’s Home kitchen now has two).  There are also fairly cheap purification tablets available at any pharmacy in town that can purify a bucket of water per tablet.

The primary issue that we have here at the Children’s Home has to do with water access.  It is very difficult to manage a home of 60 kids without a consistent water source.  We have a shallow hand-pump well on the compound, but for several months each year, it is essentially useless (it’s dry during dry season).  We have water storage tanks hooked up to the town water pipes, but the town system can only supply a few hours of water to us per week during the best of times, and it’s completely dependent on electricity, which is also inconsistent and unreliable (as we’ve recently discovered).  We can purchase donkey water, but the cost adds up (even at normal prices, it would cost about $3,000 USD / year to keep the Children’s Home supplied with a sufficient amount of donkey water), its availability fluctuates, and it makes the function of the rest of the home completely reliant on when the donkey arrives with water (because it’s about 1 ½ hours between donkey loads, there are points in the day when our cleaner has to just wait for water to finish the laundry, our kitchen has to just wait for water to finish the cooking, or our nanny nurses just have to wait for water to bathe kids).

It is for all of these reasons that we’ve concluded that a deep well here on the Children’s Home compound is the best long-term solution for our water access issues.  Yes, a deep well is a significant financial investment up-front, but we believe it is the only means to ensure the long-term function of the home and health of the children.  Aerie Africa (www.aerieafrica.org) has officially decided to launch a fund-raising campaign for this deep well project.  We will soon update with specific information about this campaign and how you can help.

Update on the Power Situation in Soddo

The short version is that we remain without power here in Soddo…

The longer version…

Still no one really seems able to predict how long it will be. Our director thinks we could be back up and running with electricity within two weeks, so we’ve decided to share in his optimism and take it two weeks at a time.

We’ve put together a little analysis of the extra costs that will be accrued to run the children’s home over the next two weeks without any electrical power. Here’s the breakdown:

Gasoline for the office generator

Four liters of gas / day will run the little office generator enough to keep computers charged and the office running. Because none of the fuel stations in town are operating (fuel pumps require electricity), fuel is being brought in by jerry can from out of town by middlemen. This has resulted in increased fuel costs to 26 ETB / liter ($1.51 USD / liter). Thus we will need an extra $85 USD to cover fuel costs for the next two weeks.

Firewood

Without the electric oven in the kitchen, which is typically used to baking bread daily, the kitchen will require extra firewood. We expect to buy an extra 300 ETB worth of firewood over the next two weeks ($18 USD).

Donkey Water

Because of increased water scarcity and donkey water demand, the cost of donkey water has doubled this weeks from 8 ETB / donkey to 15 ETB. Because we’re now completely reliant on donkey water for all cleaning, cooking, washing and drinking, we’ll need about 14 donkeys worth of water / day. That’s 2,940 ETB for 2 weeks ($171 USD).

A couple of one-time extra expenses

Because its difficult to stagger the arrival of donkey water throughout the day, we’ll need to purchase a couple more large water barrels to hold the water when the donkeys arrive… 500 ETB ($29 USD).

Because the donkey water is now all coming from small streams and surface springs, we’re extra concerned about water quality for drinking. We need to buy a couple more water filters to ensure that the kids are drinking filtered water… 500 ETB ($29 USD).

So the children’s home will need about $330 (USD) extra to cover these unexpected costs for the next 2 weeks. If this problem persists beyond the next 2 weeks, we’ll be updating the blog regarding our on-going needs. If you’re interested in helping with these costs, you can send a check to Aerie Africa at the address below or you can go online and donate at http://www.aerieafrica.org. Either way, if you include the note “Power” with your donation, Aerie will ensure that it gets used to help cover these extra costs. If you have further questions, please feel free to email us (nfhaines@gmail.com or richelle.haines@gmail.com).

On a related note, this week has further enforced our need for a long-term water solution for the children’s home. We’re still awaiting the hydrologist report before we can create a more accurate estimate of total costs, but if you’re interested in donating or helping us to raise funds for this project, please let us know. It is going to require a significant fund-raising effort and we’ll need all the help we can get.

Aerie Africa, Inc.

c/o Robin Browning

2234 South Abbey Loop

New Braunfels, TX 78130