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This project is made possible through the partnership of Water Charity and the National Peace Corps Association.
Canton of Apedome, Lavie, Kloto Prefecture, Togo
Lavie is located in the prefecture of Kloto, just 13 kilometers away from Kpalime, in a mountainous region that borders Ghana. Lavie is composed of two cantons, Apedome and Rhume, each with a population of about 6,000 inhabitants. Lavie neighbors a popular tourist village named Kpime, famous for its beautiful waterfalls and hikes. This community is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and is abundant in fruits and vegetables. The climate is tropical, and the community consists of lush green, tropical trees, flora, and fauna. It is famous for the tree nurseries, as many individuals from around Togo visit the community for hard to find species of trees.
Collette Van Dyke, the Peace Corp Volunteer directing this project reports:
“I feel so at home in my community, and just wake up feeling lucky to be in such a loving and beautiful place. When I wake up in the morning, I have the blessing of being able to see the green, misty mountains in the distance, and breathe in clean, unpolluted, fresh air. The vegetables and fruits I buy at the local market are always fresh and natural, as my village is abundant in tropical and wild collections of fruits and vegetables. When I walk outside of my compound, I follow a beautiful red dirt road with green lush surrounding me. Neighbors, friends, school children, always greet me and ask how I are doing when I walk down the street. My favorite time of the year is mango season (around March-April) during which my host brothers and sisters and I sit under the shade of the mango trees, to eat mangoes and talk. To put it simply, life in Lavie is happiness to me.”
The majority of the community members speak French, but the predominant language is Ewe. There are also smaller groups of Kabiye, Moba, and Kotokoli throughout the village. We are a medium sized community with roughly 12,000 inhabitants in total, and many schools, kindergarten to high school. There are NGOs working nearby. The majority of individuals in the community rely on crop cultivation for food and income generation. The entire village of Lavie is equipped with electricity and running water, making living a bit more comfortable. Because the region receives heavy amounts of rainfall throughout the year, the fertile land is able to produce abundant amounts of cash crops such as coffee, yams, bananas, and pineapples. While this heavy rainfall is a blessing in this respect, it also poses problems for the water source, as will be explained further below.
The heavy rainfall the community receives every year causes problems for the water source. Erosion leaves piping exposed, bruised and vulnerable to breakage. The main water source is a waterfall located up in the mountains. When rain falls, a collection of debris, dust, dirt, leaves, twigs, and feces fall in to that open water source, and channel out to community members.
To put it simply, this community lacks clean, hygienic, potable water. The village currently relies on an old, broken down system of water that was constructed over 60 years ago by USAID. The water filter that the entire community relies on consists of a simple plastic container with punctured holes, to keep out leaves and twigs, but does not actually purify water.
The entire community essentially drinks brown, unfiltered water that is channeled through dirty, aging, deteriorated and molding piping. Due to erosion from rainfall, the pipes are exposed, punctured, and burned from years of hot sun exposure. Because of this exposure, the elasticity of these pipes is weak and when rocks, rainfall, or humans step over the exposed piping they are easily cracked and broken. When a pipe is cracked, which happens often, water spews from the pipe, causing a blockage that prevents water from running to the rest of the village. Community members are then forced to shut down the entire water system, starting from the water tower, until the punctured pipe is taped back together. This is a process that takes several hours, and deprives community members of water for periods at a time.
The local health clinic is constantly treating patients due to water-related illnesses. This problem has a huge effect on students, especially girls, who are consistently absent from class due to unsanitary water. The lack of a clean water source creates barriers for female students to keep up throughout the school year, which greatly jeopardizes their potential to graduate and pursue a career. A clean water source would reduce the influx of patients at the already understaffed health clinic and diminish absentee rates at schools. Additionally, the water system serves 2 neighboring villages, with an additional population of 2,000 inhabitants.
First the five old rotten pipes located at the dam will be replaced with five stainless steel pipes.
Next a new water filter will be inserted in the dam, which will transform the water into a potable source. An iron fence will be erected around the filter to block leaves and other particles from dirtying and entering the filter.
Next a cement slab will be constructed with an iron filling that will cover the third dam filling and filter to prevent debris and particles from clogging the filter from above.
A floodgate will be installed at the base of the wall of the dam, or spigot, that will allow water to evacuate from the dam to allow for cleaning. In addition, a vacuum (motor pump) that electrically evacuates water will be installed so inhabitants are not forced to jump into the dam and manually evacuate water with buckets and shovels (a process that takes at least 4 hours). Then two connection pieces will be installed that will connect the water spigot to the piping.
The following are the steps to complete the project and timeline.
1) Withdrawal of money (Colette Van Dyke) (1 day)
2) Travel to Lome to buy materials (Water Commission Board Members- Mr. Kpetsu and Mr. Agon) (2 days)
3) Return to Lavie with materials (1 day)
4) Announcements and mobilization of community, by district. Community Development committee will execute this (1 day)
5) Collection of sand and gravel with the community, students, farmers, general community members, water board members(1 day)
6) Transport of materials from the village up to the dam. Various members of the community (1 day)
7) Construction of cement slabs for the dam, 3 local carpenters (3 days)
8) Installation of piping and connection pieces, water technician. (1 day)
9) Installation of filter and metal caging, water technician (1 day)
10) Installation of flood gate, water technician (1 day)
11) Follow up, Colette Van Dyke (one week)
The community will participate in all aspects of manual labor involved in this project and will provide food and water for those working. The community will help mobilize its members to work and oversee the completion of the project in an organized manner. The community is the driving force behind this project, as they have urged Collette since her arrival, to help them improve their water source.
After conducting a needs assessment with the entire community, they listed their water filtration system as the number one pressing need. They are motivated and ready to help in any way they can to ameliorate their water source.
This motivation was witnessed first hand when APCD, Paul Siyanda, came to visit the community. The members of the community were able to organize a community-wide water cleanup day in which they emptied and cleaned the dam. Each times the rainfalls and the water system stops, community members have no choice but to work together to clean, fix, and unclog our filter and dam. This community collaboration is essential to sustaining the water, and subsequently life in village. Otherwise, the community cannot continue to survive.
Clean water is a base element of life that should be available to everybody, but is sadly a problem people are grappling with each day.
The funds will go directly towards all the materials and parts needed to replace old, deteriorated materials (filter, piping, water valves, floodgate, etc.) with new and durable materials. General community members, the Village Development Committee Board, Water Association Board, students, parents, and teachers will assist in implementing the water system. Having those who will benefit from cleaner water involved in the implementation process invest them in the success and sustainability of the end product. Additionally, cleaner water leads to better health, allocating more free time and energy to other activities such as working in the fields, teaching, learning, working, etc.
This project will impact 14,000 people, as well as any visitors to the area.
Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Colette Van Dyke
Monitoring and Maintenance
The community will be able to sustain the benefits of this project by enforcing a strict monthly community contribution plan. Each household will contribute 100 cfa each month that will go towards water repairs, materials, and water clarification. The Water Development Board Members are committed to collecting this contribution each month, and will take turns amongst each other to implement this. The local water technicians will then use this money to maintain and make repairs when needed. If a person refuses to contribute, their water source can and will be shut off. The water commission and technician in the community will oversee, and do manual checkups to make sure materials are protected, maintained, and taken care of for future years.
Comments and Let Girls Learn:
According to Colete:
This problem has a huge effect on students, especially girls, who are consistently absent from class due to our unsanitary water. According to the registry at our local hospital clinic, approximately 127 girls were reported to have fallen ill with giardiasis, dysentery, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, or typhoid just in 2014. In 2015, 169 cases of these waterborne diseases among girls were reported in our registry. The lack of a clean water source creates barriers for female students to keep up throughout the school year, which greatly jeopardizes their potential to graduate and pursue a career. A clean water source would diminish absentee rates at our schools, especially among the girls. In general, clean water through a new and improved system, will save the entire community money and time that could be used towards raising families or sending children to school, which paves the way for a brighter future.
When I arrived in Lavie in May 2015, two days into my welcoming the community members took me up to their water source to explain where the most development was needed. This took me aback, as it usually takes weeks for community members to reveal community needs. I was pleasantly surprised by their motivation and devotion to this project. After they had detailed all the problems with their water system, I promised them I would do my best to help them out. Afterwards, one of my work partners whipped out a bottle of the local drink (sodabe), and we all toasted to the year ahead of us, and that I could bring good work and blessings to their community.
On our hike back down from the water dam, one of my work partners spotted a porcupine hiding amidst the brush. He smiled and looked back at me, and I looked back at him, puzzled. He excitedly told me he had just spotted a porcupine, and I thought "cool! so what?" What made it special was what he told me next. He explained to me that in Ewe culture, a porcupine is a symbol of hope for those who are in pain or in need of help. When the quills of a porcupine are engaged, they are filled with air, allowing them to float. This buoyancy is symbolic of the ability to stay "above water", to remain calm in the face of emotional waters. In other words, when life casts you problems, you invoke porcupine energy to keep you afloat upon troubled waters. My work partner then told me that perhaps it’s a sign that I am a source of new hope for Lavie. I mulled over this the entire hike down. I was just presented with my first major task, a water sanitation project, and I was hoping I could be that "hope" for her new community. I hoped that I could lessen the suffering even just a little. I had no idea how I was going to tackle such a project, but I hoped that I could invoke this "porcupine energy" to keep me afloat and balanced, to help find a clear solution amidst my community's problems.
Today, I can happily say that Water Charity is that solution, that hope for my community. I'm sending a big Thank You to Water Charity for all the work you do!
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