In last week’s installment of “The Water and Sanitation Mystery” my colleague
discovered that, to his alarm, the project had not gone as planned. Household latrines had not been built and the one public latrine that had been built was not in use. Most concerning, however, the community was not capturing and protecting its clean water supply.
Trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, my colleague convened a meeting of the community Water and Sanitation Committee, whose responsibility it is to manage the project.
To them the explanation is obvious.
The community Water and Sanitation Committee tells my colleague that after constructing the cistern, the spring “changed points and started gushing out from another area.”
Indeed, he observes that the cistern is placed at one location, but the water is coming out of the ground in a different location.
How did this happen?
Well, the Committee explains, the traditional community leader, whose responsibility it is to provide local guidance and leadership in addressing community matters was not on site when the contractor came to start work. Unfortunately, in his absence, the Committee had forgotten to perform the necessary rituals to the stream deity before starting the construction. As a result, the Committee reports, “the stream decided to change course and avoid being trapped in the concrete barrel.”
However, the Committee assures my colleague that things are well in hand. One of the two necessary ceremonies has already been performed and the next one is scheduled to take place the following week.
My colleague consults with the contractor, who is also present, to determine whether the cistern design can be altered to accommodate the needs of the stream deity and whether, for good measure, there is a hydrological engineer available to advise on the situation.
The contractor assures my colleague that yes, the stream deity can be accommodated and that he is a hydrological engineer as well.
The contractor suggests that it would probably be better to drill a well over the spring (assuming it decides to stay in place, having been appeased) so that the community members can fetch water with a bucket and rope as they would from a normal well.
“The first thing, however, is to appease the deity,” the contractor points out.
With that, my colleague thanks the community leadership and leaves to head to the next community.
To me this mystery gives new meaning to being a faith-based relief and development organization. Episcopal Relief & Development understands that for programs to be successful there has to be local participation and leadership. And that may sometimes require appeasing the local water deity.