As Odong narrated it, many years back, the hospital set up their sewage treatment lagoon. Unfortunately, the sewage lagoon also completely contaminated a community water source. Before you leap in outrage at the thought of a Catholic Hospital creating a public health nightmare, remember that they built the lagoon during peak of the war, when thousands of locals flocked to sleep inside the hospital’s walls for protection. Perhaps the lagoon was a logistical necessity. Moreover, the hospital apparently promised to compensate the community of Obiya West with a new borehole.
“So” I interrupted… “Why is there no new borehole?”
“The negotiations stalled…or soured” someone replied.
We decided one of our strategies to solve the water crisis in Obiya West would be to re-engage the hospital.. It sounded simple. We desperately need a borehole. They promised a borehole. Easy, right?
After some initial defensiveness, it didn’t take too much to get the Hospital back to the negotiation table. The curve ball hit from elsewhere. Which spoiled community water source, exactly, should the hospital replace? Obiya West community has several defunct water sources. We all thought the water source to be replaced was a long-abandoned borehole right beside the lagoon, smack bang in the area of the greatest water crisis. I kept talking to people. It kept getting more complicated. Many different stories emerged. While it can’t be known for sure, the most convincing story told was that while the lagoon may have spoiled several water sources, the only one actually owned by the community was downhill, where the water problem is less severe.
Could, perhaps, the downhill folk be convinced that the uphill folk had a real crisis and needed the water more? The hospital was happy to drill it anywhere in Obiya West. We held a special community meeting to ask the downhill folk just that. The answer of course- NO! We need the water too! And to be fair, they do need it, just not as much as uphill. A month later, BOOM:
This is what drilling a borehole looks like. Everyone came to watch
Above is Laker, a new Wakonye Kenwa member who was a key player in the process
Joseph, another new member, also voted guardian of the new borehole.
Life is messy, and many lives tossed together and called ‘community’ are even messier. The very first victory of Wakonye Kenwa was not straightforward, it was not a neat ‘tick’ of the initial problem we set out to solve. Although our first attempt didn’t solve our uphill water crisis, good things came of it:
- A community that needed water got water
- Wakonye Kenwa gained five new members from downhill. They got involved in the hospital negotiations, and are now some of our most active members
- The downhill folk are working on a gift for the Hospital. I hope the whole exchange improves the community-hospital relationship.
Now for up the hill.