The first set of projects we looked at were gutters installed on the roofs of schools, with the water from the gutters directed into big storage tanks. In many of the villages we went to, that rainwater is the cleanest water they can get - otherwise they're getting water from the river, which can have all kinds of bacteria and parasites in it.
Our NGO partner is also building latrines at the schools and piloting giving some plastic latrine slabs to villages, to try to improve sanitation and reduce disease. Without the latrines, people just go off into the bush to use the bathroom, and then when it rains the drinking water supply (mainly the river and sometimes some shallow wells) can get contaminated. So latrines may not be flashy and exciting, but they are important. And they seem to be a big hit in the villages - in some places where they only have latrines at the school, which are supposed to be just for the students, everyone in the village is coming over to use them. It's not exactly what we were hoping for - the ideal is to get people interested in latrines and then they go and build their own. But I guess it's a start.
This past week the main thing we went to see were rock catchments- basically big rock mountains popping out of the desert, and then our NGO partner build short terrace walls on them the water coming down them when it rains into a dam at the bottom, from where it can be piped into storage tanks and saved for the dry season. I was really impressed with these projects and the villagers were so excited about them - it almost made me want to become an engineer so that I could be the one out there running around on the mountains and designing the catchments.
But then again, one of the rock mountains was so steep that I don't want to be the person having to climb up and down that one (although I did do it once).
We got to participate in handing over ceremony for a rock catchment project that was just finished, where the NGO formally hands over the project to the village. It was a pretty cool ceremony, complete with traditional dancing and a hygiene skit that reminded me of Peace Corps.
And then my favorite part: my colleague who we all tease about becoming a politician someday got to practice his speechmaking skills. (Also, I was relieved that he didn't make me do the speech. Instead, I danced with an old lady - but no photos of that one, sorry!)
You can see more photos here and here. I've got some more trips coming up the next few weeks - maybe enough to satisfy even travel-hungry me!