A rehabilitated well in Barbara. Credit: Oxfam
A rehabilitated well helps the community.

Mauritania: Building wells in Hodh El Gharby

“Before the rehabilitation of this well, we used to walk 3 to 5 kilometers each morning to get water.”
Salma Mint

In a drought prone area like Mauritania, the issue of water access, in quantity but also in quality, is a big challenge. Oxfam livelihood program works to improve the communities’ access to water.

The village of Barbara is located in the north of Hodh El Gharby region about 800 km from Nouakchott.

This project involves rehabilitating the existing traditional wells by by deepening the wells and adding concrete around them to avoid water stagnation.

In addition to such infrastructure work, the Oxfam team has set up in each beneficiary village a committee in charge of hygiene promotion and water sanitation. This committee led by women organizes the water distribution and also spreads good hygiene practices among the households.

Salma Mint is one of the women who works on cleaning the well’s superstructure. Salma is married and has 4 children and lives with her elderly mother in Barbara. In this area people previously depended on agriculture, but lately rainfall has not been sufficient to make the crops produce. In addition, the majority of the men tend to migrate, leaving behind the women, children and the elderly.

Meeting basic needs

Salma, like the other women of the rural areas, performs all the household tasks (taking care of the children, fetching water, cooking) but manages other income generating activities as well (small trade, vegetable gardening) to satisfy the basic needs of her family.

She says: “Before the rehabilitation of this well, we used to walk 3 to 5 kilometers each morning to get water. Now, thanks to god and Oxfam, we have water near our village. Our families and animals can drink, and we can also grow vegetables, which was not possible before."

The women's cooperative of Barbara village also uses water from the well to grow vegetables in their newly established garden.

Oxfam's response

In recent years, drought and swarms of locust have ravaged crops in Mauritania, destroying people’s sources of food and income. Oxfam has been working with communities in Brakna, Hodh El Gharby and Hodh Echarghi, which are particularly arid areas in the south of the country, to support them in strengthening their ability to cope with disaster.

We have been assisting communities to improve their water and food supplies, increase their livestock and provide better opportunities for people to earn an income. This is the second year of the project and we will continue to work with people to support them in making a more sustainable living. Our focus also is to train them in a number of vital skills that will benefit their communities and their food and water supplies.

Text by Oxfam GB.

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