Clean water – renewed hope in a Somali village

Abdi Ahmed Jamaa with one of his children fetching water from a rehabilitated water cistern (barkad). Photo TARDO/Oxfam
Abdi Ahmed Jamaa with one of his children fetching water from a rehabilitated water cistern (barkad). Photo TARDO/Oxfam

Access to clean and safe water is difficult in Bowdha Dogore village in Adado district, Somalia, where Abdi Ahmed Jamaa, together with his 14 children and two wives reside. For a long time, Abdi and his family have depended on rehabilitated water cisterns (called barkads) as their only water supply.  These water sources were left open and in a dilapidated state posing a risk to both the people of Bowdha Dogore and their livestock.   

To address this, Oxfam partnered with TARDO and have been rehabilitating barkads for vulnerable pastoral communities in the village.  “This barkad is not only the single source of water for me and my family, but also for the whole community.  My barkad is among the twelve rehabilitated ones so far out of 70 in the village and its surroundings,” Abdi explains.  

With the hope that the remaining barkads will also be rehabilitated for community members, he says that, “before the intervention we used tree branches to protect the barkads from evaporation and contamination by animal feces but still the water was unfit for human consumption.  Furthermore, the design posed a danger to those fetching water because a number of children and women had fallen in and drowned.” 

Safe water and safe access

Oxfam intervened to improve the designs in order to make the water safe for use and increase the holding capacity of the barkads.  Oxfam and TARDO constructed a number of silt traps to filter the runoff water in the main inlet channels before it flows into the water cistern.  This reduced the siltation rate of the water cisterns and improved the water quality. To reduce loss of water through evaporation, the barkads were fitted with iron sheet roof tops that protected the water from external contamination from falling leaves and other debris. The water cisterns now have the capacity to hold enough water and sustain the community through the dry season compared to previous times where they would only hold water for a month after the rains fell. All water points were also fenced off to prevent domestic and wild animals from coming within the vicinity to prevent animal waste contamination. In addition, to make the fetching of water easy and safe for the women and children, the rehabilitated barkads were fitted with a simple pulley system which is highly efficient and reduces the amount of time and energy spent to fetch water and curb the chances of falling into the water wells and drowning.

Out of the twelve rehabilitated water cisterns in the district, eight have been done by TARDO in partnership with Oxfam. This has come a long way in restoring hope for the future.  “Before, I feared my children could fall into the open barkads.  I remember some years ago, a child fell and drowned in Hanan Bure one of our neighboring villages” reveals Abdi.  “Last season the rains were poor but fortunately, my barkad got more water than I had anticipated because with the new design, one hundred percent of the rain water from the roof flows into the water tanks.” Abdi continues to explain that before the intervention, the canal was the only inlet for water and after every rainy season he and his children would have to clean the barkad by removing sludge and sediments before they could use the water.  

The community is also happy that they can now save on trees since previously they would cut them in order to use the branches and shrubs to cover up the open water tanks.  Abdi reported with a smile, “The rehabilitation has also helped conserve our environment by not cutting trees because we need them to attract rains and provide shade during the hot season.”