"We need water for cooking, for drinking, for washing the children, for vegetables. We can't grow vegetables without water. So we can't eat healthy. The people need water. The cows need water. People don't come to church because they are fetching water. Children don't go to school, because they are fetching water." Pastor Edda Mbwambo of Iringa Road Lutheran Parish in central Tanzania vented her frustration to me. We were in Mzogole, a small village that is part of her parish. The villagers here do not have adequate water. Scrawny cattle grazed on sparse, brown grass. Everything was dry and dusty. There was an old well with a windmill that was constructed about 40 years ago. Unfortunately, the pump has broken repeatedly and can no longer be repaired. The people of Mzogole have resorted to digging holes in the sand of a nearby dry river bed. As the water slowly seeps into the hole, they dip it out to fill buckets and jerry cans, which they carry home balanced on their heads. Fortunately the companion ELCA synod, Northwestern Ohio, is raising money to rehabilitate the well and install an electric submersible pump powered by either a generator or solar panels. Maybe Mzogole will have water again soon.
The people living in the semi-arid central plains of Tanzania, near the capital Dodoma, suffer from chronic water shortages. Average annual rainfall here is only about 570mm (22 inches), about 85 percent of which falls between December and April. Near the end of the dry season there is no grass, just trees, thorns, and scrub brush. Yet in the short rainy season, this area produces corn, sunflowers, and sorghum. Many people also have cows, goats, and donkeys. Recently I visited three villages near Dodoma, Tanzania (Mzogole, Mlenga, and Chilungulu) to learn about their water problems.
In the second village, Mlenga, the villagers send donkeys five kilometers (about three miles) to a river, to bring back jerry cans of water (see photo). In Mlenga, the five gallons of water in the jerry can are sold for 1000 Tanzanian Shillings (or about $0.60). That may not sound like much, but the average person earns less than $2 a day here (according to the World Bank). The St. Peter Lutheran Church, Blackberry in the Northwestern Ohio Synod has spearheaded an effort to raise money to drill a test well for their sister congregation in Mlenga. There is hope that drilling might begin before the end of the year.
The last village I visited, Chilungulu, was a different story. There they were inaugurating a rehabilitated village water system. The ELCA World Hunger Fund provided the money, and the work was done by government water engineers and the villagers. It was a grand celebration, complete with speeches, a brass band, and two traditional dance groups. One dance group put on a funny skit pointing out that earlier they did not have water, but now they have food and clean water. One dancer joked, "What next? Peace?" Thanks to ELCA congregations, synods, and the World Hunger Fund, many people in this dry and dusty part of the world may be able to have water to drink, water for crops and animals, water that gives life.
Joe and Deborah Troester
ELCA Missionaries to East Africa
P.O. Box 1770, Arusha, Tanzania
Photo Credit: Donkeys carrying water to the village of Mlenga, near Dodoma, Tanzania.
Joe and Deborah are ELCA missionaries in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their daughter, Christa, is a junior at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon.