How far is too far

September 01, 2011

To celebrate #ThirstyThursday we have a fantastic guest post from a fellow GiveMeTapper, Tim Olsen. Thanks Tim.

!luna!*  sighed. The water bucket weighed heavy upon her head but the sounds of her children as they ran ahead on the dusty path made her smile. It was seven kilometres to her village of Dobe-Labala but the sun had yet to rise so the air was cool and she would make good time. Her two eldest children would start at the new school in just a few days and she wanted them to be clean, and their clothes to be clean, something she would struggle to make happen with the brown, dirty water at the waterhole. It was a long journey but it was necessary. Her children must have water to drink; she must have water for cooking and washing. She often dreamed of clean water but she knew that she had no choice. For today, she had water and a long way to travel before she could rest.

Botswana - A country in southern Africa which I had heard of but about which I knew little before I became involved with GiveMeTap. Involved is probably a strong word; I’ve bought three water bottles and won a fourth and I constantly post on social networks telling my friends of Edwin’s wonderful endeavour. I use my blue bottle every day and ask friends to do the same, sharing the fact that 70% of the profits from each bottle bought goes to help provide families in Botswana with clean water. I realised that I wanted to know more about where the money goes when we buy a bottle and what it does when it gets there. So, this is what I’ve found out.
Botswana is a land-locked country situated in southern Africa sharing borders with South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Kalahari Desert dominates the landscape, covering 84% of its land area and, consequently, most of Botswana is without perennial surface water. With a short rainy season from November to March, and temperatures in the summer approaching an average of 40 degrees Celsius, natural evaporation rids the country of much of its groundwater.  Natural hazards to the environment include seasonal winds from the west that blow sand and dust across the country. Botswana has a very limited water supply that is inadequate for its increasing population, and the nation’s water shortage is made worse by periodic droughts.
!luna!’s story is not an exception, it’s the rule. Bushman women and children have to walk incredible distances to get the water they need to survive as they have been forcibly relocated to some of the most marginal locations not only in Botswana but also on Earth. For the people of Dobe-Labala, that’s a 14km roundtrip or almost 9 miles. We don’t think twice about jumping in our cars to make a half mile trip to the supermarket and when we are there, we load our trolleys with bottled water as if it was something we really needed. I’d ask the question ‘Which journey do you think is unnecessary?’
GiveMeTap, in partnership with The Redbush Tea Company, is working to build wells for the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana but this is expensive. First, boreholes must be drilled to find underground water sources. These can cost as much as £3000 per attempt and they are not always successful as the Kalahari sits on a large limestone rock which in places is so thick it can make reaching the water beneath costly if possible. When a water source is located, it can then cost an additional £5000 to build a well with tanks and necessary infrastructure. Most of the Bushmen have no income at all, but with an average daily wage in Botswana less than £3, wells are beyond the reach of all the Bushman communities in Botswana.
To be honest, I would be surprised if there were even the words for minimum wage in their language. The little money they do have they earn from making their traditional crafts. This money will be used to buy food or essentials for their family. They don’t have the money to pay for wells … but we do. Every little blue bottlesold moves GiveMeTap one step closer to making their lives better.
Today, I am fortunate enough to have a clean water supply available from taps around the United Kingdom from which I can fill my bottle. Tomorrow will be the same. GiveMeTap’s dream is to enable the Bushmen of Botswana and everyone in the world to be the same. Let’s give them something to look forward to.
Visit the website at Buy a bottle. Tell a friend. Make it happen.
Give !luna! a reason to smile.
*the use of punctuation marks such as ! in !luna!’s name indicates that her name is from one of the click languages of southern Africa, in this case !luna! is a Ju/’hoan speaking Bushman.

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