Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Help Fund Pilar's Nyegen Project!

Though the eponymous hero of this blog can no longer volunteer his own ditch–digging skills, the brave activists of Operation Sphincter Plug continue their valiant effort to rid the world of gastrointestinal disease. Continuing this imperative work in another village down the road from Sanadougou is Peace Corps Volunteer Pilar Lyons of Pine Bush, New York. Pilar is a civil engineer with a special zeal for water and wastewater infrastructure!

Pilar’s village is much smaller than Sanadougou – only about one thousand people; however, it has even more dire sanitation needs. This particular Minianka village lies atop soft fertile soils adjacent to a series of seasonal ponds with a very high water table – only 1.5 meters below ground in some places. Though this is a prime location for agriculture, since the water table is so high and the soft soils are not supported by solid rock, their “traditional latrines” built from mud and logs often rot and collapse while some unlucky person is squatting on top of them. Even worse, the high water table and soft soils mean that the groundwater which feeds this village's wells is particularly susceptible to contamination from the unlined latrine pits; in other words, their drinking water is directly polluted with human fecal matter. Without any means of containing wastewater, raw sewage flows out into standing puddles in the street which serve as fertile breeding grounds for malaria-spreading mosquitoes, as well as filth flies and cockroaches which carry giardia cysts and amoebas into the people's food and drinking water.

Inadequate sanitation in a Minianka village is not just something icky – it is the reason why giardia, dysentery, hookworm and malaria are absolutely endemic in this society, it why two out of every five children die before the age of five, it is why so many adults cannot work in the fields because they are sapped and emaciated by dysentery. Without the monetary wealth to purchase reinforced concrete and plastic tubing necessay to build adequate sanitation infrastructure, these poor Miniankas are mired in a cycle of filth, disease and poverty.

A few months before I packed my bags for Ameriki, Pilar biked over to the mud mansion of Xanadu with two masons from her village both named Daniel Dembele. They came to inspect the many dozens of nyegens and soak pits we had built throughout town. My main man Sidiki Sogoba taught the two Daniels how he assembles proper latrine platforms so that they could apply this trade in their own community. Sidiki doesn't mind the competition, because "We need so many skilled masons in every village in Mali. Even near Sanadougou, we need so much work that I could never do it all."

Now Pilar and the two Daniel Dembele’s are committed to organizing a village–wide sanitation campaign similar to the one which Sidiki and I conducted in Sanadougou. With your help, they would like to build 30 concrete latrines with lined latrine pits to safely store solid waste and a combintion of soak pits and infiltration trenches to safely store liquid waste underground in such a way that it does not directly contaminate the groundwater and it cannot be spread by flies and vermin to indirectly contaminate the food and water. The villagers who would like to participate in the program will have to procure all of the sand, rocks and gravel and either contribute or pay for all of the necessary labor; 27 percent of the total cost. Funds donated through the Peace Corps Partnership will go to pay for cement, rebar, plastic pipes, plastic sheets and a few masonry tools which the town does not have at their disposal.

If you would like to contribute to Pilar’s nyegen project, click here!

Ini’che kosibe kosibe!!!