Success of Gamboura Water Wells Project

Wed, Jul 29th 2015 at 3:00 pm- Wed, Aug 26th 2015 - 2:00 pm

Hamish Tait was pleased to report on the successful completion of water wells to help the population of the Gamboura village in N Cameroon

Rotary Club of St Andrews leaps to the rescue of Gamboura


Gamboura has a serious drought problem. It is a remote village of 12000 people in the Far North region of Cameroon, 15 kilometres from the border with northern Nigeria. The population has recently hugely increased by refugees from Nigeria fleeing the terrorist group Boko Haram.    During the dry season (October to June each year), the population has only three functioning surface wells, meaning the women (yes, it’s always the women!) spend hours each day walking many  miles in the heat (up to 50°C) in search of water.  Amongst other problems resulting from the lack of ready access to clean water is a high incidence of water borne diseases, particularly affecting children and often fatal.  School attendance is also badly affected and general productivity in the village suffers.

 In August 2010, a son of the village, Jean Tchao, a pastor and secretary of the Cameroon Union of Baptist Churches, emailed a contact in St Andrews with a desperate plea for help to relieve the drought situation.  The Rotary Club of St Andrews leapt to the rescue.  Firstly, the club funded an exploratory visit and site report in 2012.  This recommended the sinking of a minimum of five boreholes, at an estimated cost of £50,000.  A huge challenge, but this is where the strength and effectiveness of the worldwide Rotary organisation can deliver much needed aid. If the St Andrews Club could raise £10,000 it could apply for a Global Rotary Grant which, if successful, would provide the necessary funds.  The St Andrews Club managed to raise £6,000 (including a public donation of £1,000 specifically for work in the Far North of Cameroon) then an appeal went out to other clubs.  With support from Anstruther, Alloa, Callendar, Crieff, Dundee, Dunfermline Carnegie, Kirkcaldy Raith and Leven the target was reached in December 2014.  The application for a Global Rotary Grant was successful bringing the available funds to £50,500.

 The St Andrews club worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Maroua.  Maroua is the regional capital of the Far North Region of Cameroon.  The club there supervised the finance after it reached Cameroon and inspected and reported back on the project’s progress.  The wells were constructed by a Cameroonian organisation called Fondation Bethléem.  The Fondation started as an orphanage funded by three Italian Catholic churches and headed by an Italian priest, Père Danillo.  It then expanded to provide care for deaf children and physically and mentally handicapped.  They provide training in a variety of practical skills through their array of workshops (e.g. carpentry, metalwork, dyeing and fabric work).  In 2007 they were donated a drilling rig which enabled them to undertake major water projects.  The organisation is now self financing.

 There were some delays getting the money out to Maroua causing much anxiety as work had to be completed before the rainy season started.  This usually arrives by mid June and then the equipment would have to be pulled out before the roads became impassable.  Even during the dry season the “roads” are a challenge!   The schedule was tight, but eventually the work got under way at the beginning of May, and the boreholes were all sunk before the rain started.  And there was added value: thanks to changes in the rate of exchange, six boreholes, not five, were sunk.  Management committees have been set up to look after each of the wells and raise money for maintenance.  Technicians have been trained to undertake basic maintenance and simple repairs.  And the villagers have received health and hygiene training.

 The successful outcome of this project demonstrates what an effective organisation Rotary is.  Thanks to the support of the people of St Andrews, the local club was able to kick start the funding.  Then several other Clubs came on board with contributions which were critical for the success of the venture.  And the role of Rotary’s own charity, Foundation, was key.  Finally, the ability to work in partnership with Rotarians in another part of the world meant we could be certain the funds would be used purely for the project and not to line the pockets of local officials!  

 The pictures show the drilling rig en route for Gamboura, a technician divining for water, water spouting from successful drillings and a couple of the completed wells.

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