Focus on Senegal

April 2011

The Village that JICA Saved

PhotoWatering the new village garden in Mereto

The situation was so bad in the Senegalese town of Mereto that even a life-saving water well had turned into a deadly killer.

Village elders recall that the situation around the overcrowded water point was so chaotic at times that at least six people lost their lives in the daily scramble for the precious liquid.

In the 1990s JICA financed the construction of a permanent water tower which now dominates the skyline of Mereto, a farming and cattle rearing center of 3,000 people.

It was, according Mamadou Thiaw, the local president of the town's waterpipe users association, a turning point in the fortunes of the Mereto, "a project which saved us."

The agency built water towers in other areas as part of its general activities in the West African country to provide safe water and promote community activities.

But JICA formed a lasting relationship with Mereto and during a recent visit, the elders proudly produced a children's exercise book and carefully read out a series of JICA-inspired programs.

PhotoA water point in Mereto for livestock

Outside, the rude health of Mereto was highlighted by the bustle of the local market and the steady stream of horse drawn carts carrying villagers and traders to and from surrounding areas.

Pipes were recently placed from the central water tower to a large communal garden where locals now grow tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers and other vegetables and raise goats and ducks. Previously, they had to pay exorbitant prices for fresh produce to traders arriving from as far away as 70 kilometers.

Thirteen water points and dozens of taps provide safe water outlets to the town's residents.

Other areas will soon be developed for further vegetable cultivation and animal grazing. New techniques have been introduced from Japan to preserve grasses for animal feed. Villagers were trained a local administration and developing community projects.

Cumulatively JICA's activities have turned a dying village into a thriving town.

PhotoJICA-financed water tower has brought new life

"We had so many problems before," says another village elder, Mamdou Faye. "Then, we were a tiny village. Now we are a real rural community, the center for people from surrounding villages."

He added: "Stomach problems from bad water have disappeared. Village people did not know how to work together before. Now we have so many community projects.

Added Mamadou Thiaw: "These are projects which will last us a lifetime."

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