One of the first things we did before building was to set two 250L tanks up alongside a tarp to catch rain so our build team would have water. The Kovol people get their drinking water (they drink less than we do in any case) from a stream a 10-minute walk down the slope.

While this works for them, it was never going to work for a busy build team of 10 people. The tanks served their purpose, the 500L being enough for drinking and washing even when we had 10 people for a two-week build. Eventually, our 7000L tanks came in and were hooked up to our houses gutters and the little tanks were unused.

Setting them up as a community water tank seemed the obvious thing to do, but we still thought carefully about it. Initially, we thought about buying more of these tanks so that we could donate one to each village as our thank you present for them helping build our houses.

It was a good idea on paper, but the problem was in the details. Villages here aren’t like villages back home. A Kovol village tends to consist of 4-5 hamlets that can be up to a 45-minute hike apart from each other.
In that case, where should the tanks go? It becomes a political problem that we want to steer well clear of! Who cleans the tanks? Do we also provide gutters to collect water? What do we do if there are complaints that such and such a clan didn’t get a tank? Is 250L of water of any practical value to a village? What do we do if they become filthy and unused?

Anyway, we decided against it and decided our thank you present should be cooking pots instead which are easier to transport and more divisible than one big expensive tank.

Setting the unused tanks up at our houses though seemed like a no-lose community project.
While the community closest to us benefit the most, the tanks are for people visiting us – available to everyone.
They’re supplied when our tanks overflow (every heavy rain!), they’re close enough for us to keep an eye on and they also don’t affect our tanks. There are no worries that someone will just leave a tap open and drain our tanks; they may well do that to their 250L tanks, but our big one is safe. We’ve got a spare sink we could even throw underneath the tap – but let’s keep it simple!

Our tank overflowing in a rain shower

Already we’ve seen the tanks coming in useful for the regular feasts we’re having. Once every 2 days at least our ladies are cooking with their ladies and water is always needed as everything in Kovol is boiled. The tanks are on the Hansen’s house which is closest to the shack we often meet and cook in.

We had a few false starts. We couldn’t stop people playing with the tap while when they were first installed and waiting for their first rain, and a few rains went straight through the tanks since the tap was left open. We think they’ve got it now though and word is spreading that the water is available and we see ladies coming to fill up jugs.

Most still seem to go down to the stream, perhaps afraid of using all the water? We’ll see how things go. A follow-up plan is to provide a bar of antibacterial soap here so people with sores and injuries can wash them. Like most of our bright ideas we have no idea if any of this is a good idea in the long run, meets any needs or will have a positive impact – but hey, we’re trying.

The community sitting on our helicopter fuel


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