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Rainwater Harvesting in Sierra Leone…..

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I cannot think of a better way to describe Bank-On-Rain’s adventures in Sierra Leone than a persistent ongoing learning experience.

We arrived at the Sierra Leone airport the afternoon of September 4th 2011 and made our way to Freetown from the airport via ferry. Mohamed Sesa and Mohamed A. Sanko—two Safer Future Youth Development staff—greeted us at the ferry landing and drove us to their farm where we spent the night. More on the Safer Future Youth Development Fund, in an upcoming post; they are an amazing organization and in my opinion they have a very workable “plan” we can all learn from.

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We awoke bright and early the next day to meet with Rajesh, the founder of Peer Water Exchange. Rajesh had a tour planned of several Safer Future projects. The first thing we learned about was C.L.T.S., or Community Led Total Sanitation. This is perhaps the most important learning experience I brought back from Africa. Before installing a well,  Safer Future ensures that each family has and uses a latrine before assisting them in acquiring a well. If Safer Future installs a well before everyone in the village has and uses a latrine, the well water will quickly become contaminated as a result of open defecation! Shocking but true….and maybe not so surprising when you consider that SL is the poorest country in the world.

Once C.L.T.S. is in place Safer Future trains a small team of “well doctors” to construct and fix the well whenever required and this insures continuing maintenance.

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After spending a few days visiting the projects Safer Future has been working on, we travelled to Makali accompanied by Mohamed Sesa, Mohamed A. Sanko, and Shaku Sesay (of Safer Future) in order to get going on the Bank-On-Rain, rainwater harvesting project for which we had come to Africa in the first place! We were overwhelmed with community support and involvement. Under the expert guidance of Ken Blair and Mike Williamson, the school teachers and students performed nearly 100% of the construction; they very pleased to show off their skills and improve the Barina Agricultural Secondary School.

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For me, the highlight was painting the ‘teaching tools’ images we had prepared prior to our trip…..onto the school building and latrines with the students.

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The images resonated with the students and they understood the message conveyed. Not to mention, they were all very proud of their own artwork!

The overall project was a great success. Under the guidance of Bank-On-Rain the teachers constructed a beautiful system with gutters and tanks purchased locally in Freetown, with donations to Bank-On-Rain.

In addition together we installed small systems on both the student and teacher latrines for hand washing, more like systems that could be replicated outside the school for a single family. We used split bamboo from the nearby river for gutters and fish totes (we sent ahead as the packing crates for supplies) or blue tanks purchased on the streets in Freetown, for holding the water.

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Has anyone had a similar experiences bringing, a clean water source to a school or village in Africa, if so we would love to hear from you?  Please leave a comment or email us at info@bank-on-rain.com.

Emily Berg Bank-On-Rain 2011 Intern and Researcher THINK RAIN!
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 Originally published September 29, 2011 on Poesterous as Rainwater harvesting and other adventures in Sierra Leone…

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