Wearing worn out clothes turned brown by dirt over the years and in sandals, Leodomin Muhawenimana, a man in his early forties squats next to a 20 litre jerrycan of water. He struggles to fit his mouth over the container’s mouth as he attempts to scoop water to drink.
He starts endlessly drinking the water, as if it was the source of his life. Nothing else in this world seemed to matter at that moment for Muhawenimana as he quenched his thirst.
Finally, he stands up satisfied and wipes off the film of water from his mouth using the back of his hand.
Muhawenimana, is one of the many Gasagara residents who fetch the now safe and clean water at the newly installed borehole.
“I have waited for this for a long time because at least I know the water is clean and good for drinking,” Muhawenimana says.
Safe water for the residents of Gasagara had been a lingering dream for many years. Located 12 km from Kabuga town, Gasagara is quite a remote area save for the soil road that breaks into numerous tiny paths that lead deep into the hilly village.
Muhawenimana is a vegetable farmer, with four children. His youngest seven-year old son is the only lucky child who goes to school. The others are not educated because they are needed to fetch water for the vegetable gardens.
“Now that the borehole is nearer, my children will soon be able to go to school,” he assures.
The borehole was donated a week ago by Christ for the Nations Ministries; a faith based non government organisation that has operated in the area for four months.
Currently, the borehole is the only source of safe water in the area.
Residents say it cannot be enough. Even though they are satisfied with the borehole, they are still expectant that more will be installed to provide safe water to each family.
“We call upon other good hearted Samaritans to come to our rescue. This is good for the water problem in Gasagara, but we still need more,” said Laurence Uwimana, in charge of Social Affairs in Kabuga Sector.
Gasagara residents argued that the previous lack of safe water has greatly affected their health and tainted almost every part of their lives.
According to Muhawenimana, a number of people fall sick because they drink dirty water.
He periodically suffers from a running stomach and he recently had to go through the hustle of treating his children from worms that were discovered in their bodies. He said the presence of one borehole means that they still have a long way to go before water challenges can completely be dealt with.
“Because of the long queues at the water pump, we would rather go and fetch the dirty pond water. This exposes us to many diseases,” he says.
Bernard Mugisha, 14 narrates of how he misses school because he has to fetch water for home use. He said that he always wakes up early and walks kilometers to fetch water at the borehole.
He could go to the pond but it is covered with green algae, and the water is not exactly clean.
“My mother is very old, she can never go to the borehole to fight for water,” Mugisha said.
Mugisha is currently in primary one, and he has never been able to progress to the next class.
“There are times when I have to drop out of school especially during the hot season,” he said.
While other children complete primary school at the age of 14, it is rare in Gasagara for children to complete by the time they are 17 years old.
He said that many other children wake up as early as 4:00 a.m just to book a place at the borehole. Evident is a long queue of jerrycans, and little children sitted as they wait their turn to fetch.
Waiting patiently, is 13 year-old Annet Muragijimana who is sitted with a group of other girls.
“Sometimes we sit for more than four hours before we get water and when someone powerful and bigger comes, they don’t need to wait.
They can get water easily,” she said.
Ephraim Mbonigaba, the Executive Secretary of Gasagara, said that more than four sectors meet at the same water reservoir. This forces over 175 homes to fight for water at the borehole every day.
“It hasn’t been an easy task getting water; many go without it for days. This is why we lack hygiene,” says Mbonigaba.
The borehole water is like a trickle compared to the population. However, it’s not all a dire struggle. There are those who view this situation as a blessing in disguise.
“I will now practice zero-grazing and at least my cattle can get drinking water,” says Erina Mwitirehe, 48.
She has been a resident in the area and is optimistic that her four adopted children, whom she claims were abandoned, will now be able to drink more milk from her cows which now have more water to drink.
Norman Desire, a representative of Christ for the Nations Project, said they have big plans for Gasagara.
These include sensitising residents to practice irrigation farming, ensuring hygiene at home, establishing health clinics and ensuring that children attend school.
“We plan on giving more aid to Gasagara, through building a school, a health centre and more clean water sources,” Desire said.
There’s no health clinic or hospital and people walk miles to get to the nearest clinic. Despite the water challenges and consequent problems, Gasagara residents say they are content with their one borehole.