Help Villagers in Benin Access Safe, Clean Water

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You turn a faucet, and crystal clean water comes out. You do it every day to wash your hands, fill a glass, take a shower. It’s a fact of life in America, one that doesn’t require a second thought. Conversely, in the dry, rural Kalalé district of Benin, it takes a great deal of thought to determine where you will find clean water. Unlike the U.S. where every household has its own water, there are only 109 access points to clean water for a population of 183,085 in Kalalé. That means an average of 1,680 people in northern Benin share the same spigot that would only serve one family in the U.S. Sandra Phillips, a SELF Project Manager in Benin, explains what happens when there aren’t enough wells to go around:  “The situation leaves the majority of the population of Kalalé dependent on streams… which are unbelievably polluted.  They are contaminated with human waste, parasites, amoebas, schistosomiasis, and all of the pesticides and herbicides that run off of the cotton fields.” (Cotton is Kalalé’s top cash crop, and one renowned for the especially high levels of toxic chemicals used to grow it). In the dry season, even those streams can run dry. Waterborne diseases are widespread, and too often young children are the most at-risk for getting sick.

SELF has developed a solar application meant to ensure everyone can have clean water: An efficient and reliable solar-powered pump draws water from a deep bore hole into the aquifer below and provides a safe and dependable source of water for villagers. This system requires less upkeep than a manual pump, and it works year-round. This innovative use of renewable energy to bring clean water to villagers in Kalalé can be life changing, and even life-saving. And best of all, when you do the math, the cost per person is miniscule. Think about how many people in developing countries could have clean water delivered by solar-powered pumps if everyone in the U.S. with discretionary income dedicated even a tiny percentage of it to clean water. We could make a huge difference in the lives of millions without our even feeling the pinch. It’s that simple.

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