U.S. - Tanzania Relations Spring Forward With Village Well Dedication
Tanzanian representatives met with U.S. Embassy officials and military civil affairs members to celebrate a fresh water well dedication in the Tanga district March 9, 2010.
Local residents made sure the event was no ordinary celebration. Nearly the entire Tanzanian fishing village of Putini-Chonoleani, and others from surrounding villages, came out to show their appreciation for the clean water.
"Because of the well, the people are getting fresh water, which is without disease," said Ali Nganzi Sembe, village council for Putini-Chonoleani, the closest village to the well dedication. "There are 100-150 people coming to the well every day, walking as far as eight kilometers," he said.
The U.S.-funded well project is one of six that were drilled and built in a 40-mile radius in the Northern Tanzanian region of Tanga, providing fresh water that was either difficult to get or non-existent for thousands of villagers. Although the area has seasonal rainfalls and the Indian Ocean is nearby, fresh water was difficult to capture and was often unclean and diseased. Tanzanian and U.S. embassy officials worked closely with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) representatives, including those from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa civil affairs unit based in Djibouti.
A Tanzanian company received the project contract and completed the work in November 2009.
Sembe explained how difficult life was prior to the wells. "The people would get water from small ponds, or they'd dig and wait for the water to come up. They would [also] have to walk very far to get fresh water," he said. Many of the villagers continue to travel using five-gallon buckets draped over their bicycles and some women carry the heavy water buckets on their heads.
U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Honorable Alfonso Lenhardt, who was one of the guest speakers at the dedication, said the wells are helping improve the health of the Tanga residents.
"Working together, we are reducing the health risks of the people of this community including dysentery, cholera and other preventable water-borne diseases. Now thousands of members of their community and surrounding villages have easier access to safe, reliable water sources," Lenhardt said.
Tanzania People Defense Force Captain R.J. Mgalla, liaison officer with the task force, said the residents are very appreciative of the well and the benefits it has created. "Their life is easier because of this water. They appreciate [America's] help and a job very well done. So now, instead of them thinking of where to get water, they are thinking about other important things," he said.
The appreciation showed at the dedication. At the end of several key message points by different speakers, the crowd would break out in a clap and chant. Instead of one, there were three ribbon cuttings at the well's entrance, demonstrating the high number of dignitaries in attendance. They included Tanga's Regional Commissioner Said Said Kalembo, District of Tanga Commissioner Dr. Ibrahm Msengi, and City of Tanga's Mayor, Salin Kisaiji. U.S. Army Brigadier General James D. Owens, Jr., deputy commander for CJTF-HOA, also attended and officially turned over the well's ownership to the residents.
"Today marks the official handover of these water wells to your community," Owens said. "These wells belong to you and it is up to you to safeguard them and use them to better your health and your community for years to come."
As the key representative of Tanga's residents, Kalembo had a similar message and spoke directly to the Putini residents. "You have the responsibility to safeguard this well so that it can be sustainable and it can benefit you and your future generations. You must remember that American people sent their money so you can benefit from them. So it is our responsibility to safeguard the project so that everyone can benefit for years," he said.
Mgalla believes the American efforts and actions are shaping the attitudes of the region's residents. "I think everywhere right now they know that Americans are here to help. By doing something--they can understand that. It helps them to understand that we're friends. You're making a difference...you're making a big impact on the villages," he said.
The U.S. embassy and civil affairs teams have also provided Tanga with human and livestock medical training, and equipment. The teams hope to continue project developments in other areas of Tanzania.
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