In the 1970s, the Sahel came into the lime light and captured international attention when drought and famine killed nearly 200,000 inhabitants of the region.
Though conditions have since improved during the last 4 decades, the Sahel is still fighting a vicious cycle of soil erosion, insufficient irrigation, deforestation, overpopulation, desertification and drought.
International development agencies believe that ambitious tree-planting, dune stabilisation and irrigation projects will help the Sahel, restoring it’s fragile natural environment over time. From Ehtiopia to Niger to Mali projects have been busy with well drilling, irrigation schemes, water and sanitation schemes accompagnied by training measures to raise environmental consciousness with the local population.
Creating access to clean drinking water was and is still one of the priorities of most projects in the region today. Same applied to our project at the time.
But Nara’s ground water to be found in a depth of 200 meters and more was of fossil origin. Among the many ethnical groups of the region are nomads and berbers. Livestock is their life.
The question which arose soon was: Water for the camels and cattle or for the humans ?
The fossil ground water, hidden in chambers and flowing in the earth so deep that it could not be reached by the local population with traditional drilling methods, could only be touched and brought to the surface after hundreds and hundreds of years with modern Western technology and foreign aid.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing the faithful development assistant on duty asked himself ? Would all the hopes and all the Development built on this fossil water not collapse when the water was finisihed. No, said the KVW ( Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau), we have done a calculation that this water will last a thousand years. And in a thousand years there will be a new plan !
But they did not count the camels !