Home | TheWaterBlog

TheWaterBlog: If you want to share unique images and observations in this section, or would like to know about syndicating these posts, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

 

posted by Frank van Steenbergen
October 08, 2012

A common sight in rural areas is long lines of jerry cans, waiting to be filled with water and carried home by women. In their earlier life, the containers carried cooking oil.

They are square and unwieldy – a good enough design to import cooking oil but certainly not to carry water in, on one’s back or on the head. Yet this is what most jerry cans are used for – day after day.  See for example this movie from Tigray, Ethiopia. In fact, in many deprived parts of the world poverty is defined as not having a donkey or any other animal to carry the 20 kilogram load of water.

The ergonomics of the water containers are clearly all wrong. Amazingly however, even though in Africa alone up to 80 million women carry this awkward load daily. Very little research and effort has gone into developing/ promoting alternatives. In a study on women carrying water on their head (not on their back) the prevalence of spinal (incl. neck) pain was 69%. Of back pain it was 38%.

 

Some alternatives have been developed. There is the ‘water back pack’ - developed with the help of Greif, a packaging industry company. Another alternative is the Hippo Roller – produced in South Africa. This is a barrel that is pushed forward and can carry 90 litres of water. Brilliant though these are, they are yet to be used widely and are not available in local markets.  

So here is a request for fresh ideas on easing the burden of millions of women carrying heavy loads of water on their backs: either ideas to promote existing improved devices, or breakthrough designs as alternative options. TheWaterChannel invites physiotherapists, ergotherapists, rural marketeers and everyone else to send in ideas and proposals – before December 15, 2012. (The entries should include detailed sketches and an explanatory note, no more than one-page long) The best idea will be rewarded with a prize money of 500 Euros. Send in your entries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Multiple-use Water Conflicts

    posted by Seifu Kebede, Taye Alemayehu, Asefa Kumsa and Frank van Steenbergen October 01, 2012In the last five years, the development of small scale private irrigation has caught on in Ethiopia. Small, high-value horticultural plots are ‘popping’ up in many parts of the country. Often the new vegetable gardens use water from rural drinking water systems, converting these - by stealth - into so...

    Read more

  • Water: The New Gold Standard?

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen September 24, 2012In recent times of crisis, the economic performance of US has been helped very much by an age-old practice – the printing of extra money (the euphemistic term is ‘quantitative easing’). A shot in the arm for the economy but also one that also brings inflation and weakens the patient. If the dollar was any other currency its bloated being woul...

    Read more

  • Herbicides: are they good for you?

    posted by Marta Agujetas Frank van Steenbergen September 17, 2012An amazing trend is the increased use of herbicides in rain-fed farming, for instance in Ghana where this picture was taken. A main driver is shortage of labour, with so many young people leaving rural areas for towns and cities. But are these herbicides good for us?The use of herbicides in often (but others are silent) recommended i...

    Read more

  • Mermaids

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen September 10, 2012 Whereas we may be familiar with the iconic mermaid in the harbor of Copenhagen, in rivers and lakes in Ghana, mermaid creatures are said to live as well. Called ‘Maame Water,’ she is very much like the Mami Wata spirit that is common to many other West African cultures. During the slave trade, the belief in these mermaids travelled to the Car...

    Read more

  • Yemen's 'Magic Soil'

    posted by Taha Alwashali and Frank van Steenbergen September 03, 2012The ancient name of Yemen is ‘Arabia Felix’ - the blessed happy Arabia - and maybe this has something to do with some of the special soils in the country.  A very common soil is the red soil that has an amazing ability to retain water - which in the arid environment of Yemen is a big plus.  Red soil is both cohesive and por...

    Read more

  • Changemakers: Future of Irrigation in Africa

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 27, 2012Much hope is pinned on the development of small-holder irrigation in Africa. In many places there are ample water resources – groundwater and local streams. Several new irrigation systems, large and small, have been developed. Even so, irrigation development is taking off slowly and failure rates are high.                      There are s...

    Read more

  • Financial Crisis and Water Utilities

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 21, 2012Over the past three-four years, the financial crisis has dominated the headlines– with much of the attention on national debts in Southern Europe at the moment. What gets less attention is the financial position of lower tiers of governments (municipalities, provinces) or public utilities, such as drinking water companies or water boards.Traditional...

    Read more

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 13, 2012 What is more important – public health, or security and deterrence? To answer this impossible question, lets take a closer look at the sub-district of Kahuta, situated not far northeast from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.Located in Kahuta is Khan Research Laboratories:  Pakistan's main nuclear weapons lab and its center for long-range missile de...

    Read more

  • The Inca Vessel

    Posted by Frank van Steenbergen August 06, 2012One of the most beautiful objects in the National Museum of the American Indian in New York is the Inca Terraced Vessel. It is estimated to be six hundred years old and comes from coastal Peru.  The vessel looks like a replica of an Inka temple, but on closer look it seems to represent a carefully terraced landscape.The three lower steps of the vesse...

    Read more

  • Fluorosis: The Value of Norms (?)

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen July 30, 2012In the Habala district of Southern Ethiopia, fluoride levels are high – significantly higher than the WHO norm of 1.5 mg/litre. One would expect dental disorders and even the crippling that is associated with the consumption of fluoride rich water over many years. However, among a sample of 600 people in Habala these common symptoms of fluorosis were ...

    Read more