As I was huffing and puffing up the slope, careful not to drop off the steep wall, and anxiously avoiding the small ditch the community had dug with their simple hoes, sticks and coconut husks, I remembered how surprised I was reading the last sentence in the monthly report of this water project in remote Lere, on the island of Sumbawa, barely a week ago.
‘The community has already installed 30 metres of pipes in an extremely difficult environment.’ I remember thinking, ‘30 metres? That is not much!’
But that is before I went to the water source, which is eight kilometres from the village. We travelled through picturesque rice fields, an almost dry riverbed filled with rubble and big rocks, then jungle. After scrambling on hands and feet over the steep slopes we finally made it to a small waterfall.
The communities of Lere, in subdistrict Parado, Bima, have joined with SurfAid to bring clean water from this source all the way to their village. For the first four kilometres they can ride their motorbikes but then it’s just their hands, strength and dedication for the rest of the track.
It is a hard slog climbing up to the waterfall, but now imagine hauling a 50.8-kilogram, six metre long galvanised iron pipe between you and your neighbour. Or a 50kg sack of cement, and a 20kg roll of pipes. And now imagine doing it a couple of times per week, before or after your regular work … in total a staggering 11,365kg of pipes, 300kg of cement, one cubic metre of stones and two cubic metres of sand, and all sorts of other materials that need to go up there.
The community of Lere has made a schedule to ensure there will be a crew at work every day. We are in a hurry because once the rainy season starts in full force people will need to tend to their crops.
There are only three months of rainfall and it needs to be used to the max to ensure there are enough crops and yield for the dry months and the ‘hungry season’. Plus these slopes will be transformed into a mud ‘glacier’, making it impossible to work on the water project.
So, now I understand, 30 metres was a great result. Just two weeks later, on December 4, we were up to two kilometres. At the end of each working day we turn on the water for a bit to see the water travelling from the waterfall to where they finished for the day. The people are so immensely proud of what they are achieving. It is absolutely fantastic.
So please join me in raising a glass of clean water to the people of Lere, the SurfAid Simbo team, and all the other people in remote areas who come together to make their community a better place.
Anne Wuijts is the country director of SurfAid Indonesia. If you would like to donate money to this project go to the donations page of the SurfAid website.