Uganda – Dance with us

Jenny Williams, LWF Uganda

Cam-Cam Borehole, Three Years Later

Members of the WUC welcome the LWF to Cam-Cam

In the bright Ugandan sun, the dance begins: four women stomping their feet to the beat of cowhide drums and hollow calabash shells, accompanied by shrill whistles and ululations from the gathering audience. This is the larakaraka, a traditional Acholi dance of welcome and celebration.

The people here in Cam-Cam, a village just outside the main town of Kitgum in northern Uganda, have reason to celebrate. After more than twenty years of civil war and insecurity in the region, relative peace now reigns, and families who were displaced to over-crowded and under-resourced camps have been able to return to their home villages.

But even before the war, borehole coverage in Kitgum was dismally low: only one out of five people had access to safe and clean water. When people began returning from the camps, they not only had to rebuild their homes and their lives, they also had to struggle daily to fetch water from distant points or unsafe sources.

In 2007, the Lutheran World Federation – Uganda cooperated with local authorities to identify Cam-Cam as a return area in particular need of water access. With support from Diakonie, the LWF drilled a borehole, facilitated the creation of a Water User Committee (WUC), and trained a pump mechanic to ensure proper maintenance.

Today, three years later, the WUC is still operational, and the borehole continues to supply the 70 or so households of Cam-Cam with safe water.

“We are so grateful to the LWF for this water point,” says Laker Anna, chairperson of the WUC. She explains that before the borehole was drilled, they were sharing water with a primary school a kilometre away. The time they used to spend fetching water can now be devoted to endeavours such as agriculture and income-generating activities.

Still, the people of Cam-Cam face great challenges: theirs is a transitional village, with families arriving and leaving every day, which affects the WUC’s ability to collect fees and maintain regular membership. The district’s limited spare parts are reserved for the most remote villages, forcing Cam-Cam to raise large sums of money to buy replacement pipes or handles.

Psychologically, they face additional obstacles in the transition from emergency to development. The people of northern Uganda have been dependent on charity for so many years that it takes some adjustment to become a self-sustaining community. The LWF works to sensitize people to this changing paradigm and help identify ways for them to negotiate new challenges with increased independence and local ownership.

As if to demonstrate their capacity for self-reliance, the WUC holds elections here and now to fill in gaps in the committee leadership. The LWF is a silent observer as nominations are made and the votes come in. Under the shade of broad-leafed trees, the community welcomes their new secretary and vice chairperson with applause and cheering.

When the meeting has concluded, the dancers begin again, and people in the audience trill and clap. The beat grows joyous. A woman puts out her hand: an invitation. “Come,” she says. “Dance with us.”

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