Awuru Amalia smiles broadly as she pumps water from the communal well in Omugu, Uganda.
The 68-year-old used to have to walk 15kms from home to get water from the river and battled to carry much back with her, so had to do the long walk every day.
“At my age, getting water from that river was only a punishment for me,” she says patting her hip. She winces slightly as she recalls the pain in her joints.
“The cattle also used that river; it was not clean!” she says with a grimace.
She visits the well daily now, but it is right on her doorstep. She collects water for her vegetable patch, for cooking, washing, bathing and drinking.
Although Awuru only has a small garden at home, where she plants cassava, sorghum and beans, the rest of her community depend on farming for food and income. Most members of her community – which also hosts a fair number of refugees – sell their surplus vegetables and milk at the nearby market.
“Me, I only have some pigeons, chickens and goats, but they have more cattle and big crops. Before, the cows and goats also had to walk that long way to the river. Now they come here; there is no more [cattle] theft,” she explains.
As she talks, her neighbour arrives with her cows and they drink thirstily from the trough, especially built for this purpose and to prevent wastage. The neighbour’s two children also relish a drink straight from the pipe.
Awuru watches them and reflects: “When we saw the water come out, we couldn’t believe it. We were all happy, excited and so relieved. It is clean water, now the children can drink and we do not have to worry about all the diseases.”
She explains that along with their water well came training and the formation of a water committee to ensure it is properly looked after.
The community decided that anyone seen mishandling the well will be stopped from using it.
“That scared us. No one wants to go back to that struggle,” says Awuru. “My community feels like their hope is restored and their cries were heard.”