I have since realised that there were unique experiences we had as kids who grew up in the villages that our counterparts in a city such as Lagos may not relate to. A little of that sentiment of mine was tickled this morning when my seven year old son asked me a simple question:
“Daddy, why do some people put out buckets, bowls and other containers when it rains?”
“To collect some rain water for use,” I replied rather too flippantly, without even looking at the direction where the question came from. But then, almost immediately the salient reality of that question began to dawn on me.
The answer I gave should have been pretty obvious to him you might think. But please give the boy a break; even if for no other reason but because collecting rain water for household use has never been part of his experience in his few years of life on earth.
With portable water now being pumped to the kitchen, bathroom and wherever else water is needed in the house, how would he appreciate the fact that many people around my country still depend on rain water for survival?
“For what kind of use, daddy?” he sought to clarify.
“My dear, it’s for domestic use.” This time I had to look at him in the face, with my hands on each of his shoulders, leaning forward in the process.
When I was at his age (more than three decades ago), I didn’t have to wonder why people harvested rain water. The experience was too common-place for me not to have known the purpose.
But his question afforded me a genuine coachable moment to point out the fact that many homes still cannot do without relying on rain water for some of – if not for all – their domestic uses. I guess that’s still part of the reality of living in a developing nation.
I went on to explain to him how we used to depend on rain water as the main source of water supply way back in the village where I was born. Just like everyone else in that small community, my mum and my older siblings would put out different sizes of containers to collect rain water whenever it poured.
Even the roof of the houses there were embedded with water conveyance systems. That way, the abundant rain water that hits atop the covering corrugated iron sheets were channeled through well-constructed gutters linked with vertical trunk pipes that emptied directly into underground concrete tanks or into big volume surface water reservoirs.
The water so-collected would then be fetched out and put to daily use (washing, bathing, cooking, cleaning and yes, drinking) all-year round. The process was reliable and sustainable too. And because of the beautiful natural vegetation surrounding the environment we lived in, coupled with the absence of fossil fuel using factories, the problem of acid rain was non-existent.
You see, people like my son who were born in an urban city would never fully understand that kind of experience which we considered common-place while growing up. And I completely understand!
Perhaps a little walk back memory lane will underscore my point. I was born in a village in the present day Delta State, Nigeria. I grew up there till my teen years before I finally relocated to the city of Lagos.
That little village was blessed with a few amenities that made it standout amidst other ones around it. It had a well-tarred Trunk B road that ran through it from one end to another connecting it directly to the State Capital at the far end, separated only by a few other villages and towns.
At that time telephone service was a huge luxury way beyond the reach of 99.9999% of the population. Even at that, the village was already linked to the national telephone backbone. And apart from the availability of analogue phone service powered by the now defunct NITEL (Nigeria Telecommunications), the village also had electricity supply from the national grid.
However, water supply was the biggest problem we had to grapple with in that village. No streams, no boreholes and no portable water supply from anywhere. Only rain water, which was abundant doing the wet season and scanty in the dry season, was available.
Thanks to a failed pipe-borne water project sponsored by the then military state government, the various households in the village never had the privilege of regular supply of treated water pumped to them. Looking back now, I would say that was my first experience of a failed government project being commissioned as successfully completed.
Whether it was the contractor’s gross incompetence or the systemic corruption in high places that robbed the community of a properly executed portable water facility, my young mind could not have comprehended it then. But now the picture is clearer.
That was how the pictured looked like some three decades ago. Unfortunately, that’s the same story (or even worse) that could be told of many vital but abandoned (water) projects across many states of the Federation today.
Could the experience have been better for the masses, especially with respect to water supply? You tell me what you think!