Building a solar-powered water tower at GFYA has been a project that was long overdue. Although the kitchen garden has been flourishing and supplied plenty of vegetables for school meals, water access remains a big issue.

The most recent report by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation found that only 3% of Sierra Leone's population have access to safe water. Although water access in urban areas is better than in rural areas, it is still far from ideal. 68% of households in Freetown have access to basic water facilities within 30 minutes reach. However, only 3% have access to safely managed drinking water. Inequalities in access also depend on geographical location and different wealth quintiles, with wealthier households having improved water facilities. The main reported reason for poor water quality is long distances between access points and treatment facilities. Long pipes are often prone to leakages as well as additional illegal pipes added to the network, resulting in pollution of the water, decreased pressure and intermittent supply.

Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right.

- Kofi Annan

The experience at GFYA is reflected in the situation reported by the Ministry of Health. Due to the low water pressure, the public tabs cannot be used to irrigate the garden. As an alternative a hand-dug well has been built, however, this still leaves the watering process very labour intensive. To water the garden, currently, seven gardeners are required to dedicate six hours daily to fetch water from the well. Not only is this hard work for the staff, but moreover the water not clean and cannot be used for anything else other than watering the plants.

Construction begins

When we identified a foundation that seemed like an ideal fit for the project, and were successful in securing funds to build a life changing solar powered water tower. When we told our partners in Sierra Leone, they were thrilled and performed a gratitude ceremony with all the children. It not only meant that the garden could be watered more efficiently but also improve the lives of the whole community with fresh drinking water. Alongside implementing the water tower it was also part of the project to train the community in its use and sanitation and hygiene practices.

Foundations go in

The builders were soon ready to start and the construction proceeded efficiently despite a global pandemic. Firstly a borehole had to be dug and then the foundations for the tower were installed. In only three weeks, the tower was ready and only had to dry to be able to install the tank and the solar panels. Considering the difficult year and all the set backs we had to face as a small charity, being able to fund the tower has been an incredible success, with an impact that will last for generations to come.

Watch a video from John Donald Sandy himself about the water tower.

The tower almost complete

Read Part Two of this series to see what Lewa have been up to