a West African nation of 10 million people, is on the edge of the
Sahara desert. It is a very poor country; with an average
GNI of $240, labor is cheap and mechanized equipment is very
One of the biggest challenges the Malian people face is water supply;
some villages have to dig as deep as 120 meters (400 feet!) to hit
water. These precious resources need to be carfully protected from
erosion and contamination.
One technique, promoted by the U.S.
Peace Corps, uses "Dutch Bricks" to reinforce the
well. These bricks, made on-site from locally mixed concrete, are
very solid and designed to prevent collapse.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I trained local teams to reinforce
wells with Dutch Bricks. The villagers would either dig a new well
or clean up an existing one. I would then lead a team of masons,
and train them "on-the-job". We would cover:
- worksite setup and safety;
- proper concrete-mixing techniques and proportions;
- brick molding;
- brick curing;
- brick laying;
- cover slabs;
- well hygiene and maintenance.
We tried to have teams reinforce a few wells together to solidify
their knowledge, but financing was always a problem. Although the
villagers were able to contribute labor, sand and gravel without
laying out any cash, the cement and rebar for a 15-meter (50-ft)
well could cost as much as $400--money the villagers just didn't