From mountain to fountain: how one village in Madagascar got clean water


We’ve seen the celebrations when clean water arrives in a village for the first time, but how does it get there? Voices from the Field officer Ernest shares the incredible effort of the Tsarafangitra locals, and the joyous moment the taps were turned on.

How much of your day is spent fetching water?

When I first met the people of Tsarafangitra, Madagascar in September 2016, women and children like Neny (pictured) were having to spend much of their day walking long distances up and down hill to supply their households and school with water.

Portrait of Nirinasoa fetching water at their dirty water source in Tsarafangitra village, Belavabary commune, Moramanga district, Alaotra Mangoro region, Madagascar. September 2016.
Neny, age 8, collects water from the dirty water source in Tsarafangitra, September 2016.
Image: WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

They'd fill their containers with dirty water, and then climb the steep slopes back to the village with up to 20 litres balanced on their heads – three times a day. As well as missing school and getting ill from the water, the task of fetching water exposed them to risk of physical injury and sexual assault.

But in just one year, amazing change has been made. With the support of Aveda, local organizations and WaterAid, a gravity feed system has been built and installed. Clean spring water is piped down the mountain into a big storage tank, before feeding life-changing water to the villages, health centre and school.

Throughout the process, I saw first hand the enthusiasm, motivation and hard work of the Tsarafangitra locals. As well as digging kilometres of trenches, they walked 13 kilometres to the water source, carrying pipes, cement and iron bars because the road is inaccessible by truck.

And after seeing all their hard work, I was even happier to get the chance to capture that 'once in a lifetime' moment on my most recent visit to the village...

At about 4pm, everyone gathered around one of the new water points. I set up my camera and watched as, under the rhythm of drums played by local musicians, technicians connected the tap to the tap stand and cheers broke out.

The honour to turn on the tap and drink the first drops of water was given to pregnant women, and soon enough Neny got her turn. While we were dancing and celebrating the water's arrival, a beautiful rainbow appeared in Tsarafangitra's sky. For me it was just an amazing meteorological phenomenon (and a great photo op), but the villagers saw it as a symbol of heaven being happy and celebrating this big moment with them.

Portrait of Nirinasoa called Neny, 9, pictured during the water arriving celebration in Tsarafangitra Village, Belavabary Commune, Moramanga District, Alaotra Mangoro Region, Madagascar. October 2017.
What a difference a year makes! Neny, age 9, turning on the tap in Tsarafangitra, October 2017.

Ernest is one of eight Voices from the Field officers working with WaterAid. Local to Madagascar, he shares stories from local communities in their quest for clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. Find out more about our Voices from the Field officers >