World Vision Magazine, Summer 2007
By James Addis
Name your favorite labor-saving device — dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, food processor?
For Halima Issa of Dara village, Niger, the choice is easy. The village’s borehole means she no longer wastes hours every day fetching water from remote sources, nor does she have to treat children who would otherwise be falling sick due to drinking polluted supplies.
But time saved does not mean she is putting her feet up. She and about 40 other village women have started a fledgling soap-making business, established with World Vision’s help.
The women meet regularly under a sweet-smelling neem tree and help each other with each stage of production, creating a sense of camaraderie. First, vegetable oil is boiled and strained. Then soda powder, glue, and powdered detergent are added. Finally, the mixture is rolled into tennis-ball-sized spheres ready for sale at the market. Each fetches 150 francs (about 30 cents), undercutting the price of imported soaps.
It’s good soap, too. Halima shyly admits profits have been down a bit because village women have taken to using the product themselves — it makes their skin softer and smoother than other soap. Nevertheless, they anticipate the business will ultimately generate a healthy income. The women are not only thinking of nice things they can buy with the extra cash but also ways they can invest in new enterprises such as raising chickens.
World Vision hydrologist Braimah Apambire says such ventures show how shortsighted organizations have been in the past by not making access to water a priority. Although the health benefits of good access are obvious, he says, investing in water resources also provides a good economic return.
“The truth is, once people have water, there will follow many things,” he says. “Agricultural development, economic development — everything will follow when you are able to provide water.”
— James Addis is the senior editor of World Vision magazine.
— Additional reporting from Mary Peterson and Tom Costanza.
— Jon Warren is the photo director for World Vision and photo editor for World Vision magazine.
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