What is Fofo Hari?
Fofo Hari is an organization that uses art to overcome illiteracy, language, and cultural barriers in developing nations in an effort to educate women about water, sanitation, and hygiene in creative ways. The culture groups we are educating are used as a consultative part of the design process to help ensure what we create is well received in the villages. We work hard to create imagery that will improve comprehension and recall of key concepts through visual storytelling. By combining eye-tracking techniques, surveys, and interviews, we are creating materials that will empower women and cultural groups to rise above.
Why do research?
Fofo Hari grew from my thesis research and quickly became something much bigger than published work. I had been very fortunate to have traveled the world, meeting wonderful people and visiting interesting places. I also witnessed first hand the devastating affects of poor water quality. I had a background in illustration and design along with environmental consulting, water treatment, and microbiological testing.
My work investigates effective visual learning design with eye-tracking in rural villages of Africa. When you have a cultural group, for the most part, who can’t read or write, information is passed through conversations and storytelling. Images for this research focus on water pollution, sanitation and hygiene protocols, and personal water treatment techniques.
My research is gender specific, focusing on women, who are the primary water fetchers and users in Sub-Saharan Africa. By pushing the imagery as far as we can in our research methods, we are attempting to create a new way of approaching education and if proven successful, could shift the paradigm of working with hard to reach people groups. Visual communication will never be a panacea, but why not get as close as you can through technology and creativity?
Here and Now
Each day, 33 children die from diarrhea caused by unsafe drinking water and improper sanitation in the West African country of Niger. That's 12,000 children a year. Over 80% (14 million people), don't have access to proper sanitation. Nearly 50% (8 million people), don't have access to safe drinking water. Niger is a landlocked state of West Africa located mostly within the Sahara desert. Nearly half of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 US per day. Seventy-one percent of the adult population (15 yrs and older) can't read or write. Health needs exist in Niger that are easily traced back to a lack of education, inadequate water quality, improper sanitation, and hygiene behaviors. These factors have led to a burden of disease that self perpetuates.
Women and Children
Water fetching in West Africa usually is the responsibility of the women and children. On average, women and children spend at least 3 hours a day fetching water over great distances. The distance traveled adds up to several miles a day. It's very hard work and time consuming. Imagine, no matter your age, carrying water all day in containers that weigh 40 pounds on your neck, arms, and shoulders.
Water affects the health, the education, and the livelihood of these individuals. Time spent fetching water is time missed in the classroom and time missed making a living. Poor water quality leads to sicknesses and death. By educating the women and children, they are empowered with knowledge about the resource they desperately need. Education will lead to better water treatment, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors. Empowered people will make better decisions and play active roles in their homes, villages, and community. Educated children will grow up to become leaders that will break the cycle of disease and poverty.
Simple, Affordable, and Sustainable
In order for a health intervention to be effective it must be simple, affordable, and sustainable. Hygiene promotion is the most cost effective health intervention. Just by washing hands with soap, the risk of diarrhea is reduced by 50%. Our water education materials include techniques and behaviors that are simple to do and use resources readily available in rural villages. While boiling water does involve the use of kindling that not all have access to, we include an alternative in solar disinfection.
It’s impossible to do this without tremendous support from national partners within the region. Translation, logistics, and ground support are critical for success and I am extremely grateful for all those who help me. But no one has done more than Mark Phillips. He and his wife Parker have worked with me since the very beginning.
I also look forward to working with Cephas and Biba Tankoano, who have joined the Fofo team. And I'm thrilled to have Ibrahim Mousa join as a national partner as well. My work would not be successful without the partnerships of these amazing people who are living in the country of Niger.