In February of 2013, I traveled to Niger, West Africa to conduct preliminary research among the Songhai people. This trip was my third to the region and allowed me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how cultural groups in rural villages cope with water resources. In particular, I studied sanitation procedures, hygiene behaviors, water fetching durations and allocations.
I conducted surveys and interviewed workers in remote villages along the Niger River. The data acquired will be used as the foundation for the creation of visual water education materials for people living in rural Niger, West Africa.
Many of the women I interviewed during this initial research trip spoke of the daily arduous task of carrying water to and from the river to their homes, often starting before dawn and not finishing until after dark. Some even explained it’s as if they never stop. Most gather water from sources that are heavily used and negatively impacted by people and animals. The water is then used without any treatment for consumption. For many communities in Niger, water collection takes up so much time that women and children are often unable to find time to go to school or work to support their families.
A Living Document Approach
This research has four planned phases but is designed as a Living Document in that plans can change and grow as needed. This allows us to be more dynamic and diligent with our time, energy, and funding. We are striving to overcome the hurdles of illiteracy and cultural barriers to educate hard-to-reach culture groups about water, sanitation, and hygiene. By pushing the imagery as far as we can in our research methods, we are attempting to create a new way of approaching education.
This research has been strengthened by WKU, the Department of Geography and Geology, and tremendous support from national partners within the region.