Excuse me a moment while I fill the kettle to make some tea … Ah, that’s better. It only took a minute to cover the 20 steps to the kitchen and back, including a quick tummy rub for the cat.
Luckily I’m not in Engalaoni, Tanzania, where every day from July to December each year the Maasai women have to fetch water, carrying it on their heads from 12 miles away. It’s a ten hour trip through hot sun and swirling dust.
“When there was no water in the dry season the whole day would just stop,” Naishooki recalls.
“I would leave at seven each morning to walk the 12 miles to the waterhole. It was impossible for me to return before four, carrying five gallons of water on my head to provide for the whole family.”
“My three children,” she adds, “were motherless for those long hours and would go without eating until my return because there was no water to cook with.”
But today the donkeys Heifer International provides are changing lives. One donkey can carry four times the water a woman can carry, and at a faster pace. What’s more donkeys can eat a varied “scrub” diet that overlaps very little with the food the Maasai, themselves, need to feed their families. Then there’s the manure which helps feed the land and make it more productive.
“Since receiving our donkeys,” says Esther Augusti, “our work has simplified, and our health and the health of our families has stabilized. We have enough water to cook, wash our dishes and bathe.”
Today roughly 800 million people in the world are malnourished and 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. Rural people make up most of the struggling poor.
Heifer International has set an ambitious goal to help one million families move toward self-reliance through the gift of livestock, training and “Passing on the Gift” between 2000 and 2010.