Friday, August 17, 2012


Winter is drawing to a close.  Gone are the clear, frigid mornings where cook-fire smoke spreads low along the ground.  Gone are the woolen hats and bulky second-hand coats.  The people of Zobue wake up earlier now, since it's warm at the break of dawn.  By mid-morning, the neighborhood is hot and bright.  My students have started bringing sweat rags to school.  

The change in the seasons has brought about one striking realization-- Zobue is bone dry.  As the winter pulls away, an entirely new town is left in its wake.  All of the cornfields have been stripped bare and replaced with skeletal, rattling rows of pigeon peas.  The air is gritty with dust. The mountainsides are turning yellow and the wells are running dry.  Everyone is waiting for the rain. 

There's a charm to Zobue at this time of year.  Most of the fields are lying low and empty, so one can see for miles.  The hiking is amazing, and the scope of the landscape is wide.  We've done some of our best exploring in the past couple of months.  

Unfortunately, the water situation is getting difficult.  The wells in our town have been running dry, one by one.  The water in the well next door is now nothing more than a thick, brown sludge.  Our landlady has asked us to retrieve our water elsewhere, so that we might leave the remaining bits of water for her and her family.  The pump at the school has all but run dry, with a few hefty pumps yielding no more than a trickle of brown water.  Families have started guarding their water supply and charging money for the use of their wells.  Our waterboys now walk for nearly a kilometer to fetch the water that we use at our house.

The present water situation has forced us to re-evaluate the way that we use water.  We were never wasteful, but now we are downright frugal.  Almost every cup of water is used twice, with the exception of drinking water.  Dan and I did a water survey over the past week to see how much (and how) we use our water, and we discovered that in the course of an average given week, we use about 180 liters of water.  This means that Seni and Romao are dragging nine 20-liter buckets up our front steps, every week. 

In our house, water is reused in the following ways:

Bathwater  -->  used to wash laundry, to rinse dishes, or to wash out the chamberpot
Dishwater  -->  used to rinse other dishes or to wash out the chamberpot
Laundry Water  -->  used to wash the floor

It is interesting to note that 180 liters of water are equal to approximately 50 gallons of water. This means that Dan and I are each using 3.5 gallons of water every day.  It is probably still too much.

The photographs below illustrate the following two themes:

Zobue in the Dry Season
A Comparison of Water Use

For more information on water, water usage comparisons, and water consumption, visit Water Footprint or The Water Organization

The sandy topsoil in Zobue
A little horned lizard enjoying the sunlight
The dry season is brick-making season.  The clay for these bricks is dug from the substrate,
 then shaped with molds and dried in rows.  
Scenes of Wintertime in Zobue:
1.  Carrying water from the pump (note that the figures on her T-shirt are also carrying water)
2.  Dried bricks stacked behind the pit from which they were dug.
Bricks are stacked in this way to limit their contact with the ground
3.  Pigeon peas planted in rows.  
A small family compound between the mountains.  Note the dried grass and the color of the landscape.
Hiking in the mountains.  Again, note the dried grass and the color of the landscape.
Despite the dry heat, a few flowers are still in bloom
All of them are yellow
The "river" in Zobue.  The stretch of water on the left is milky with soap.  This is where
Romao washes his clothes.  The stretch on the right is used for "bathing only, not drinking."
Typical well in a family compound.  Usually between twenty and thirty feet deep.
Left:  Community water pump at the high school.  Note the trickle of water flowing from the spout.
Right:  Carrying water home from the pump.  20 liters of water weigh about 44 pounds.
Average Water Use in America (per person).  These are very round estimates, based on information from several sources, including Water Use at USGS .  Note that EACH DROP is equal to ONE GALLON of water.
Average Water Use in Mozambique (per person).  These estimates are based on my own personal
experience in Mozambique, and would vary from one person to another.  Note that EACH DROP
is equal to ONE CUP of water.
Because the water drops in the previous illustrations symbolize different volumes (1 gallon versus 1 cup), I made this second graph to show a direct comparison between water use in Mozambique and water use in the United States.
This graph, entitled WORLD WATER USE, is from World Mapper.  According to the description, four thousand cubic kilometers of water are used by people each year around the world.   On the map, the size of the territory is proportional to the amount of water consumed by the countries of that region.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lisa, my name is Haleigh and I'm a PC 19er (I'll start my service at the end of Sept 2012 in Mozambique!) I just wanted to tell you how AMAZINGLY HELPFUL your blog has been. Another 19er found your blog and posted it in our Facebook group, I've been reading your posts and they are so great! I just felt the need to thank you because you've just reaffirmed a lot of the challenges I thought I'd meet over the next 2 years but also highlight many of the reasons why I am just so excited to start next month. Thanks again and best of luck continuing your time in Tete with your husband!