Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Water is flowing in Dixie again!!

For several months the people of Dixie have been without clean water. Now Dixie, for those of you that don't know, is a small village (less than 300 households) just outside Gowrie Gate, the Sabi Sands, South Africa, and is home to Patrick (safari.tv presenter) and lots of our friends like Rexon, Taxon and many of the staff at Djuma.
Its quite difficult to appreciate just how hard life is without clean running water when you live in a 'first world' city like Johannesburg, or in a 'western' country like the United States. You can't properly wash your clothes or yourself. You can't grow crops, so food is scarce. Its unhealthy for kids, and adults, to drink dam water, and cooking with this water is also a bad idea ... but if you have no alternative, that is what you are forced to do.
A few months ago the borehole pump broke. Technically this is the responsibility of the municipality to repair, but they lack the resources, and Dixie is far far away from any of the major towns and therefore quite easy to ignore. Not to mention the fact that there has been a battle raging for control of the land on which Dixie is situated and which rightly belongs to the community.
Every day the people of Dixie, predominantly the woman, have to wake up long before dawn and walk into the bush down to the dam and fill wheel barrows with dirty, muddy water and bring it back to the village. It has been a very very tough period of time.
Finally, after a great deal of effort WE managed to figure out what was wrong with the mono pump (it is an ancient system that few people know anything about). Emily then began the process of getting a new pump manufactured, based on the specifications given to us by the municipality. It took forever to get made in Johannesburg and find its way down to Mpumulanga, and cost a fair packet as well.
When it finally did arrive, we got in touch with Chris Dreyer, a local legend that has done a lot of the building in the Sabi Sands, and has been taking care of the safari.tv and Vuyatela septic tanks and drains for years. He also happens to be one of the only people (other than my father), that I know, who knows anything about mono pumps at all. He made several trips to Dixie and met up with Rex, and they began to slowly get the old pump out of the ground.
When they finally got all the 'rotten' pipe and the pump out of the ground, they discovered that WE had had the wrong pump manufactured!! We were all devastated and nobody more than Rex, who has been working so hard on this project, with so many obstacles to overcome.
There was nothing for it ... WE sourced and purchased another pump, this time the correct one. WE also had to find all the necessary pipe and other items to be able to reinstall the pump. You see the thing with these mono pumps is that if you do not get it put back in correctly it will rip itself apart and once again Dixie would be without clean water.
Chris returned to Dixie with his team and began the slow and arduous process of reinstalling the pump. Finally, a few days ago the people had clean water!!!!
The impact on the lives of the people of Dixie by this event cannot be overstated. This evening safari.tv and Herman Gerber will be hosting a Fire Side Chat at 18h30 CAT (16h30 GMT, 09h30 Pacific and 12h30 East Coast) where Patrick and Rexon will be discussing the difficulties that the village faced not having clean water and how grateful they are to the WildEarth.TV audience for donating the money necessary to solving this situation. Herman and Alex have also produced a short video about the whole process of getting Water to Dixie, which they will show during the Fire Side Chat tonight.
The money used to get this pump replaced and reinstalled was donated by the WildEarth audience last year, and although it was originally intended to provide fresh running water to every household in Dixie, WE felt that it was the right decision to get fresh water to these people now. 
The project to provide a tap at each home in Dixie is still forefront of our minds. WE have managed to secure most of the permissions necessary to start this project up again. You see, WE can't raise the money (and we need at least $30,000) to build an engineering plan (so we know the actual cost), purchase all the piping and pay a contractor to come in and reticulate the whole village, until WE can guarantee the donors that we won't be stopped before completion. There are many feuding political factions surrounding this tiny village. The feuds relate to land, as they always do, and development of this village is used as a 'weapon' between the various groups. Essentially one or another authority will veto any development, unless they get what they want ... the land which rightly belongs to the people and community of Dixie. However, WE are very very close now, and hopefully quite soon WE will be able to announce that this project is back on track. 
It is though supporting the communities that surround the islands of wilderness that we stand any chance in conserving what little natural heritage we have left. If these communities can feel tangible results in their lives for not poaching and not over grazing these conservation areas, if they can value the fact that people like you watch their natural heritage from afar, then maybe they will see the value in conservation. 
So on behalf of WE, the wildlife and above all the people of Dixie, I would like to thank Chris Dreyer, Rexon Ntimane, Laeveld Bou in Hoedspruit, the safari.tv team and most of all you our dedicated viewers for helping this village in such an incredible way. You are all angels. WEangels. Its in your nature.

Written by Graham Wallington