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The problem of providing drinking water in rural areas has always existed in Madagascar and seems not to have to be resolved any time soon. Moreover, even in the city, the problem arises.
Formerly the plateaus of Imerina and Betsileo have a typical landscape: hills crowned with red or white houses planted in terraced rice fields and fields of cultivation. Often these villages are surrounded by wide and deep ditches, vestiges of
Fortifications of times past.
Most are fed with water inside the fortified enclosure. Water brought by gravity from a valley upstream containing a spring, which is led by a covered channel to the village and of which only the inhabitants know the secret of its origin. Thus, when the enemy comes to attack them, they close the access of the village and support the siege, without risk of lack of provisions with reserves of harvest and especially of water.
Sometimes the villages are built on the highest peaks of the hills of the region. In this case, in the fortification trenches, a secret path leads to the usual source of water supply, if this water is not in the trench itself.
Later, when the country begins to live under a more unified regime, the security of the villages becomes greater, the women then leave by group, in the morning, or towards the evening, to draw water to the river. “And this procession of laughing and jerking women, searching for water, has long been one of the most engaging and picturesque images of our everyday life” (Dr. Germain Rakotoarivelo, 1966). Each household has its own pottery jug, which holds up to two hundred liters of water, and each woman uses a smaller (five to fifteen liters) made to measure.
However, it is becoming increasingly evident that even the villages that have had water at their doors, let their pipes deteriorate and are forced to fetch water further.
In the plains, the village is almost always situated at the edge of a river and each woman comes to draw the water necessary for her household. Sometimes, each house (or group of houses) digs a well in the yard or nearby. But when the well comes to dry up, you have to look for water very far, sometimes 15km, at the risk of being attacked by the bandits of highways. And when a woman goes several miles to find a pitcher of water necessary for the family’s diet, it is certain that she spends it sparingly on cleaning and cleaning needs.
In some areas, rainfall runoff can be collected by means of shallow but fairly wide holes and stored in a series of jars. “It’s making provision for a while, but it does not solve the problem in any way.” In some cases, the most astute build ponds, but these do not meet all the needs of the year.
It was then that the water trader established himself in certain villages. He leaves with a few barrels on his ox cart to look for the water he sells to the population per unit of measure which is the pitcher or the oil can. This difficulty of water supply does not appear everywhere in the same way. On the eastern coast, water is found almost everywhere, “even in the bamboo compartments and trunks of the ravinala”. Thus, “people do not fail to use them all, according to their need or their whim”. In any case, “it is essential to bring all this rural population out of its current routine in order to advance it in the path of human and social progress”.
There is no need to extend to all the inconveniences caused by the scarcity of water, still less to cite diseases contracted by water deficiency. Everyone knows that water at will and within reach of the hands is an essential factor of healthy life. No water, no life, but no clean water, no hygiene possible.
Finally, we should not forget that water deficiency does not penalize human beings alone. It also arises for crops and livestock. Cultivation is usually done in locations chosen for convenience and water. As for livestock, “the flock, which may contain up to 3,000 cattle, will long remain in its pasture, which it is doubtless necessary to improve, and drink in the river or the water-point situated there.” But in the southern sub-desert regions, humans and animals will have the same water satisfaction, depending on the progress of drilling and irrigation from rivers and rivers, and the pumping of groundwater. Projects planned since the 1960s!