Gabchiyari: Bauchi community where people and animals drink from same source

Lack of access road, potable water, and social amenities make life difficult for the people of Gabchiyari, a rural community in Darazo Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

Residents of the area narrate to Dateline Nigeria how they suffer from water shortages, forcing them to drink water from the same sources with their animals. They also have to contend with poor road networks which is seriously affecting their determination to acquire education and the general livelihood of the people,

Gabchiyari is a hard-to-reach community. Though it is only 25km away from Darazo, the headquarters of Darazo Local Government, it takes not less than three hours to access due to the nature of the only road leading to the village, a political ward headquarters in the LGA.

The people of the community are predominantly farmers and cattle rearers, who live together peacefully, The harmony among the residents somehow masks the suffering they face.

Despite their cries for help over the years, their story has remained the same. The residents are in dire need of potable water for domestic and other uses.

Our reporter who visited the area said Ii is pathetic to see people and animals waiting in turns to have water to drink in order to keep life going.

Children have to fetch water before leaving for school daily

As the World Water Day celebrated in March 2023, the community had no reason to partake in the event. Groaned over lack of water has become a sad reality they can’t wait to escape from.

The community is also in need of other social amenities. “This will make the environment more habitable and to give our children a chance to reach their full potential in life through quality education and improved healthcare services,” the people say..

Our correspondent was among reporters that visited Gabchiyari village with the Bauchi Field Office of UNICEF to see how the people are coping with challenges.

The journey from Darazo to Gabchiyari was smooth for the first 10km because there is a road being constructed by the Federal Government. However, for many years now, work has stopped on the road, a development that has dashed the hopes of the people of the communities who long for easy accessibility to them.

It was, however, not an easy ride to the village for the remainder of the trip. The bus got stuck in the sand on three occasions before arriving at the destination.

The first sight one meets on entering Gabchiyari is a borehole that supplies water to both humans and animals, who join cue separately,. They take turns to be served. After they paid the sum of N200 per drum (250 litres)

Going around the village, the major sources of water for both domestic and other uses, including animals, are wells that are at least 250 metres deep and are difficult to draw water from due to the depth.

The situation has brought a lot of untold hardship to the people, but they have little choice.

The community pleaded with the Bauchi State government, international development partners and other well-meaning citizens of the state as well as the local government area to assist residents of Gabchiyari .

The district head of Gabchiyari, Mallam Muhammad Garba, said many-hours were being wasted by people from the surrounding hamlets while queuing for water at the boreholes.

“Our community is a hard-to-reach area whose water challenges are being compounded by the absence of good roads. People from surrounding hamlets travel between three to five kilometres to access potable water.

“So, you can imagine the productive hours wasted trying to look for water. Ordinarily, it will take about 20 minutes to get to Gabchiyari from our LG headquarters, but due to the absence of a feeder road, it will now take an average of two hours to get here; that is, if the vehicle does not get stuck in the sand dunes that dot our terrain. It is even worse during the rainy season,” he lamented.

He said that the situation has negatively affected education in the area as children must first walk distances to get water for use before going to school later in the day.

“They end up stressed and exhausted, and absorb little in school,” the traditional ruler said, adding that the lack of an adequate source of water had a negative impact healthcare services as the only PHC in the area lacks water to function.

It was learnt that the community contributes money in order to buy water for the facility.

Mallam Garba then appealed to the Bauchi State government and other stakeholders to see how water as well as access roads could be made available to them to ease the transportation of their farm produce and also attract development for the community.

While speaking on how the lack of sufficient water affects other critical areas of human development, the Ward Community Development (WDC) chairman of Gabchiyari, Aliyu Alhaji, said lack of water is also negatively affecting school enrollment and retention.

“This is because the children spend school hours looking for water and thereby missing classes or, in some instances, abandoning education altogether,” he said.

He said that for the children who made the effort to fetch water and still attend school, “you discover that they attend classes late and are usually too fatigued to comprehend any meaningful exercise in class.”

A politician from the area who served as a three-time councillor for the ward, Suleiman Gabchiyari, said the people were suffering because of the lack of sustainable sources of water, making life unbearable for them, especially in the dry season.

He said that he had made effort to do something about the situation for the people, but his efforts did not yield positive results.

“There was an occasion I had a personal discussion with the former Governor of Bauchi State, Malam Isa Yuguda. He promised to do something about our situation, but nothing positive happened,” he said.

He said that the immediate past Governor of the state, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, promised to come to the aid of the community but could not do anything before his tenure ended.

Gabchiyari, however, expressed the hope that in no distant future, the problem will become a thing of the past, particularly with the visit of the team of journalists which would highlight their suffering to the outside world.

One of the Fulani cattle rearers, Abdu Jodi, lamented that rearers like him pay money every day to get water for their cattle.

Cows heading to the only source of water

A girl-child, Jummai Habu, and her friends must first fetch water and fill up the available containers in the house before going to school every day. This has made it very difficult for her and her friends to cope at school.

But all hope is not lost as disclosed by the Darazo LGA Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Coordinator, Ibrahim Mohammed Hassan.

While speaking with journalists, he said that the Bauchi State government has mainstreamed the local government into a WASH project under the African Development Bank (AfDB) intervention signed by the state government.

The WASH coordinator was quick to add that the only water scheme that will be productive in Gabchiyari community would be a motorised or solar-powered borehole considering the terrain of the area.

“It takes a minimum of 90 feet before we could hit water level here. This is because of the topography of the area. So, you can see that a hand pump borehole will not serve the purpose here,” Hassan said.

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