Anne Mireille Nzouankeu | March 21, 2016
Garden hose in hand, 28-year-old Hugues Nyamoro fills 25-litre water cans one at a time. He places them in a cart and takes them to the market. He explains, “This water is for sale. Those who need water come with a can; they give me their empty can and leave with a full one.”
Mr. Nyamoro inherited his grandfather’s field and the borehole his grandfather dug to irrigate his crops. A year ago, he decided to take advantage of the borehole by building a stand to market his water.
The stand is a small wooden shack with a window that serves as a sales counter. It is located in the market, which is the gathering place for the whole community. People visit Mr. Nyamoro’s stand to buy water, just as they would purchase any other goods in a shop.
He says: “I have plenty of water and others do not. There are stands where you can buy bread and products such as sardines or household soap. I thought it would be nice to also have a booth for the water.”
Mr. Nyamoro lives in Loum, a small town about 100 kilometres from Douala, the largest city and economic capital of Cameroon. Water cuts are frequent in Loum, and can last several days. During these times, residents fetch water for household use from rivers. They prefer water from the borehole for drinking and cooking meals. They also collect rainwater, but they lack large containers to store the water for a long time. And the rains are often unreliable, making it difficult to rely on rainwater.
Mr. Nyamoro explains how he sells his water: “Generally, people carry the water cans on their heads. They can only carry one can at a time. They pay a lump sum of 100 CFA francs ($0.18 US) for the service, regardless of the number of times they come during the day, and 15 CFA francs ($0.02 US) per 25-litre can.”
Before they shopped for water at Mr. Nyamoro’s stand, people travelled long distances in search of a borehole. This posed problems. Jean-Dieudonne Mbenoum is one of Mr. Nyamoro’s customers. He says: “Sometimes it happens that we are told that the owner of a borehole is not there. So we return home with empty containers, or we go in search of another borehole. But now we have a fixed water supply stand—and that’s good.”
The other problem is that most people work in large factories in the city. They must arrive and leave work at specific times. After working for their employers, many then labour on their own small farms. This doesn’t leave much time to travel long distances in search of water.
Mr. Nyamoro’s clients come from all social classes, even from the wealthiest with their own boreholes. He sells an average of 20 cans of water per day. He explains, “Market days are usually my best selling days. People take advantage of trips to the market to stock up for the week.”
Mr. Nyamoro’s example has inspired others. There are now three water stands in the city, all run by young people. Fouthié Yvan is one of the young people who followed Mr. Nyamoro’s example. He says, “[It’s] simple and practical. That’s why I got into it too.”