Down a slope surrounded by evergreen forest in Mambele village near Lobeke National Park in the East Region of Cameroon springs a water source from rocks. It provides fresh water for an entire community. Mambele residents have been drinking from this never-drying source for as long as the local residents can remember.
Mambele, situated some 800 km from the nation’s capital Yaounde, is one of 21 communities around Lobeke with over 23000 inhabitants. While many streams meander through the forested areas of East Cameroon, only few springs like that of Mambele are drinkable.
Twelve-year-old Akoela Francis Kame and his younger brother walk one-kilometer each day to fetch water here. Others walk over two kilometres to get the precious liquid. “Our entire household has been drinking from this source for many years. Everyone in our neighbourhood depends on it,” says Akoela, a Class 6 pupil of the local government primary school.
Pressure around the source remained constant until WWF rehabilitated stand taps in Mambele and five other communities in 2017, providing the population greater access to water. In neighbouring Yenga community (20 km from Mambele) where WWF also rehabilitated a stand tap, some residents cover a distance of more than 3 km to get water. In communities where neither springs nor stand taps are unavailable, the population drink from open streams that also serve for laundry and bathing. The consequence of consumption of such poor quality water is the spread of related diseases such as cholera and typhoid. WWF findings show that cholera and typhoid are amongst the top health challenges within communities near rivers due to inaccessibility to drinkable water.
“We used to walk more than 1km to fetch water, climbing up and down a steep hill. That was the only source of water for the entire Mambele community before WWF rehabilitated this stand tap. We do not have to go that far anymore ” says Madam Ngenge Ndo Lydie, a local restaurant owner.
In spite of the presence of a stand tap at the centre of the village, many villagers still rely on the water source. “Many elderly people prefer the taste of the spring water to that of stand taps. Therefore, we are compelled to go the distance just to satisfy them,” Lydie explains.
“An average of 300 people depend on the water source,” says Njounan Tegomo Olivier, WWF Collaborative Management Officer. “Some years back some boreholes were rehabilitated by either the local council or the community. They however went dysfunctional and the community faced a serious water crisis. WWF worked together with the communities to rehabilitate six stand taps in six communities,” explains Njounan.
Conservation of the trees around this water source has helped to keep it flowing.