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Published on: 01/03/2012

Preparations for Tad Market in Nyen, Cameroon start a day early. Women prepare for market. They clean the bars, cook food to sell, wash their clothes to look neat, wash the bottles for the sale of palm wine, and prepare corn beer. For all this they require water. Water shortage would be a disaster because this is one of the few chances the women have to make an income.

On market day it is not only people who are buying and selling who need water, so do the pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. There are also children who come to market - some primary schools even close on market day. Market day is an opportunity for men to meet with the women of their choice. Everybody tries to attend the market because it is the only place where they can meet loved ones, friends and family members who live far away. All these people will need to drink water at one point during the day.

But Mr. Tassi, chairman of the maintenance committee in Nyen, explains that the storage tank often dries up on market day, causing serious problems. “It is difficult to control because everybody is busy and no one likes to come and sit here to control the use of water”. Why not build a fence around the tap stand in the market place? Mr. Tassi suspects that people will push the fence down. What about employing someone to sit here and charge a small fee? The money could be used to maintain the system and even to expand it. Mr. Tassi starts to laugh “You ask people to pay for water? Those are things you people do in towns. Water is a free gift from God and cannot be sold. That is not possible.” Don’t you think that water use on market day is a burden on the community? Mr. Tassi replies: “The council in Mbengwiis responsible for this. We have asked them to compensate us for maintenance. No answer has been given, but every market day they come and collect market fees without giving us anything.”  Mr. Tassi has to admit that the problem is serious, because he receives a lot of complaints from women who go back to their homes after the market and find their taps dried up. They insult Mr. Tassi, asking if he has any problem with the women since he has decided to stop water flowing to their quarters. They will not accept any explanation.

Andrew Tayong

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