Rolling out water aid - literally

From Nine To Noon, 9:37 am on 22 September 2015

UK charity Roll Out the Barrel has come up with a simple way to improve the lives of people in communities where gathering water is a painstaking task.

Roll Out the Barrel founder Adrian Brewer poses with barrel recipients in Kenya.

Roll Out the Barrel founder Adrian Brewer poses with barrel recipients in Kenya. Photo: SUPPLIED

In many developing countries such as in Africa, the job of getting essential water is often done by women, children and the elderly, who carry it on their backs, heads or over their shoulders, often for several kilometres.

UK resident Adrian Brewer wanted to find an alternative to that and developed a 30 litre rotary barrel with strong rubber tyres and a long sturdy handle.

With donations and fundraising efforts through Rotary International, 2500 barrels have now been rolled out in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Sierra Leone and South Africa, and as emergency aid in the Philippines.

Mr Brewer said he became inspired after using a similar barrel during his own caravan holidays in Europe.

"I thought, I wouldn't carry my water 20 yards let alone 20 miles... It grew from there."

A group of Roll Out The Barrel recipients with their community's new water containers.

A group of Roll Out The Barrel recipients with their community's new water containers. Photo: SUPPLIED

He described what he had seen on one recent trip to impoverished areas in Kenya.

"Women and children are the bearers of the water. That's always the case. Very rarely do men collect it. They're collected in containers which quite frankly you wouldn't give your dog to drink from, sometimes.

"They have to collect their water from various sources - often it's rivers, often it's streams, sometimes it is taps and they do have stand pipes but they could be six or eight miles away from their home."

He said even heavily pregnant women were not necessarily exempt from this work.

"I met a lady who was literally nine months pregnant and she was still carrying her water. No-one was carrying it for her. She was just literally dragging it, at the end before her birth.

"I think on the day of her birth, she didn't actually get any water at all because nobody went and got it for her."

The 30-litre barrels have strong rubber tyres and a long sturdy handle.

The 30-litre barrels have strong rubber tyres and a long sturdy handle. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Brewer said Roll Out the Barrel was working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to do more than just provide the barrels to those that need them.

"They want to create small social enterprises so we're taking barrels into small projects - maybe 100, 150 barrels at a time - and we're hoping to build small enterprises, where they are manufactured locally."

He said UNDP administrator and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark had been an influential supporter of the charity's work.

"What she did was she opened our eyes that there needs to be an empowerment of women. Unless women are in control of what they do, there is no empowerment.

"Just by the simple process of collecting water, instead of taking four hours it takes you an hour, it gives them three hours to do something else."