Today is the fortieth day from whenÂ I had signed the contract with Ibrahim, for renovating the well of the Tuaregs.
Today has been a day of hope and of truth.
There is never hope without first a measure of despair and in fact, yesterday had been a day of doubt and mistrust.
The entire new team had deserted,Â using the pretext of going back home afterÂ three days of work, they didn’t come back.
We dug forÂ three days without increasing the depth of the well. The work didn’t progress and we were two weeks late on Ibrahimâs schedule.
The five old workersÂ leftÂ on the locationÂ were discouraged and even Ibrahim was in doubt on how to proceed. Ali and I were starting to lose our trust in him.
I told Ali: âProviding water to a whole population, is an important work ofÂ great merit. We cannot hopeÂ it will be sufficient to just spend money to achieve it. It is naturalÂ we must face difficulties in our enterprise.â
Ali and I had difficulty falling asleep that night. My plane is due to fly out in a few days. The well does not progress and we don’t understand why.
Ali told me: âTomorrow we shall know the truth.â
âAnd if it is not so?â I replied
âIt will be so.â He affirmed smiling.
We all left very early in the morning from Timbuktu and found the workers ready to start. The Dogon chief of the team, Mamutu, went down the well and started to dig, diving under the water for the whole morning.
In the meantime, I told Ibrahim what I had decided: In four days’ time, whatever depth we had reached, we shall stop digging and seal the bottom of the well: I do not want to postpone my plane ticket a second time. It is two months since I left home. My family and work are waiting for me.
Towards the end of the morning the situation turned over completely: Mamutu was pulling out of the well the “telescopage” cylinders that we had been using in order to dig without risking that the well crumbles. This was simply meaning that the problem was resolved and that we could now go ahead without risk towards our goal which is to have 5 meters of water in the well.
Now it is just a question of digging, but it isn’t an easy matter. One must alwaysÂ leave water in the well in order to avoid the sand coming up. The more the workersÂ dig, the more time passes and the more the water goes up, until they are soon forced to dive under two and half meters of water in order to dig with a pellet and to fill a bag with sand.
Ali and IÂ had thought that the new team had deserted because Ibrahim hadÂ failed to paid them. Our suspicions were totally unfounded. Mamutu explained toÂ us what had happened. The sand wells expert had not accepted Mamutuâs criticism thatÂ after he had dug a great quantity of sand without realising that the bottom of the well was not going down. He had put the well at risk of crumbling down. The big cement cylinders were blocked by some stones and were not going down as they should have.
Ibrahim was not guilty of not paying the workers, on the contrary he is always generous with them and had even given them an advance with which they had gone away.
Ali has asked Mamutu how many days he thought were necessary to dig until we reachÂ five meters of water. Mamutu replies that if no new problemÂ arises it wouldÂ be three days work.
My plane ticket is in five days’ time. I have addressed the workers: âIf you reach the depth in three days time I shall give you a premium of 20,000 Francs, if you do it in four days I shall give you a premium of 5,000 Francs but if you do it in five days there will be no premium.â 20,000 Francs equates to ten days salary. The workers are very excited, happy, and motivated by this unexpected opportunity. Just today they have dug seventy centimeters and it is a real pleasure to see them working with so much zeal and happiness.