The mechanization of donkey water, a symbol of economic progress

By | March 31, 2014


There’s a snippet of interesting insight in this news article from Hargeisa City in Somaliland. Traditional donkey carts supplying water are being replaced by motorcycles and this has been framed as a sign of increasing development and economic activity by the journalist.

Bajaj Water tankers gradually negating Donkey drawn water distributors in Somaliland

Its a local invention, this “Bajaj Water Tanker” as its called, a prime example of the jugaad or ingeniously creative solutions to inadequate infrastructure and unreliable systems that one can see peppered across the developing world.

In his interview, Mr Fanax, shown above with his innovation above, answers a few questions on the difference between using this modern technology versus the donkey cart he used previously.

Q. is there any change in the price of water from your previous charges?

A. yes I used to sell a drum of water at 12.000 SL but now I sell at 9.000SL

Q. how long have you used the motor cycle, how many liter of water does the tank carry, how many liters of fuel do you use?

A. I have used the motor cycle for 3 months, the tank carries 400 liters of water equivalent to 2 water tanks. I use 4 liters of fuel per day equal to the food that is given to the donkey (grass and maize)

Q. how do you customers see the changes that you have done?

A. they are happy with the changes in terms of price, the faster way of getting water and even on the cleanliness

Q. what do you suggest to your friends who use donkey cart?

A. it’s a good question. Be ambitious and ensure that you change from using a donkey to a more modern way.

Interestingly, the price of water has come down, although one would imagine that a donkey might have been cheaper to maintain than a gas guzzling vehicle. On the other hand, he gets around faster and can make far more deliveries transporting double the volume of water and thus might still be making more money than previously.

What strikes me is how the concept of “modernization” and “progress” is perceived, in the context of the individuals daily life and operating environment, whereas to those of us accustomed to piped water, the need for water delivery might still be considered primitive or backward.

There’s a whole new vocabulary of aspiration evolving within the informal economies kickstarted by prosperity.

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