I was standing there. Appreciating a well. Together with 7 men. The women were sitting under the tree. Waiting for me, but first I had to tell how much I appreciated the technical efforts made to reinstate a well that had been out of function for years. The new well has a fortified concrete frame and at the bottom an extra fortified circle to ensure the stability of the well. The technical expert on wells was in particularly pleased with the speed at which the well replenished itself and the quality of the water. I nodded as the others did. When it was my turn I had no clue what to say. I looked at the women and then stated I thought this would be a step ahead for them to develop their plot of land and hoped it would bring success to the project. The men around the well nodded in appreciation.
The appreciations go on for another 10 minutes. I look at the plot of land stretched out in front of me. The first harvest of sesame seeds has already taken place. A row of neatly planted tomato plants is their next endeavour. There are three giant trees on the plot to offer shade. I only recognize the majestic baobab. Someone has once explained to me its odd shape: In a burst of anger God had picked up the tree and thrown it back to the earth, which had left it to grow with its roots upside down. There is also a palm tree, not on the plot, but to the side of the river. The water sparkles silver in the afternoon sun and shows the immense width of the river, at least a kilometer. The women are still waiting.
Finally we walk over to the women. 50 women or so, stare at me. I greet them and explain I grew up in a small village with lots of farms. My translator makes an effort to enhance my story, and asks half way his translation. You have cows in your country right?, I nod again. We have discussed this before in the car. He continues enthusiastically, but soberly states at the end: They are ready for your first question now. I smile and try to hide my embarrassment. I get through most questions and pretend to make notes, but am too impressed. None of the women have had land of their own before. They hope to use the revenues to create extra income. Mostly, to send their children to school and to pay for the school fees, a pen and notebook. One woman says, without a pen and a notebook my children will be send home by the schoolmaster.
Towards the end someone offers me tea. It is a young man, who is digging with a pick axe at the other end of the plot. He is digging a basin to use for irrigation, with water from the well. His shirt is drenched in sweat, but his face is one big smile. He looks content when I accept his offer for tea. We both know, all is well today.