Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reflections on a mud hut

A recent photo of a Kenyan mud hut with grass thatch roof on Jennifer Marohasy's blog highlights an under appreciated aspect of third world poverty and vulnerability to climate variation.

Looking at that hut, one can only reflect on how many third world households are unable to collect the free, clean, drinking water that lands on their own roof but who then spend a huge amount of time and precious calories in transporting contaminated water from a distant source.
Even in an arid 500mm rainfall zone, that (approx 28m2) roof would receive 14,000 litres each year, if only they had effective guttering and reliable storage. That would amount to 40 litres each day which is about double the volume that is seen on most photos of third world folk fetching water. In many places it would save about two hours of work each day, one of those hours being heavy carrying which requires recovery time.

Add to that the additional time spent collecting the extra firewood needed to boil drinking water and it is clear that about a third of a full time job is wasted in each household due to this problem.

And no, they don’t need a 14,000 litre plastic water tank that costs more than 10 times their annual household income. They wouldn’t even need a 5,000 litre tank that fills up 2.8 times each year. All they need is a 5m3, partial hole in the ground, partially raised wall above ground, a lid, and a durable plastic liner that costs less than one persons annual income.

This investment of one person's annual income saves a third of a person's labour each year. That is a reliable and continuous 33% return on investment over the life of the plastic liner, even before accounting for the reduced incidence of disease and lost productivity from improved water supply.

This simple addition to the family’s household capital would enable them to maintain a vastly improved water supply and general wellbeing even if climate change were to reduce annual rainfall from 500mm to only 400mm. They would still have the same volume of water that they currently bring from the contaminated source but their lives will still be very much improved and with a great deal more certainty and security.

Take look at the rainfall chart at
and then do a population overlay from

It is absolutely clear that, aside from the irrigated Nile valley and major cities, African population is distributed in association with rainfall. The other exceptions being extremely high rainfall in tropical forests.

Note that Kenya, where the above mentioned hut is located, has a rainfall ranging from 200mm in the NE to more than 1000mm in the SW. Note as well, all the other countries with high populations that also have rainfall above 400mm. That is, right in the block-hole for my above post.

This is why climate cretinism is such a cruel and expensive joke on humanity. It diverts attention and resources from real problems and truly sustainable solutions. Africa does not have a water supply problem. It just has a lack of collection infrastructure.

We should all know that the closer one gets to the problem, the closer one gets to the best solution. Instead, the climate zombies demand that we all follow a sorry bunch of second rate climate Shaman, searching the stars and the stratosphere in the vain hope of finding an atmospheric solution to an on-ground problem. All the time making senseless human sacrifices to climate jihad.

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