REPORTAGE: sudan - the social life of wells in butana
Water is the main resource both for people and animals living in desert areas of Africa. In this area of the Butana plain (Eastern Sudan), most of the nomadic groups dig deep wells to guarantee water supply during the dry season. Built with local material and by “traditional” techniques, the well is an essential and vital source of life after the hand-dig reservoirs, hafîr, filled with rain-water, become empty.
But the well is far more than a material resource, as it is in the middle of a social relations network linking this pastoral group. The collective work needed for its construction and maintenance, the common use and defense of it by the people who dig, the daily sociability and the exchange around the well during the supply operations, the symbolic and religious values linked to it, all this show that the importance of the well is not only in giving water to people and herds, but also in embedding the principles of social cohesion and solidarity.