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Rider on the storm

Joseph Nashion
How a donkey helped a small-time water seller in South Sudan’s Yambio to boost his business in hard times.
15.11.2016  |  Yambio, South Sudan
Call a donkey! Water business in Yambio. (photo: The Niles | Joseph Nashion)
Call a donkey! Water business in Yambio. (photo: The Niles | Joseph Nashion)

As conflict has pushed more displaced people toward South Sudan’s Western Equatoria region, the price of water there has soared – from SSP 5 to SSP 7 (USD 0.20 to USD 0.30) per jerry can.

But this is not bad news for everyone, especially 24-year-old water seller Fugoyo Johnson. “I don’t regret supplying water to the helpless and needy citizens in the city of Yambio because I know many have fled their homes during the conflicts in Mundri and Maridi,” he said.

As demand increased, Johnson realised he could carry more water to more places with the help of a long-eared assistant. “I think by carrying around my water with the donkey, many people thought it was unhealthy,” he said. “But I calmed their doubts by washing my well-painted, 200-litre tank every day.” He now sells water to restaurant owners, offices and NGOs.

Small supplier in the water business

Fugoyo’s career distributing water started off humbly, with him using a bicycle to transport about ten 20-litre jerry cans per day. “It was tiresome pushing the bicycles up steep hills and it cost me to repair the bicycle,” he remembered. “One day I met a gentleman with a donkey and he advised me to use his animal to supply the water and he asked for SSP 15 (USD 0.65) per day (to rent it).”

A month later, Johnson said his mobile phone never stopped ringing. “The drum I use now takes about ten jerry cans so I make sure I empty about seven of the drum in a day,” he said. All Johnson has to do is feed the donkey well, which costs him about SSP 5 (USD 0.20) for salt and corn, fetch the water then go around supplying his customers.

Johnson admits that his means of transport is not the fastest, especially when the donkey is hungry or tired, but he earns enough to support his wife and daughter.

“At times I think people are laughing at me and I worry what my daughter might think as she grows up, because I am dragging around an animal all day,” he said. “But when I get my money, I forget about all of these worries and I tell my brothers to see my example and work something out for themselves, rather than play cards along the market street.”

This article is part of:
Water: A fool won’t even find water in the Nile!
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