A Well in Togo

I spent two weeks this past summer in Togo, a country that most Americans (this one included) would have to look up in an atlas before they could be sure where it is.

Togo is a narrow strip of land between Ghana and Benin in West Africa, touching the Sahara in the north and the ocean on the south. It has a population of between 5 and 6 million, and only one city of any size, Lomé, the capital. It was briefly in the news in the spring of 2005 because the longtime ruler, Gnassingbé Eyadema, died suddenly, and the transition to a new government was violent. Togo is without strategic or economic importance, and without the advantages of landscape or wildlife that might make it a tourist attraction. It is also among the poorest countries in the world.

I was there to visit my daughter who is in the Peace Corps. She’s assigned to a small village, Mamakopé, that has no electricity, piped water, or telephones. She has a little house, and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with her and thus to see something of village life and to experience the warm hospitality of the people of Mamakopé. They live mostly on the crops they grow (maize, millet, a little rice). Their water comes from two pumps installed by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1983. These pumps serve everyone—a thousand people or so. When the pumps work, the water is good; when they don’t (and they often don’t), there’...

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About the Author

Paul J. Griffiths holds the Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke University.