Dispaches From Fofo Bernard

Bernard Capo-Chichi, aka Fofo Bernard is a retired chemist who worked many years at the Institute for Mathematics and Physical Sciences in Porto Novo (Benin). An expert on water quality and access to water issues, his column “Dispatches from Benin” is a prominent feature on the specialized website aqueduct.info.

The Sacred Pond of Gobada (Savalou)

The Sacred Catfish Pond of Dékammè in the village of Gobada (Savalou District) is a true local institution. It will never dry up as long as locals adhere to its strict rules such as the prohibition to catch any catfish. She is the Village Matriarch because she predates everyone and was used to wash every newborn. She had been there well before any of the village residents was born. Gobada’s soil is made of granite as well as white granular sand that are used in building and road construction.

The Agbado River (Savalou)

Agbado River is the main source of clean water for the town and surrounding areas. During the dry season, which last over six months, its surface is overtaken by water hyacinths also known as water plague. This invasion can also threaten water quality in a region where surface water is regarded as bounty from heaven. Unfortunately, public authorities are unaware of this looming danger even though “prevention is better than cure.”


Water is both a cultural and religious symbol. For example “sin’hun”, literally water based music; more commonly known as Tchinkumè or “Tchink-System” is musical genre that is about to become a national music. In Savalou, Sin’hun is traditionally performed at funerals. Nowadays, however, this genre is a popular musical entertainment throughout the country. Indeed, it is possible to make the whole word dance to the tune of a jar of water and two overturned calabashes


According to popular wisdom, there is water at the base of every anthill. Local people use this “principle” in selecting sites for water wells. Whether this is valid or not, it is up to scientists to investigate. Picture: an anthill near Tchetti, a township in the District of Savalou