Mountain environmentalist takes his job of protecting water to villages of Africa


French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson hopes an upcoming benefit concert helps dig and build wells for people in Togo who desperately need them. (Photo credit: Hartwell Carson)

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson hopes an upcoming benefit concert helps dig and build wells for people who desperately need them.

When we use the term riverkeeper around in Western North Carolina, we automatically think French Broad. But there are other riverkeepers, some almost a world away.

Most folks don’t even know where Togo is. The West African Nation on the Gulf of Guinea is a relatively small sliver of land with a big problem for people living in remote areas.

“Kids don’t go to school because they have to hike and get water for dinner, and, unfortunately, that water isn’t clean,” said Carson, who serves as a fundamental protector of the French Broad River Watershed.

“Being a riverkeeper in West Africa is a much more challenging task than it is here on the French Broad River,” he said.

Carson’s contemporary in Togo is Cosee, who oversees the Yoto River Basin.

Waterways there are overused, polluted with waste and disease-ridden. To tackle the critical problem, Cosee needed help.

“We partnered up two years ago and have been raising money and helping with logistics of providing drinking water wells in villages and communities that literally have no access to clean water,” Carson said.

The latest project took Carson to the village of Adjove, where music is part of tribal heritage and a way to boost the spirit.

The spirit of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic will visit the Salvage Station along the French Broad on May 11 for a local benefit to raise money to build wells in Togo.

So far, three wells have been built, another two are planned and the impact has been enormous.

“The women now have time to go to school and become educated, and the kids have time to go to school. It really kind of can transform whole villages, just having something that we take for granted, like clean drinking water,” Carson said.



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