What a Difference Water Makes
by Frederick Urembo
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Salvation Army officers and community members in Tanzania try out a new water pump
|The ‘living water’ project in Tanzania was a two-year scheme funded by The Salvation Army’s United Kingdom Territory to support the rural communities in Tarime and Serengeti districts in the Mara region of Tanzania, about a day’s drive from Dar es Salaam. The project aims to improve the health of the people in the rural communities through a supply of clean and safe water and by increasing the expertise within Tanzania in water-related activities. Four wells – two deep and two shallow – were established by the project.|
MAMA Elsie Mugetha knows what it is like to have to struggle for water. ‘Every day we had to wake up early in the morning and walk about 10 kilometres to collect water,’ she says.
‘My grandchildren were always late for school. The water collected from the ponds was not safe and diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases were common. I could not afford to pay the medical expenses for my grandchildren who frequently got infected.’
The need for clean and readily available water is addressed under Millennium Development Goal Seven: ‘Ensure Environmental Sustainability’. Among other things, this goal seeks to ‘integrate the principles of sustainability into ... programmes, and reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water’.
Many people would ask, ‘What does “sustainability” mean?’ It is a word that is used often – some would say overused – and is usually used as a cover-all term for the idea that a project should continue in the future. However, in the context of the MDGs, sustainability is a concept that has specific component parts, and environmental sustainability is just one. Sustainability is something that needs to be considered when undertaking projects or programmes that seek to address any of the Millennium Development Goals.
Sustainability has been described as being like a three-legged stool. The three legs are ‘the three Ps’: People – the human capacity to support the project; Places – the ability of the environment to support the project; and Profit – the generation of economic means to support the project in the future. If any of these three legs is removed, the stool topples over and the project fails.
The Living Water Project in Tarime and Serengeti Districts in Northern Tanzania is just one example of how Salvation Army projects are aligning themselves with these principles. Using funds raised in the United Kingdom Territory, four wells were established in the two districts.
The sustainability of the project was addressed from the design stage onwards, and an environmental survey was conducted to ensure enough water was available for the water points. Water committees were established in the communities to manage the wells and 32 attendants have been trained by the regional hydrologist on how to run and service the water pump machines. The communities also agreed that a small fee would be charged for every bucket of water, which would build up a fund that could be used to buy parts for maintenance and repairs, which addressed the financial stability of the wells.
The project has given access to water to 1,500 rural families. It has saved community members, women in particular, from walking long distances in order to fetch water which most of the time was polluted by animals which depended on the same sources.
As well as reducing incidents of water-borne diseases, the closeness of the wells has given community members more time to spend with their families and participate in other social and economic activities. The water committees have encouraged other community members benefiting from the water wells to run fruit and vegetable gardens near the wells. These have improved their income and provided a daily supply of fruit and green vegetables in their homes.
Mama Elsie says the wells have had a huge impact on her life. ‘Being a widow and taking care of seven orphans whose parents, my own daughters, died two years ago, was never easy before these wells were built,’ she explains. ‘Now it takes only five minutes to reach a well – my grandchildren get to the well quicker than me and they are no longer late getting to school.
‘I have been able to establish gardens near the wells and because of this I am now selling fruit and vegetables in our local market. My income has increased and I am able to supply my grandchildren with fresh fruit and vegetables. This has also contributed to the improvement of the health and status of me and the children. Our health is also better because the water collected from the well is safe for human consumption – as shown in tests conducted by the government.’
With the three legs of the sustainability stool in place, the benefits to the communities should continue into the future. By working with the community, The Salvation Army is helping towards the achievement of Goal Seven in these districts by providing a means to access water and by ensuring this water supply is sustainable.
As Mama Elsie says, ‘I am very grateful to The Salvation Army for putting up this kind of project in our village. It truly meets our needs and priorities.’
Frederick Urembo is Projects Officer for The Salvation Army’s Tanzania Command