By Gasirigwa Sengiyumva
17th May 2011
Tanzania, It is early in the morning and it is raining. Latifa Ally is busy collecting water as it falls from the roof of her boss’s house. There are buckets everywhere as she does not wish to miss this valuable resource.
She seems to be enjoying whatever she is doing as the smile on her face expresses. For those who played in the rain during childhood, could attest to the feeling especially when it hasn’t rained for a while. As I watch her from a distance I’m tempted to talk to her. I wish to know why she was feeling that way this morning.
She tells me, “You are not new to this area. You know the headache that water brings to us,residents of Ubungo. To me this is a blessing, since I won’t have to fetch water from a distance for a while. I have to make sure I fill all the buckets before it stops”.
Her explanation reminds me of the water woes that residents of the area and its neighbours face despite the fact that their houses sit on top of the major pipe that brings water to the city.”If it rains for an hour, I could fill all 18 buckets that we have in the house.Meanwhile, I could mop the floor, clean the toilet and wash the dishes as I try to maximize the opportunity”.
According to her, she uses at least two buckets of water to wash the dishes depending on the number of utensils used for cooking and eating.
In the bathroom (for both bathing and flushing) they use an average of seven buckets a day.However, water usage is determined by the number of people available in the house on a particular day.
She says, “This water is clean unlike the water we buy from vendors or the one stored in tanks for days or weeks. Vendors could fetch water from anywhere since their aim is to make money. Countless times we have bought saline water that we hardly use for drinking, let alone washing.”
She is cost conscious; she knows her boss spends a lot of money everyday to buy water from vendors or nearby houses that have taps. Pipe water comes once in a week for those with taps. My boss pays 300/- a bucket and sometimes price goes as high as 500/- depending on scarcity.
Maria Mvula, Latifa’s boss uses about 12,000/- to 14,000/- a week to purchase water from vendors. “If you calculate this in a month, I could pay for a number of monthly bills for those who get piped water frequently in Sinza and other affluent areas such as Masaki and Mikocheni”, she laments.
“My house has six people but the number varies depending on visitation from family members, you know our extended families. In most cases, women tend to be many. Naturally, women tend to be the most hygienic. They use a lot of water for cleanliness.
They bath twice a day.” This means a womab needs a large amount of water in her house.
If it rains like this it means saving some money, which could be used to pay ther ‘ridiculous bills’ such as electricity. There is a well outside her house. This one fills up whenever it rains. She says they collect water that they use for toilet and washing in case it doesn’t rain but sometimes they treat it and use it for bathing purposes.
Neighbours fetch water from the well also, she believes that some people use it for cooking although it seems not suitable for that. “We have seen people, in many of our neighbourhoods use unsafe water for domestic purposes and end up getting infected”, says Ms Mvula.
She adds that since authorities can not supply piped water to everybody, harvesting rain water could reduce the problem. She is of the view that if home owners could establish water collection systems and storage facilities, it could be a great relief especially during dry seasons.
One must bear in mind that most rivers that supply water to treatment plants such as Ruvu Juu and Chini, depend on rainfall. Water provision is usually a nightmare during dry season.
As I talk to these women, I gather how much they know about water and related issues.
It is an undeniable fact that in most families and societies in general, women have primary responsibility for management of household water supply, sanitation and health