Tanzania: Rural Water Projects Break Gender Barriers

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Gasirigwa Sengiyumva
8th July, 2011

IT is past mid-day, the overhead Sun is heating like it has never rained in Kilolo before. This is a village in Njombe Region where an organization called Kilolo Star is based. I approach a workshop and to my amazement I find a number of girls assembling a KS 1000 drilling machine before embarking on a well-drilling mission in a nearby village.

This group of girls is called Simba Mama and it has six members. It was named after the lioness by Kilolo Star founder Ronald Reed to show that the importance of rural women when it comes to providing for families cannot be neglected. In the jungle, in most cases, it’s the lioness that finds food for the cubs. The idea behind the establishment of Simba mama was to show that women could dare where men tread if given the opportunity.

Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection in Africa

Here I meet Jestina Kimata, she is 24 but her body size defeats that truth. Although she
looks smaller she is firm. She is a well driller, can you imagine? No wonder she looks stronger
and solid. She is doing what most people characterize as men’s job. For her, “kazi ni kazi,” (literally translated work is work) she says meaning it doesn’t matter what job one does so
long as it earns you an income.

“I love this job, it gives me 120,000 TZ shillings a month as salary. To me this isn’t a small thing for a rural setting like ours,” she tells. Jestina and her colleagues have been here for three years;
they fix the plant, drill the well and insert the pipe themselves. It is a very laborious job. They
have drilled over 10 wells so far in different locations such as Ihimbo, Kilowo and Ruaha
Mbuyuni to mention but a few.

“When we pick them, we base on their sharpness (ability to grasp things quickly). They (all of the students) train for three years in various fields such as carpentry, masonry and tailoring. After they are through with other training, we pick some for drilling lessons. They practice for three months. Today, they can take on a project on their own,” says Octavian Mtega, Project Manager. According to Castor Sanguya, who is the Project Director, Kilolo Star started in 2007 by Mr Reed, an American philanthropist with a passion for change.

Through his visit to the area, he saw how villagers struggled to get water. He thought of a way to bring this service to the Kilolo community. With help from friends back home in the US and few of those who were here, the project was born. Since its establishment Kilolo Star has built over 86 wells in various regions. Each well costs about 5m/- and above. The number of wells per village depends on its size and magnitude of the problem.

Focus is given to village centres where there are many people, dispensaries, primary and
secondary schools. “What we do first is to establish a problem before we embark on any drilling endevour,” says Mr Sanguya adding that they sit with village elders, find out the number of people in that village and how they get water after they have agreed on certain conditions, they drill the well.

Villagers are involved in the whole project process since it’s them who are supposed to take care of it. “It is very important for they need to own the project,” says Sanguya. According to him, they provide labour and security to the projects. For a project to be sustainable, a village contributes 30,000/- a month for the repairing of broken or worn out parts.

They have to keep that money by themselves though it’s a big challenge given the economic
situations of many people. In most cases, Kilolo Star re-services the projects on its own. Of
the 86 wells, 20 are not working properly due to various problems. “They contribute that
amount since it’s a government’s policy that citizens contribute to the provision of water
services,” says Kilolo District’s water engineer Abdi Andalu.

He says, the government is involved in the whole process and once the project is accomplished, it is given to the government which, in turns handles it to the respective village. The water projects are not only beneficial to those who are involved in the process as
source of income but also they have been a blessing to those who used to go long distances in search of this precious resource.

Three years ago, Godlove Makoyola, a rural medical officer at Ihumbo dispensary used to trek for one to 2.5 kms in search of water for use at the dispensary. Today, thanks to Kilolo Star, water flows from a tap few metres from the dispensary door. A solar powered pump
helps push water from the well to the tank mounted outside the dispensary building before it is
being used by both patients and attendants. “There are no threats of water borne related
contamination anymore, this water is very clean. Villagers also come here to fetch water.

This project is not only a relief to us but also to the entire village,” tells Mr Makoyola. The projects have also opened indirect employment chances for water vendors as well like one Severin Kiwele. He supplies clean water to government and district council employees in the area. He sells a 20 litre gallon of water at 200/- and he says he could get up to 4000/- a day.

Analysts give a thumb up to projects of this nature as they not only help develop rural settings
in terms of clean water provision but also create employment opportunities for both young men and women. “Perhaps projects like these could act as a catalyst in reducing the rural urban migration by employing youth in their own villages,” they say.

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