Archive for August, 2012

August 31, 2012

Zambia: Harvesting Rainwater

Newton Sibanda
August 31, 2012

RAINWATER Harvesting (RWH) has been a practiced since time in memorial. It has, however, been practiced at different levels- domestic and agricultural use, which are referred to as the blue and green water use respectively.

However, Zambia Rainwater Harvesting Association (ZRHA) Secretary General Bob Muzyamba says the scale of utilization of RWH in Zambia’ leaves a lot to be desired’. “Since 1998, Zambia has been involved in many meetings, workshops, collaborations and protocols relating to RWH in the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region to respond to the effects of the drought hitting the region.

The Ministry of Agriculture together with the Ministry of Local Government and Housing as well as the Ministry of Energy and Water Development were engaged by the Zambia Rainwater Harvesting Association to explore ways of enhancing the utilization of RWH as an appropriate technology for the effective use of water as a resource,” said Muzyamba.

Men constructing a water tank in Uganda for rainwater harvesting

Zambia has been experience erratic rain fall partners for the past 10 years which have affected the predictability of the rain pattern and planning.

Muzyamba says the association has tried to align itself with Government policy to ensure that the knowledge and skills reposed in it can be recognized and utilized. “There is a huge potential of Rainwater Harvesting in Zambia in all regions or zones. The potential is in flood control and drought control on one part, and water conservation on the other part,” he said.

Muzyamba is also acting president of the association following the demise of the incumbent, Joyce Musiwa, in line with the organization’s constitution.

The level of activity in rainwater harvesting in Zambia is very low and isolated, the commonest type being the traditional one where families draw water falling from roof tops in drums of 200-210 liters capacity for short term use. The families usually do this without realizing that they are actually practicing rain water harvesting. In its formal state, the technology is quite novel though it has existed for a longtime. A typical formal system involves the use of gutters on buildings like schools and hospitals.

Though its downside is limited application, institutional rainwater harvesting is quite effective. While the collection of rainwater by a single household may not be significant, the impact of thousand or even millions of household rainwater storage tanks can be enormous.

The frequency of droughts in recent years and the resultant problem of food insecurity therefore provide an imperative for scaling up rainwater harvesting in Zambia.

August 22, 2012

Ethiopia Receives New Boost of Investment in Sanitation and Hygiene

Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
Water Journalists Africa Network
August 22, 2012

Ethiopia will receive an additional boost from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) which officially announced a US$ 5 million investment through its Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) to help the government of Ethiopia achieve its Universal Access Plan in Sanitation and Hygiene.

The programme announced by WSSCC is part of the country’s wider national development vision, in which it pledges to “pave the path for all Ethiopians to have access to basic sanitation by 2015”. The Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme was launched today at a high profile event in the presence of senior dignitaries, decision makers and civil society representatives, in the Ethiopian capital – Addis Ababa.

Progress made over the past decade especially on improving access to water sources, signals the political traction that the Ethiopian government and its partners have given to the development of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector – which plays a critical role in improving the quality of life of its citizens. From 2005 to 2008, access to potable water in rural areas increased from 35 percent to 52 percent. However, despite positive trends in access to improved water sources, millions of Ethiopians continue to experience difficulties in accessing clean and safe water and sanitation facilities.

Global Sanitation Fund Logo

Enshrined within the country’s Growth and Transformation Program (GTD), the Government has in the past decade increasingly recognized the hampering effects of poor sanitation and hygiene on its wider development efforts – such as community health, eradication of poverty and economic advancement. Seeking to increase the financial investment in the sector, the GSF-funded programme will support the Government’s existing national Health Extension Program (HEP) to help address health issues linked to sanitation and hygiene.

In total, the programme will help 1.7 million people to gain use of improved toilets over the next five years, and 3.2 million people will be living in open defecation free environments.

“The GSF is delighted by the opportunity to support the Ethiopian government vision of an open defecation free country by 2015. This programme will need to pay close attention to gender, physical accessibility issues due to age, illness, accident or disability, as well as geographically or otherwise excluded groups in order to ensure that no one is left unserved in GSF programme areas”, said Archana Patkar, head of the WSSCC delegation in Addis Ababa.

The three-year programme worth US$ 5 million aims to strengthen institutional capacity in forty woredas to increase access to and use of sanitation facilities. With an initial focus on four regions namely Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s region (SNNPR).

As part of the WSSCC, the Global Sanitation Fund has been established to boost expenditure on sanitation and hygiene in countries that meet strict criteria based on their specific needs and have an existing national sanitation policy and programme which requires further investment.

The GSF is supported by the Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In principle and in practice, the GSF respects national leadership, targets poor and unserved communities and expands coverage. The GSF is already actively working in Uganda, Madagascar,Senegal, Cambodia, Tanzania, Malawi, India and Nepal.

August 22, 2012

Six Journalists Win Prestigious Media Awards Geared Towards Improving Reporting On Water, Sanitation

Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
August 21st, 2012

Six journalists have been named as winners of the “WASH Media Awards” competition for their excellence in reporting on water, sanitation and hygiene-related (WASH) issues.

The journalists and their winning entries are:
• Alain Tossounon (Benin): “Access to safe water in the town of Ava-Sô, A perilous conquest for survival.” (Accès à l’eau potable dans la commune de Sô-Ava, Une conquête périlleuse pour la survie.)
• Ngala Killian Chimtom (Cameroon): “The Taps Have Run Dry”
• Berta Tilmantaite (Lithuania): “The River Runs Back”
• Francis Odupute (Nigeria): “The Strategists”
• Francesca de Châtel (Belgium): “Water Around the Mediterranean”
• Ketan Trivedi (India): “Alchemy of Earning Money through Wastes and Making a Village Clean, Hygienic and Lovely”

The winners will receive their awards during a ceremony, on 31 August 2012 at the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. During the World Water Week, the journalists will share their experiences on reporting WASH issues with leading water, sanitation, environment and development experts reporting during different session throughout the week.

Media in general and journalists in particular are key partners for sanitation, hygiene and water sector professionals in their awareness raising, advocacy and behaviour change work. Journalists play a central role in the highlighting of water and gender related issues and positioning of women as environmental leaders. They greatly contribute to bringing in the spotlight the too often neglected issues of the necessity of toilets and hand washing for a dignified, safe and healthy life for billions of people. The WASH Media Awards, organized by SIWI and WSSCC, two leading sector organizations, take a clear stand that it is not only necessary, but vital.

SIWI’s Acting Executive Director, Mr. Per Bertilsson, highlighted the importance of the WASH Awards in recognizing and promoting professional journalistic ingenuity in covering WASH stories.

“The winning entries for the 2011-2012 WASH Media Awards reflect an excellent example of how journalists could creatively bring underreported stories to the surface. These stories will inspire many in our sector to engage in new interventions, as they offer new perspectives on solving issues related to water supply, sanitation and hygiene,” he said. The winners will be able to share their stories at three different sessions during the 2012 World Water Week, which takes place between the 26th and 31st of August, 2012.

The bi-annual WASH Media Awards competition is sponsored by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). More than 150 entries from 40 countries were evaluated by a jury chaired by: Mr. Mark Tran, a notable international correspondent for The Guardian, UK. The jury included Mrs. Faz da Hall, Executive Producer Channel Africa, SABC, South Africa, Mr. Jon Sawyer, Executive Director, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, USA. Mr. Olivier Nyirubugara, Senior Trainer Voices of Africa Media Foundation, Rwanda/Netherlands and Ms. Vinaya Deshpande, The Hindu, India. The jury praised this year’s entries for their journalistic excellence, investigative ability, and originality.

August 21, 2012

Three SADC Journalists Awarded for excellence in water reporting

Barbara Lopi in Maputo
August 21st, 2012

Six winners of the 2012 SADC Media Awards have been announced and presented with a prize of US$2000.00 each during the opening ceremony of the 32nd Heads of State and Government SADC Summit in Maputo, Mozambique.

Incoming Chairperson of SADC, President Armando Emelio Guebuz of Mozambique presented the awards to the winners. Three of the Awards are for excellence on reporting on water resources management in the region, and the other three are for excellence in promoting regional integration in SADC.

Mr. Factmore Dzobo from the Chronicles Newspaper in Zimbabwe received the Award in the Print Water category, for his report on the importance of involving women in the management of water.

The Award in the Radio Water category went to Mr. Belmiro Timoteo Mangaze from Mozambique for his report on the importance of water in regional and national development.

Lesotho Times photo journalist Mr. Ramajake Walter Monamane received the Photo Water Award for his photos depicting the plight of people in a village in Lesotho for clean, safe and potable drinking water.

The Awards for excellence in the coverage of water resources management was introduced in 2007 by the SADC Water Sector programme to enhance awareness raising on water issues within the region, as well as to encourage journalists to write about Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

The Awards for excellence in promoting regional integration in SADC went to Mr. Yobe Shonga from Botswana for the Photo category; Mr. Patson Phiri from Zambia for the Print category, and Mr. Jugdish Parsadee Jatoo from Mauritius for the Television category.

August 21, 2012

Zambia: Up to 4.081 Billion USD Needed to Provide Reliable Water Supply

Newton Sibanda
August 20th, 2012

Zambia’s commercial water utility companies need an investment worth US$4.081 billion in the next 29 years as a roadmap to provide reliable water supply to both urban and peri-urban areas, a latest Urban and Peri-urban Water Supply and Sanitation sector report has revealed.

In order to address the investment gap in the National Urban Water Supply and Sanitation programme, Government developed the National Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (NUWSSP).

Having access to safe water and basic sanitation is vital to everyone’s life

The programme is a roadmap to providing potable and reliable water supply and adequate sanitation services for both urban and peri-urban dwellers countrywide.

According to the 2011/2012 Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report, NUWSSP tabulated investment needs for the water companies for the period 2011-2030 whose investment costs were estimated at US$4.081 billion.

The latest report launched by National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (Nwasco) over the weekend states that although K254 billion was invested in the sector in 2011 by Government and cooperating partners, this was less than what was budgeted for in that particular year.

“This was far from adequate when compared to a requirement of K969 billion (US$190 million) NUWSSP estimates needed to overhaul the dilapidated infrastructure countrywide,” the report indicates.

However, only K94 billion was disbursed to the 11 commercial water utilities countrywide.

The report further revealed that during the year under review, Chambeshi Water and Sewerage Company was given K3.1 billion for Nakonde water supply improvement works and procurement of pumps for Kasama, Mpika and Luwingu districts.

Eastern Water and Sewerage Company received K2 billion for supplementary works in the phase I of the Germany- funded projects which involved network extensions and metering in Petauke, Lundazi, Mambwe and Chama districts.

Southern Water and Sewerage Company got K9.6 billion for water supply improvements in Nega-nega-Mazabuka, Kashitu compound-Livingstone,Lusitu-Siavonga, Pemba and Mbabala-Choma.

And Western Water and Sewerage Company was given K5 billion for water supply network, building kiosks, setting up communal taps and drilling boreholes in Sichili and Mwandi. At the launch of the water utilities performance report, North-Western Water and Sewerage Company (NWWSC) was awarded the best performing Commercial Utility .
The 2011/2012 Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report which highlights the comparative performance of all commercial utilities in the country and published by NWASCO, ranked North-Western Water and Sewerage Company (NWWSC) first, while Western Water and Sewerage Company is at the bottom(11th)

Several people living in such places are not aware that poor sanitation may cause lot of diseases

Launching the 2011/12 Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report at Lusaka at Intercontinental Hotel August 2012, Mines, Energy and Water Development Minister, Yamfwa Mukanga reiterated government’s commitment to creating an enabling environment for investment in the water supply and sanitation sub-sector.

Mr Mukanga noted that compared to the previous year, the sector has recorded positive trends as observed by the increase in water and sanitation coverage as well as improved metering and water quality. The national urban water coverage now stands at 81.8 percent from 77.5 percent, serving 4,596,959 people while the national urban sanitation coverage remains low at 56.7 percent from 54.1 percent.

He further noted NWASCO’s concerns of power outages that have continued to affect the operations of water utility companies resulting in poor service delivery.

And Local Government and Housing Minister, Emerine Kabanshi who also graced the event noted government’s plan to reduce the imbalances in performance of utility companies. “A situation whereby a utility company is performing better in water supply and badly in the provision of sanitation services or vice versa is not a healthy one at all.”

Ms Kabanshi expressed concern at the low sanitation coverage in the country which stands at 56.7percent compared to water coverage which is at 81.8 percent in urban and peri-urban areas. She called for comprehensive and concerted efforts and investment from all sector players.

And NWASCO board chairman Levi Zulu noted that the country had recorded an improvement in the provision of water and sanitation services and attributed the improvements to adherence to service level indicators.

Mr Zulu however observed that there is need to focus on the challenging indicators, among them, low collections especially by Government institutions, high unaccounted for water (UfW), dilapidated and inadequate infrastructure, unprecedented numerous power outages and poor customer relations and complaint resolution rate.

“The sector has continued to show positive progression in most performance indicators as can be seen from the report. One notable and cardinal improvement is the increase in the number of people with access to water supply.”

Mr Zulu however said greater leaps must be made to meet the ultimate goal of universal coverage for water supply and sanitation services.
In recognizing excellence in performance, North-Western Water and Sewerage Company emerged the Overall Best Performing water utility while Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company was the runner up.

Eastern Water and Sewerage Company was voted the Best Performing utility in Peri-Urban while Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company was the Most Improved commercial utility.
Meanwhile in the water and sanitation media awards, Zambia Daily Mail’s Violet Mengo emerged winner in the print category.

In the electronic category, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Senior Journalist Micheal Kaumba scoped the best TV package while the best Radio report went to Cynthia Mukwasa Bwalya of Christian Voice.

The most consistent water supply and sanitation reporter went to Muvi TV’s Bangwe Naviley.

August 12, 2012

Toilets, Water and Soap Vital For Tackling Child Malnutrition

Water Supply and Sanitation and Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
End Water Poverty (EWP)
WASH Advocates
August 12, 2012

A group of concerned international development organizations has written to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil, calling on them to acknowledge and address the crucial and devastating impact that a lack of clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene has on the battle to overcome child malnutrition.

The letter, co-signed by the Water Supply and Sanitation and Collaborative Council (WSSCC), End Water Poverty (EWP), and WASH Advocates, calls on the international leaders to: Please keep in mind the simple fact that children who suffer from diarrhoea or are infected with worms are not getting the goodness they need from the food they eat.

A pit latrine in Bushenyi district, Uganda

The World Health Organization estimates that repeated bouts of diarrhoea and nematode infections cause up to 50% of childhood under-nutrition. Making sure that children have access to a clean toilet, that they have clean water to drink, and that they wash their hands with soap can make a massive difference to the almost one in three of the world’s poorest children currently unable to reach their full potential due to malnutrition.

The letter also warmly welcomes the summit and the leadership shown by Cameron and Temer in using the global attention on the handover of the Olympics from London to Rio as an opportunity to tackle this crisis.

With thousands of children dying every day because of a lack of clean water, safe toilets and hygiene, and many more who are stunted permanently because of chronic malnutrition, providing these lifesaving services to the hundreds of millions of children who currently lack them could be the lasting international legacy of the London Olympics.

“It is really quite simple: we can’t afford to waste the food we’ve got,” said Amanda Marlin, Acting Executive Director at WSSCC. “In the USA and England, we’re now aware that 30% of the food bought in our supermarkets is thrown away. In the developing world, it is an even greater tragedy when much of the food that is eaten by children loses nutritional value through diarrhoea and other diseases that can be prevented.”

“Why put more calories into hungry young bodies if those calories are squandered by preventable waterborne diarrheal disease?” asked John Oldfield, CEO at WASH Advocates. “It is estimated that on any given day, patients with diseases related to water and sanitation fill half of the hospital beds in the developing world. This is solvable.”

Improvements to sanitation also offer great value for money,” said Sarah Blakemore, International Coordinator for End Water Poverty. “A pound invested in better toilets can yield a return of around £5.50 in terms of improved productivity and reduced health care costs.”

A water channel near a pit latrine. It is vital to locate latrines away from water channels and sources.

The letter also noted that there is already increased political attention being paid to environmental causes of poor health. At the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in Washington in April 2012, the UK’s Andrew Mitchell pledged a doubling to 60 million of the number of people the UK would reach with water, sanitation and hygiene by 2015.

The meeting, which was hosted by UNICEF and the World Bank, drew Ministerial delegations from almost 40 developing countries and major donors.

August 10, 2012

Kenya: Turning Kibera’s Garbage into Gold.

Mary Mwendwa
August 10, 2012

A hub of economic empowerment is growing in Kibera slum through recycling some used garbage. Kibera slum is located in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the biggest and the poorest African slum

Shiriki Foundation, a Non – government organization founded by a group of Rastafarians, has tapped into unutilized Kibera’s garbage mostly used tyres.

Located in Kibera , one of the largest slums in Kenya with a population of 170,070 according to census report (2010) , Ministry of State for Planning National Development and Vision 2030.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya

In a slum, vegetation is scarcely seen; crowded narrow paths, dirty drainage and temporary sheet houses are common sceneries.

But at shiriki, things are different. Green vegetation, yellow, Green and red colored flag paintings by the roadside, are what meets my eye first, as I get to Shiriki Foundations art room in Kibera near, the Kibera Law courts next to Karanja estate.

Outside, I meet Ras Nganga, dressed in a black turban covering his long dreadlocks, wearing a necklace made of seeds with Rastafarian colors (red, yellow and green) added onto it. Next to him, nice sandals made of rubber from old tires, woven scurf, bracelets, sweaters and mosaic paintings dot the ground.

He is busy making the shoes chanting praises to Jah (God) and gluing a strap of Rasta colors on the sandal to make it more attractive. Am told the word Ras means mr,an adherent of the Rastafarism culture.

Arts and Crafts displayed for sell in Kibera Slum

I stretch my hand to greet him, and he folds his wrist, “Give thanks and praises, welcome sister, he greets me humbly.

He then leads me to the art room where I had earlier booked an appointment with Ras Beniah a member of Shiriki foundation. A narrow path of flowers and different types of trees lead me inside the room.

A huge portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie , wooden stools with three legs, different paintings hanged on the wall, cans of paint, dry seeds, painting brushes and threads are scattered in the room.

Ras Beniah welcomes me and next to him is a young man holding a brush and his cloths soiled with different colors paint.

He excuses himself to go upstairs where he is working on a mosaic painting for a client. I get to learn the organization is based at a former dumping site that they rehabilitated.
“This was a big dumping site just on the roadside; we had no land and decided to rehabilitate the site into something constructive,” Ras Beniah adds.

Next to the foundation is a natural well which has water that never dries. Car washing business booms here, the water is not fit for domestic consumption but for cleaning purposes which shiriki uses in their art work.

“This is just part of what Shiriki foundation is involved in , I and I (a chant of words that Rastafarians use) in these words we believe there is power and get spiritual uplifting when we chant them,” Ras Beniah tells me further noting that these words can also mean me and soul where the almighty Jah dwells.

We are joined by Ras Lojuron Nyabinghi, founder member of Shiriki. Inside the room, a beehive of activities goes on.

Ras Beniah starts by explaining different ministries within Shiriki foundation. First, spiritual ministry which believes in Haile Selassie the 1ST as their spiritual father. They follow the holy Sabbath teaching which falls on Saturdays. On this day they don’t involve themselves in any activities.

The second ministry is Agriculture; they have a project in Maragua, a town in central Kenya.

Rastafarians don’t eat any animal products, through farming organically; they are able to grow their own vegetables and fruits which form part of their daily meals.

In Maragua they have a group of youth who are involved in farming, all are volunteers and have projects like tree planting which they involve Maragua community. All members belong to the Rastafarian group of believers who believe in Rastafarians also believe in Emperor Haile Selassie who was the Savior sent by Jah to free the black people from colonialism and Racism just the same as Jesus was sent to free the Jews. This is the corner stone of The Rastafarian Faith. Jah being an active God who sympathizes with his Children who struggle to live in Babylon.

Ras Lojuron Jaden one of the founder members of Shiriki who is now based in Sudan believes through art, youths who come to the center, are able to connect with their nature.

He further explains the art work is of great benefit to the youth who most of the times find themselves in the world of less employment opportunities.

Kibera being a slum, many young people have struggled through thick and thin to make both ends meet. With lack of access to most basic needs like water and sanitation, many of them get into crime related activities.

Shiriki offers free training to all youth who come to the center. They also train children in schools and this helps them establish clubs where children collect seeds from various parts and in return they get bracelets from the team.

Ras Beniah echoes similar sentiments from his colleague; he tells me how all the youth who are trained in art work make a living from the art. Sandals made out of recycled tires go for a minimum of 300ksh and a maximum of 1500ksh depending on the material used for decorations and labor. Scarves from a minimum of 800ksh to 1000ksh, jeweler 200ksh -1500ksh. All these products are made from natural seeds which are collected and recycled material.

“Tires are a menace to the environment because they are not biodegradable, but now we use them hence making the environment cleaner,” says Ras Beniah.

Sandals made of recycled tires in Kibera slum

Ras Lojuron confirms to me that there is no proper drainage system in Kibera and old tire pieces block the existing ones making it impossible for dirty water to flow.

Ras Nganga is able to feed his family though the art of making sandals decorated with Rasta colors, he confirms to me. They are able to market their products both locally and internationally.

They use Agricultural Shows forums to showcase their products and creativity through art. Something that many appreciate in Kibera where they are based. Interestingly, Shiriki foundation never suffered post-election violence which hit Kenya in 2007.

Hand bags made in Kibera slum

Kibera was one of the hotspots, but due to what they had contributed to the community through free trainings and tree planting exercises, nobody attacked them.

The foundation is non-partisan, they welcome all youths who are willing to be trained and it is upon the trainees to decide whether they want to become members or leave after they have gained the skill. This has made them stand out among the youths in Kibera who many times have no money to train in art institutions which charge money for their trainings.

Kenyas Economic Pillars anchored on economic, social and political governance of Vision 2030 seeks to improve prosperity of all regions of the country and all Kenyans by achieving a 10% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate by 2012. This can only be achieved if many Kenyans are involved in incoming generating activities both in formal and informal sectors. Shiriki foundation is one trying to meet part of vision 2030 objectives.

However, they face some challenges, one of them being lack of access to clean water from the well that is just next to them. The water is polluted and therefore they are forced to buy water from the Nairobi water and Sewage suppliers who sell to them a 20 liters container at 5 ksh.

August 10, 2012

Kenya: Yala Swamp on Deathbed

Mary Mwendwa
August 10, 2012

Up to some 60 percent of global wetlands have been destroyed in the past 100 years as people search for land to settle on, farm and establish several other types of investments.

Wetlands which cover 6 percent of the world’s surface provide a range of environmental services, including water filtration and storage, erosion control, a buffer against flooding, nutrient recycling, biodiversity maintenance, carbon storage and a nursery for fisheries among several others.

A woman draws water from Yala swamp in Kenya

But drainage and destruction of these ecosystems is responsible for large amounts of carbon emissions equivalent to 40 tons of carbon per hectare per year for drained tropical swamp forests as well as degradation of the other services they provide.

One of the swamps that have been seriously drained and destroyed is Yala. Yala Swamp is located in western Kenya, on the northeastern shore of Lake Victoria. Yala Swamp is the third-largest wetland ecosystem in Kenya. It covers over 200 square km of Western Kenya.

But as Mary Mwendwa, our network member reports, Yala Westland might soon be no more.

The beautiful green papyrus vegetation; women riding bicycles loaded with heavy bags of grains and charcoal as they sweat profusely; others with babies clutched on their backs; school children running home for lunch; a water body totally fenced with mesh wire; from a distance a factory emitting smoke from its chimney and tractors harvesting rice in farms are some of the eye-catching doings that attract my attention on a sunny hot and humid day.

This is none other than Yala swamp, a wetland that borders Siaya and Busia counties.

Being a breeding habitat for fish and a purifying body for the water that flows into Lake Victoria, activities that lead to destruction of the water body may largely reduce fish population in the entire region.

It is a home to thousands of rare species of mammals, fish and birds, internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) , with many papyrus endemic bird species which can be found nowhere in the world.

A bird in Yala swamp

Some of the rare species of birds found here are, Papyrus Yellow Wabler, papyrus Gonolek, White Winged Warbler, Papyrus Canary, Caruthers ‘ Cistola and Northern – Brown Throated weaver among others.

Birdlife International lists the Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek as globally threatened bird species which require urgent conservation action (Birdlife International, IBAs status Report, 2004).

Lake Kanyaboli, a satellite lake of Lake Vitoria, part of Yala swamp forms the mouth of Rivers Nzoia and Yala, also one of the most important riparian lakes around Lake Victoria.

The wetland belonged to the community through a trust land which has been managed for a long by Siaya and Bondo counties. Seje village is part of the neighboring communities that ought to benefit from the swamp; however, this is not the case.

The state of interactions of the living and non – living components at the swamp is worrying.

Mau complex which supplies water through various rivers to this wetland may be a cause to its deteriorating state. Upstream poor farming practices, deforestation and use of pesticides also have a hand in the destruction of Yala swamp.

But most people here accuse Dominion Farms Ltd, a subsidiary of Dominion Group of Companies based in Edmond Oklahoma USA.

Dominion group paper factory close to Yala Swamp

Dominion Farms Ltd moved into the Yala swamp in 2003 through an arrangement with the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA). The initial proposal was that Dominion would engage in rice production, in part of the swamp known as Area I, covering about 2,300 ha.

This land portion had been reclaimed before 1970, and previously used by LBDA for agricultural activity, mainly to produce cereals, pulses and horticultural crops. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) was commissioned for large-scale rice production, for which a license was issued in 2004, specifically for the rice irrigation.

But later Dominion Farms Ltd embarked on other additional agricultural and development activities in the swamp. It is therefore on this basis that the Friends of Yala Swamp Network was established to campaign against the threat to the livelihood of the people of the Yala Swamp Catchment area.

Dominion Farms Ltd – a multimillion company is now carrying out farming on large scale close to this wetland and also owns a paper mill.

These investments are being accused of worsening current state of the swamp. Since 2003 when the Dominion Farms Ltd came in the area, the swamp’s ecological state has been deteriorating day by day, according to Vincent Omondi Obondo, Assistant Programs coordinator for Friends of Yala Swamp Network.

He also alleges that all the effluent from the factory is channeled to the wetland. However I was not able to verify this independently because I was denied access to the factory.

Institute for Law and environmental governance (ILEG) with other partners have been involved in spearheading community participation in decision making in terms of managing their natural resources.

This is helping the community understand the importance of being part of the decision making process when managing their swamp.

Many residents here say they are suffering because they were not aware when land was leased to Dominion Farms Ltd. A selected few were part of the process but didn’t understand the implications of this to the Yala swamp.

A section of Yala Swamp

“We have no rights to access the Yala swamp and use any of its resources, we are like squatters in our land” Charles Okolla, a farmer laments. He further adds that the state of the swamp is worrying. Polluted, full of sediments that come from upstream. “People here get sick of waterborne diseases very often because of the contamination of water from the swamp”.

Charles confirms to me about the frequent community conflicts with the Dominion Farms Ltd.

There is also a problem of boundaries. Many people don’t know their boundaries and at times find themselves encroaching on the swamp land where the Dominion farms have dominated.

Such challenges made Friends of Yala Swamp Network with Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG); Kenya Land Alliance; Kituo Cha Sheria; Kenya wetlands Forum and other networks to come together and address some of the issues affecting this swamp. These multimillion agencies have fenced off a large part of the swamp where locals cannot access.

But levels of poverty are increasing day by day in this region.

Dominion Farms Ltd is involved in rice farming, fish farming and have a paper mill. All these are employing women largely as casual laborers with an average wage of 1.82 dollars per day.

Mary Atieno, a mother of eight tells me that she works from 8.00 am to 6pm everyday to fetch food for her kids. She says, “I have no choice but to work for that little money because of my kids, if I don’t work here my kids will die of hunger.”

Along the swamp, Scovincer Adhiambo, a teenage girl from Seje, washes her clothes with as other people , both women and men draw water for domestic use.

The first sight is of some smelly effluents floating and foaming scum on the water. I ask her what it is and where it is coming from.

“These chemicals are coming from the Dominion factory, they pollute our water and this makes us very sick often, we have no one to complain to,” she tells me sadly.

She further tells me that longtime ago when she was a kid; they used to have plenty of food and fish. These days they have no food, their farms don’t get enough rain and fish is very expensive for them because of its scarcity.

At the same water point Grace Akinyi, a middle-aged woman with her two sons aged 6 and 8 with their jerrycans have come for the same precious commodity, water. The sad state on their faces clearly tells one that something is not right here.

Grace is bitterly complaining about the state of the water. She says her kids get very sick when they drink the water before boiling it.

“Sometimes we boil and drink and still we get sick,” she says as she raises her arms up shouting, “ Nyasaye Konya! Nyasaye konya,” which means Lord help us, Lord help us in her local Luo Language.

“People living around Yala swamp are suffering as they watch their only resource dwindle in the hands of an investor,” I think as some sort of tears force themselves out of my open eyes.

Vincent Omondi of Friends of Yala Swamp Network, talks about some of the sample tests they have done with other stakeholders on the swamp water. The first sampling they did was in early February 2012.

He notes that the findings indicated high levels of pollution with high concentration elements of lead metal. This could be as a result of effluents from a factory that are discharged in the swamp.

A section of polluted Yala swamp water

He further tells me they tried to contact the company about it but the company officials were not willing to disclose the type of the chemicals they use which later find their way in the swamp.

No visitor of any journalistic or investigative nature is allowed in the farm premises which are heavily guarded. With my tour assistant, as we move round the fenced swamp, guards placed strategically, monitoring every step we make. I was told by my guide that no one is allowed to take any photograph at the gate of Dominion Farms Ltd.

A warning in capital letters reads, “NO VISITOR IS ALLOWED HERE WITHOUT APPOINTMENT.” Surely this prevented me from independently verifying the allegations made by the local people.

As Kenya struggles to improve on various policies on environment, the wetland policy needs to be addressed urgently to help address the issues affecting many of its water bodies.

August 1, 2012

Tanzania: Severe Water Shortage Hits Parts of the Country

Paul Mallimbo
July 31, 2012

Severe shortage of water in small town of Maganzo, in Songwa ward, Kishapu District in Shinyanga region, has caused residents to carry water when they are going for treatment at Maganzo Clinic.

Patients are forced to carry between one and three 20 liter gallons, depending on the need of water to that particular patient.

Pupils collecting water in Uganda. In every society, water , health and education are closely inter-related

The survey conducted by our reporter in most parts of the district established that most patients carry water and kerosene when they go to this dispensary.

Speaking to journalists, the Maganzo Village Chairman, Lwinzi Kidiga said, it is true that this dispensary has no water and all people who are going to seek treatment from this clinic should carry their own water.

“We have instructed all the Maganzo residents to carry their own water when they are going for treatment at the Maganzo dispensary, “he said.

However, the village chairman said that, residents have also been instructed to carry their own kerosene when they go for medical care at night in order to light when patient is receiving treatment, because the clinic has no electricity.

A girl child returns from collecting water in a shallow well in western Uganda.

The acting Kishapu District Executive Director, Lucas Said, acknowledges the situation, adding that, water problem is a big problem to the entire district.

“Water shortage is not only in Maganzo District, but in most of the areas of Shinyanga region but efforts are being done to ensure that there is availability of water in all areas of Kishapu District, he added.

Said explains that, experts are now doing research in various villages within the district to find out where they can find water, while a big plan to bring water from Lake Victoria is in pipeline.

Meanwhile the Maganzo Village Chairman says that they had discussion with the investor of Williams Diamond Mines, to help them bring water in the village, and has accepted to start the project end of July this year.

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