Posts tagged ‘travel’

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 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.

July 16, 2012

Kenya: Rivers on Verge of Drying Up as Degradation of Chepsir Forest Soars

Mary Mwendwa
July 16, 2012

Residents of Chepsir Tea zone settlement scheme cry foul over the effects of human-wildlife conflict, logging and charcoal burning on conservation efforts of the Chepsir forest in Kenya.

The famous forest is located in the South Western part of Mau block in Chepsir village, Kepkelion district in Kericho County.

Chepsir Tea Zone Settlement Scheme came into existence in 1962 after the British colonial government sold land to Kenyan government which later sold to people through Brookbond group of companies that practice tea farming in the region.

A section of Chepsir Forest southwestern Mau

Despite the Mau restoration conservation efforts that have hit the national agenda, the forest community continues to face challenges that if not addressed urgently, the water tower will still face a threat of destruction.

From a distance, one is able to spot smoke from charcoal burning spots in the interior parts of the forest and also met several loggers packed timber on a tractors. A clear indication that some of these activities that destroy forest cover are still in existence.

This is leading to microclimate changes across the forest edges. A microclimate is the distinctive climate of a small-scale area, such as a garden, park, valley or part of a city.

Daudi Sigilai Arapmosik, a teenager and a resident here, who does part time comedy on a community Radio station nearby, notes that illegal logging and charcoal burning are common and serious and should be addressed urgently.

He confirmed that Kenya Forest Service has tried much but they have very few staff to patrol the forest. “If we had more forest guards may be the forest could not be destroyed by these charcoal burners and loggers” he laments.

Likewise, Magdaline Limo, mother of four in the Chepsir tea zone area says her biggest problem is the elephants that eat and destroy her crops. “Recently elephants invaded my small farm and destroyed maize worth one acre, my family depends on this farm, what can I do to stop these elephants coming to my farm?” she laments.

Many of the dwellers here, who are from the Kipsigis sub-tribe of the Kalenjin community, depend on ecosystem services from the forest. Many do farming, livestock rearing, beekeeping, and mixed crop farming. Chunks of maize plantations and tea dot the landscape in the area.

Being one of the Mau Complex blocks, it contains one of the largest Kenya’s water tower, located in the south western block, bordering Kericho and Bomet counties. The forest is both known for its indigenous and exotic tree species.

It is also a catchment are for several rivers including River Timbilil which serves the entire Kericho County, Birirbei, Kiplelachbei, Lelachbei among others.

Kuresoi, Chagaik, and Cheboswa are some of the neighboring forests of Chepsir. Chepsir dam and Sachoran form part of the wetlands in the region.

People living around Chepsir forest believe this is their only source of livelihood. Water from rivers, fodder for their livestock and rains of the crops are their main means of survival.

Tea plantation in Chepsir village southwestern Mau block

Since the government rolled out the Mau restoration process, many stakeholders have been involved in various campaigns ranging from tree planting exercises, education on importance of conserving the forest among others.

However for these efforts to have a lasting conservation solution, communities like the Chepsir Tea zone settlement scheme that have settled around the forest face challenges that make them resort to activities that destroy the entire mau ecosystem.

Mau is a catchment area of rivers: Ewaso Nyiro; Sondu; Mara and Njoro which feed some of the most important great Riftvalley lakes such as Nakuru and Natron and Lake Victoria in Nyanza.

Survival of all these ecosystems depend entirely on the Mau, therefore any activity that contributes to its degradation has huge local, regional and international implications.

Chepsir forest has continued to lose its indigenous tree species especially the cedar and podocarpus to charcoal burning.

Duncan Kibet, a village elder and farmer, notes that many of the illegal charcoal burners and loggers are people who don’t belong to the community around the forest. “It is sad that total strangers come to destroy this forest and we watch because we have no capacity to stop them, we only see them leave with products”.

Chanegs in the area’s microclimate are leading to favorable conditions for breeding of several disease vectors.

Now, as a community that depends of farming, many of the livestock keepers in this area face a challenge of pests that invade and transmit diseases to their livestock.

Daniel Rotich, a veterinary doctor and a member of Chepsir Environmental Conservation and protection Group, confirms that there are over twenty species of pests that transmit different strains of diseases to the livestock.

East Coast Fever, Babeosis (blue tick), Lumpy skin disease, heart water/Black quarter and rabbies are some of the diseases that are a big threat to the livestock in the region.

This spreads a huge economic impact on the farmer in terms of seeking treatment and loss if the livestock.

Mr.Rotich adds that at least one thousand livestock are lost through this annually.

However, the Kenya Forest Service has come up with mechanisms to help communities living around this forest through the Forest Act that came into force in 2007. Through this act, community based organizations have been registered as community Forest Associations (CFAs).

All these working together with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Working Group among other stakeholders to conserve the forest. Communities pay one hundred Kenya shillings monthly to access firewood from this forest on a daily basis.

Alphonse Rotich, a farmer and a Coordinator of Save The Mau Forests Conservation project, says Chepsir community has been very committed to conservation of the forest. Many of the farmers have more than two percent tree cover in their farms. He adds that there is need for the community to benefit from the Carbon Credits Projects which have been rolled out in some parts of the country.

This will help them benefit directly from their conservation efforts and spread the benefits further to other people, a move that will promote sequestration (sucking of carbon from the atmosphere) hence help in fighting climate change effects.

As Kenya struggles to achieve its millennium development goals by 2015, conservation and sustainable development remain a top priority in restoring catchment areas like Chepsir forest which need urgent intervention both at the community level and authority level.

June 16, 2012

Kenya: Human Waste turns into Gold

Mary Mwendwa
June 16, 2012

Did you know that up to 60 percent of the population in Nairobi- Kenya’s capital lives in slums? Extremely limited access to water, sanitation and adequate housing characterize most of these slums. However, there are agencies that are working towards making sure human waste no longer lies on paths and drains. They are turning this waste into gold as our Mary Mwendwa found out.

Umande Trust, an NGO based in Nairobi, has rolled out a project for constructing biocenters in various informal settlements in Kenya. The move is aimed at improving sanitation, providing renewable energy (bio-gas) and income generation.

The initiative will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It involves diverting human waste into a digester which generates biogas. Biogas is a natural gas which is used for cooking in a gas stove.

Kibera, Africa’s largest slum

Paul Muchire, a communications manager at Umande says, “We came up with this idea because there were many pit latrines in slums and many times they were full and no proper mechanisms of disposing the waste were in place, this resulted in many people to use flying toilets.”

The centers are found in Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru Mji wa huruma – a slum within one of the high class residential areas in Nairobi, Runda, and Kisumu.

“ Life here in Katwekera has really improved, I no longer use flying toilet with my family, I can also access gas at 20 ksh , which is cheaper than charcoal that goes for 50 ksh per 2 kg tin,” Mary Akinyi, a mother of five aged 36 , caretaker at Muvi – Biocetre in Katwekera Kibera says.

The biocentre is one of the many that Umande trust has built in partnership with Water and Sanitation For The Urban Poor, Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company among others. Multi Vision Self Help Group runs the Biocenter.

Toilets, bathrooms, rental spaces, water and a biogas unit (A mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by bacterial degradation of organic matter and used as a fuel) are main services provided by this facility. One pays 5ksh for toilet, water 3ksh per 20litres, shower 10ksh warm and cold 5 ksh to cook with biogas 20 ksh shillings per meal.

Muvi Biocetre in Katwekera, Kibera

Mary adds that life has become easier and environment is very clean, before there was a terrible stench from the human waste that was thrown allover the place. As a mother she is able to cook for her family of five meals cheaply using biogas from the human waste, this could cost her a lot with charcoal energy.

“Nyoyo” in her Dholuo language, a mixture of maize and beans takes a lot of charcoal and time to prepare, but with biogas she can cook faster and cheaper.

A beehive of activity goes on at the Muvi biocenter, the gas heater is on with water boiling for a client to bath, Githeri a Kikuyu language word, mixture of maize and beans are lined up waiting to be cooked by Susan Wanjiku who runs a small kiosk around.

Huge tanks of water and toilet papers are what one glances at first. Mary, the caretaker is with a broom in her hands and water ready to wash the facility. No smell of any form from human waste smells here.

Kennedy Gaya and Charles Otieno, some of the members I found at the facility, comment on the facility in terms of improved hygiene standards in the slum. Through the technical support from Umande Trust, a biodigester is dug underground to help processing of the biogas which produces energy for cooking at the biocenter.

Kibera one of the largest slums in Africa with an average population of 1 million, has biocentres in Lindi, Soweto, Kianda and Kichinjio villages.The biocentres are constructed by Umande and other partners and then handed over to self-help groups within the villages to run and generate income from them.

Michael Francis, a technical service manager with Umande notes that self-help groups are best placed to run the centre because they are able to acquire land for the project and also represent community. Through Umande Trust, members can access microfinance services such as loans to empower them economically.

women cooking using biogas at a Biocentre

Paul Muchire, a communications manager at Umande Trust, emphasizes self help groups are very key in this project. They decide on the design of the biocentre depending on the needs of a specific community they represent.

However, this project faces stigma from some community members especially the men who at times oppose the use of biogas from human waste, but through training from Umande, people are slowly changing and accepting biogas from human waste as energy like any other and with no side effects.

A bagging method to help address this challenge is at the pilot stage .Through the bagging method where people can get gas in canvas bags at 20 ksh for hiring and 20 ksh for the gas will help those who are not near the biocentre to access the gas for use.

Michael Francis, a technician service at Umande confirms that a bagging system is still at the pilot stage and they believe it will really help once it is rolled out fully.

The gas bags cost 11,000 shillings each and therefore individuals from the slums may not be able to afford therefore hiring is best suited for them. They have ten bags already which they intend to use soon.

Biocentres have come as a savoir to water and sanitation challenges facing people in informal settlements.

“Flying toilets” as commonly known among many slum dwellers, have drastically reduced. People in informal settlements like Katwekera in Kibera, had no access to clean water and sanitation.

An easy and available option was to use plastic bags to help themselves then throw the human waste within their surrounding. This contributes to many environmental and health hazards to the communities living in the slums. Waterborne diseases, pollution of the environment through plastic bags pose a great risk to children who don’t have powerful immune systems to fight infections.

Biocenters, through services of biogas and supply of clean water is an option which can help communities improve on their livelihoods in a “green” way.

June 15, 2012

Zambia: Call-Boys Urinate against Poor Sanitation

Newton Sibanda
June 15, 2012

In a bizarre way of demonstrating, call-boys at the main commuter station of Zambia’s tourist capital Livingstone have urinated against poor sanitation during a visit by the parliamentary committee on local government.

Call-boys are the rowdy youths who earn their living by shouting for customers and wooing commuters at bus stations or bus stops.

The peculiar incident happened when committee members led by Eustackio Kazunga visited the Livingstone bus station to familiarize themselves with the challenges being faced by the Livingstone City Council in terms of sanitation last week.

Poor Sanitation and hygiene remains one of dangerous threats to good health in most Africa’s towns

Determined to raise the profile of their plight, albeit in a unique way, the call boys invited the cameraman from the public broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) who was covering the tour and led him to a caravan situated next to a makeshift restaurant commonly known as ‘Savage Restaurant’ where they openly urinated.

“We want to show you how we go about our daily lives. This is our only toilet and behind this caravan is a restaurant,” said one call boy as others joined him in the urinating mission.

As the committee bypassed the caravan, the call boys shouted while pointing at the heaps of garbage and their makeshift ‘toilets’.

Three other boys urinating as Kazonga, who is former local government minister, hurriedly walked on.

Earlier, a minibus driver pushed his way through the councilors who accompanied Kazonga to brief him on the bad state of the station.

“This place is very bad, especially during the rainy season. We want it to be worked on,” said.

In response, Kazonga said “The council management is here with the Town Clerk and the mayor and they are listening. We want this place to be a decent one with toilets and running water.”

May 18, 2012

Kenya: Death on the River

May 18, 2012
Mary Mwendwa

September 13th 2011, was one of the darkest mornings in Kenyan history. Sinai slum, found in Nairobi’s Industrial area lost over 100 people in a fire tragedy.

Located in the eastern part of Nairobi, Sinai slum has a Nairobi River tributary that passes nearby. Residents here build their sheet house close to the river, when it rains some of the houses on the riparian land get washed away.

Kenya Pipeline Company, responsible for oil supply in the country has a transport corridor for the petroleum products within the Sinai slum. With no proper sanitation services, the river here is full of human waste and chemical waste from the factories. National Environment Management Authority, NEMA, has been conducting a cleaning program of the river but due to increasing population among many slum dwellers the river still faces pollution.

A section of the Sinai- fire tragedy scene on Ngong River

On this jinxed day, people were scooping super petrol from a burst pipeline .With less knowledge about the high flammable condition of the oil, many celebrated it as a blessing of getting money after selling the product.

Men, women and children joined in the scramble for scooping oil.Little did they know things would take a tragic turn even before they could sell the petrol. Josephine Atieno a mother of five lost her teenage son and her husband, who both had gone to scoop the oil. She has never been able to trace their bodies. ‘Fire broke out after a man with a cigarette went to get oil from the pipe’ she sobs.scores of people died and many are still nursing serious wounds they sustained on that material day.

According to Jasper Opati, a resident at the slum for the last 20 years, ‘people here have low income levels, and whenever they see something they can get money from, never think of the danger it poses’. On that day when fire broke, some people jumped into the polluted river to put off fire on their bodies but it dint work. Many burnt to death in the river. The river got double pollution because it had remains of decomposing body parts that were not retrieved during the search exercise.

Sinai slum along Ngong river tributary

River pollution in slums is a major concern, sewers in slums are drained in rivers, all types of waste dumped in them. In Nairobi, some of the slums that are near Nairobi river are, Mathare, Kibera, Majengo ,Kwa Njenga among others. All these contributing to the pollution of a river that originates from Ngong , Dagoretti Forests and Ondiri/Kikuyu wetlands.

Professor Kenneth Mavuti, A Hydrologist and a Senior lecturer at Nairobi University attributes human encroachment on raparian land as one of the major contributing factors to river pollution. Large populations of people occupy slum with no access to water and sanitation.

The fire tragedy at Sinai fueled another tragedy of pollution in the Nairobi River Basin, although life may have gone back to normal, other related disasters loom as people still occupy slums for a survival in the name of a livelihood in the city.

May 8, 2012

Kenya: Saved by Borehole 11

Mary Mwendwa
May 8, 2012

Northern Kenya is generally hot and dry. The people of Northern Kenya are mostly pastoralists and living in dry harsh terrains. Our network member Mary Mwendwa has been there. She now takes us on an exploratory journey of the dry and dusty drought-ridden plains of North Eastern Kenya in search of water.

Women and children carrying jerry cans on their backs, donkeys with water on their backs, flocks of cattle, goats and camels are just some of the regular images one sees along the dusty and dry roads of a village town – Elwak, located in the North Eastern province of Kenya, Mandera Central District.

No tarmac road exists here; it’s a rough terrain with dust and bushy thorny plantations which are drought resistant,
A community known for its nomadic lifestyle and pastoralism, the harsh climatic conditions here of scotching heat and no rainfall has left many residents in need of water.

People waiting for water at borehole 11 -elwak

This precious commodity is shared amongst the people and their livestock which is part of them. People here belong to the Garre community who speak both Somali and Borana language and are Muslims by religion.

Drought and famine here are so severe to a level that people and livestock lose life and children get malnourished as the situation worsens.

Last year’s drought was a bad one; they lost lots of livestock, having no place to take their livestock as their neighbor Somalia was in the same situation.

Claudio Siotum, the livestock officer in the District, shortage of water and pasture is the main problem facing people here, it gets worse when there is drought and people start feeding their cows on cotton paper mixed with sugar and some water.
“Rainfall here is never our vocabulary, two years can pass without a single drop of rainfall’’, says Halima Boru, a mother of four aged 32 who has lived here her entire life.

A region close to the porous Somalia border seven kilometers away from Somalia. Life here is never a bed of roses. People walk for so many kilometers to get access to clean water. Amaney Fatuma, a teenage girl here walks for seven kilometers every day to get to a borehole that serves the entire community.

Borehole 11 –As they call it, is just a savior to the people here, the wells they have dug in their villages produce saline water and only borehole 11 has clean and sweet water.’’ Maji Tamu” loosely translated in English ‘’sweet water’’.This borehole was constructed with the help of Kenya Red Cross Society .

March 25, 2012

Cameroon: Dying for Any Water in Buea

Lum Edith Achamukong
March 25, 2012

The absence of safe water is reportedly rendering many residents of the South West Region of Cameroon despondent. This comes less than a week after the world commemorated the 2012 World Water Day.

Our network member Lum Edith Achamukong has just been in Buea, the most affected area. She witnessed this unfortunate situation and took pictures. As Edith reports, in Buea, taps are completely dry.

Long queues characterize public water taps as women and children spend several hours of the day fetching and transporting water in Buea. Fights as some people attempt to jump the queue are not new in this area.

A crowded water source in Buea (Picture by the Writer)

The rationing method previously applied by the organ charged with the supply of pipe borne water (La Camerounaise Des Eaux) has not satisfied the water needs of thousands of people at the foot of West Africa’s highest mountain.

This crisis has been attributed to the complete breakdown of very old water pipes put in place during the German rule of Cameroon decades ago. Little maintenance on the infrastructure now weighs on the population not without socio economic costs.

Statistics from the United Nations say 40 Billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa and that equals to a year’s labor for the entire work force of France. Moreover, households in rural Africa spend an average of 26% of their time fetching water, and this generally involves women and children.

In Buea, several children and women spend hours fetching water (Picture by by the writer)

The water crisis is heightening at the hills of the award of a contract by CAMWATER to a Belgian company ASPAC CEMAC for the rehabilitation and extension of the water scheme in Buea. The populations are definitely hoping that this two-year project will be realized on time.

Studies for the expansion of the water supply systems in the Buea municipality were carried out some years ago. And the execution of the project begins this year, 2012.

This responsibility has been given to the water corporation CAMWATER that is specialized in heavy projects for the construction and expansion of water systems in Cameroon.

The project in the Buea municipality is aimed at doubling the capacity of production of water and also to rehabilitate the existing structures and extend the water distribution.
Two main sites have been earmarked for rehabilitation in this project: the two old catchment and production areas – that is, the German source at Upper Farms and the Musole source at Great Soppo. There are two new sites to be exploited during this project: one at Wokoko (below the Fakoship neighbourhood); and the other at Small Soppo around the popular Kai catchment area.

The project, as stipulated in the contract with CAMWATER, will take a total of 24 months to be complete. The objective is to double the volume of water supply in the Buea municipality from 6-thousand cubic meters per day – which is the maximum volume obtained during the rainy season – to 12-thousand cubic meters per day. The neighborhoods in Buea to benefit directly from this rehabilitation and expansion project are those that are usually worst hit by the water crisis. They include Buea Town, Bokwango, Upper Bonduma, Molyko, Mile 18, and the Mile 17 Motor Park area.

March 22, 2012

Zambia: Kashikishi Where Each Drop Counts

Violet Mengo
March 22, 2012

Every 22nd March, the world marks international water day, held as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Water Journalists Africa Network, joins the rest of the world to mark this day with one of our members Violet Mengo visiting Kashikishi-one of the communities in the world lacking water; just water and not safe water and now the lack of water is attracting more problems into lives of people of Kashikishi.

WITH her nine-month-old baby strapped on her back, Kaluba Chola emerges from her grass-thatched hut before daybreak to embark on a routine daily journey to fetch water about eight kilometers away.

By her side is Patience, her 12-year-old daughter who prefers carrying out this chore to going to school in this remote Yenga Village tucked in Nchelenge district of Luapula Province, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chola wakes up early despite howling nocturnal birds and animals to beat the queue at the communal borehole sunk by a charity organisation a decade or so ago.

Covering a 16-kilometre journey on foot is beyond intrigue. More so that by the time Chola treks back home after midday with 80 litres of water on a noisy screeching wheelbarrow, she is exhausted and dejected.

Her dream of having access to constant supply of clean water seems not a reality. Not only that, she has not had food since morning and has no idea where the family’s meal will come from.

“Waking up in the wee hours is now part of our life, it is only sad that my little girl misses her class most of the time to line up at the communal borehole,” Chola says, with a clear expression of regret on her face.

Patience, a grade five pupil is supposed to be in class at 09:00 hours but she stays away from school due to house chores. For her, school is optional while drawing water is mandatory. This is routine.

When she submits to fatigue or has no money to pay for the water at the communal borehole, she is forced to walk a few kilometres further to fetch water at the natural source – the crocodile-infested Lake Mweru. The risks are obvious but options limited too.

Kaluba Chola drawing water at the only communal borehole in Kashikishi

The blood-thirsty reptiles have mauled many, yet they have not been cropped and there seems to be no plans from the marine department.

Apart from that, Chola puts her life and that of her family at risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery, which are quite prevalent in Zambia as water from this body is not treated.

For her living, she runs a small shop of merchandise just at her house while her husband is a fishmonger. His business has been going down due to illegal fishing methods practiced in the area.

Between November and February every year, government imposes a fish ban to allow the stock to breed. ‘Wrongdoers’ are prosecuted and imprisoned although the sentence is short and, therefore, not prohibitive.

However, the depletion of the fish due to illegal fishing methods has forced most local people to engage in other economic activity such as charcoal burning and farming.

Despite these activities, majority of the people in Kashikishi have remained very poor. According to Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR), the food basket for Lusaka stands at K2.6 million (US$600) per month for a family of six.

But the people of Kashikishi only survive by His grace as most of the residents’ expenditure is less than US$1 per day.

The World Bank estimates that over 80 percent of Zambians live in households that lack adequate means to meet basic daily needs (over 90 percent in many rural areas).

As wages stagnate or fall in real terms, an increasing number of Zambian families are being forced to go without the normal three meals a day. Even the meals taken have no basic balanced diet.

The figures on malnourished children have a telling effect. Many families have to expand economic activities by engaging in extra trade, small-scale business or crime, corruption and other ills.

In Zambia, the story of Chola and her community is not unique. Most rural parts of the country lack access to clean safe drinking water. Sanitation is a worse off challenge.

Despite the availability of the water from Lake Mweru, Luapula River and other small dams, it has been a huge challenge for the local people to access clean safe water.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 1998, whose focus was on consumption, states: ”Human development is a process of enlarging people’s choices.

Enlarging people’s choices is achieved by expanding human capabilities and functioning. At all levels of development the three essential capabilities for human development are: to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable and to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living.

The establishment of the Luapula Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) in 2009 has excited of Nchelenge. Since the company started its operations in 2010, it has been serving 280 households from the initial 400 connections, which were once under the local authority – Nchelenge District Council.

LWSC support service officer Charles Kalapa is concerned with the kind of water being supplied to clients.
“The infrastructure is dilapidated and compromises the quality of water given to our customers,” Mr Kalapa says.

The district only has one water reservoir, so the water is pumped directly from the pump house to clients after chlorination.

The treatment point where water is chlorinated before final supply to customers

As though this challenge is not enough, LWSC only supplies water to its customers for 45 minutes only in the night due to low voltage of electricity the company receives. “During the day, we are not able to supply water because electricity supply is very low and our machines cannot work. The water pump machines runs at 380 volts and the electricity we receive is only 200volts,” says LWSC Nchelenge district manager Daniel Namasuno.

As a result the company cannot expand its service to include new clients. According to the 2010 National Census Report, Nchelenge district has a total population of 148, 671.

The Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) is aware of the challenges of power supply experienced by people in Luapula province.

Director – Corporate Affairs Bestty Phiri explains: “We have embarked on installation of capacitor banks which will improve the low voltage for Luapula Province.”

Mr Phiri says the project will run for 18 months and the situation is expected to improve by June 2013.

How people manage

What people do, when LWSC supply water in the night, they are forced to store and use the following day, although it is never enough. This has resulted in many customers relying on the unclean water from Lake Mweru or Luapula River.

The dilapidated pump house where all the chlorination process takes place before water is supplied to customers

With an increase in the number of people who need water and want to be connected to the LWSC, the system has been overloaded and creating pressure on the machine.

LWSC District Manager for Nchelenge Daniel Namasumo says the increase in demand for water has created a huge problem for the utility company.

Mr Namasumo says Kashikishi is among the most prone areas in Zambia to diarrhoea because of people using untreated water from the lake.

On the shores of the lake, some people bath as others are catching fish while others wash their clothes and children playing in the water.

Disease burden

Water borne diseases are common in this part of Zambia especially in the rainy season when diseases are on the increase.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Kamoto Mbewe says diarrhoea is mostly associated with contamination of food and water.
Dr Mbewe says some viral infections can lead to diarrhoea and vomiting and the strains are highly contagious, being spread through unwashed hands.

“Shared drinks, utensils, and contaminated food also provide passage into your unsuspecting stomach. Hand washing, clean kitchens, and common sense go a long way to keep viruses under wraps,” he says.

To reduce the risk of bacteria-related diarrhoea, cook meat, poultry, and eggs completely. Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces.

The water project

But the water blues for residents of Nchelenge will soon be confined to history. A novel project has been designed to address the challenges and make the residents proud of themselves again, looking forward to a brighter future.

The initiative has been mooted by the National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) through Devolution Trust Fund (DTF), which has approved a project to extend the water network, put up a water tank (100 cubic metres) and construct water kiosks at a cost of K2 billion.

NWASCO is a regulatory body for water providers ensures efficiency and sustainability of water supply and sanitation service. It works in liaison with DTF, which is a basket fund that gives water utilities money to improve water supply in urban and peri-urban areas of Zambia.

The project targets 100 families who will benefit from the 10 water kiosks and 120 individual connections. More than 2,000 people will benefit from the water kiosks in Kenani, Yenga and Malutu villages.

The project started in October 2011 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

DTF manager Samuel Gonga is optimistic of extending the financial support to LWSC should the first project be carried successfully.

The basket fund has since 2007 been able to provide almost a million people with access to sustainable water supply in peri-urban and low cost areas. Its target is to reach 2.5 million people by 2015.

Gonga, however, says the target may not be reached by 2015 because of lack of absorption capacity of funds by the water utilities to implement projects within a short period of time.

He also attributed the limited funds to the basket fund as another hindrance to reach the 2.5 million targets. So far only Germany and the European Union are among the major donors to DTF.

In as much as the people of Kashikishi are expectant of safe clean water, the onus is on the water utility to work within the agreed time frame with DTF.

The 2,000 plus people to benefit from the project is a good start for the people of Nchelenge of better projects to come.

March 21, 2012

UN Economic Commission for Africa Wants Safe Water to Flow Allover Africa

Newton Sibanda
March 20,2012

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Abdoulie Janneh is calling for concrete actions to facilitate the delivery of safe water to millions of Africans who remain in need.

Addressing a high-level session on the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative and the Africa Water Facility at the just ended 6th World Water Forum in Marseilles France, Mr. Janneh said that a measure of success for the forum would be an agreement on renewed pledges to support African countries in meeting the millennium development goal (MDG) targets for water and sanitation, particularly in the rural areas.

The 6th World Water Forum gathered more than 25,000 participants in Marseille from 12th to 18th March 2012.

Mr. Janneh, who is also UN Under Secretary-Generalwas speaking on a panel on partnership for strengthening water security in Africa.

He urged African countries and development agencies to come up with strategies to harness the resources needed to transform Africa’s immense water potential into assets for people to grow food and save millions of lives from water borne diseases.

Other members of the panel included African Union Commission chairperson Jean Ping, Chairperson of the ; President of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka,The Prince of Orange, Chairman of United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB); The Hon. , president of the African Ministers Council on Water Edna Molewa from South Africa; and AMCOW Executive Secretary. Bai Mass Taal.

Bai Mass Tall, the executive secretary of AMCOW (African Minister's Council on Water) speaking during the closing function of the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille

The panel unanimously called on African governments, bilateral and multilateral partners and other key stakeholders to help raise the resources, estimated at $400 million over the next three years, required to ensure that safe water is availability in acceptable levels throughout Africa.

Mr. Janneh said that there is a clear need for a work program that would lead to the achievement of the goal African countries set for themselves by continuing to place water issues at the forefront of Africa’s development agenda.

He renewed the commitment of ECA which hosts the secretariat of UN-Water/Africa to continue providing the support that will enable the water sector in the continent to build on its pioneering role as a model of inter-Agency coherence and synergy.

Mr Janneh recalled the dire situation of water needs in Africa and underscored its perplexing nature because the continent is actually “awash with large rivers, big lakes, vast wet lands and widespread ground water resources.”

“Indeed, in the context of this 6th World Water Forum, it is notable that Africa is endowed with transboundary waters with international river basins that cover not less than 62 percent of its land area”, he explained.

A picture of a mobile water purification plant in the Village of solutions at the 6th World Water Forum

Earlier, the president of the World Water Council, Loïc Fauchon said that Africa needs to bridge the gap between availability of water on the continent and the access its people have to it by fully integrating water accessibility and food security into national health strategies.

“What use is it to feed children only to see them die for lack of safe water”, Mr Fauchon asked, adding that water is as important for health as it is for energy.

He called for future climate change negotiations, including the future Green Fund, to put water issues on top of their discussions.

The Prince of Orange lauded efforts made by individual African countries, despite obvious financial constraints to supply water to the ever-increasing city populations, though regretting the fact that not so much progress had been made in the area of basic sanitation.

He called on Africa to begin to believe in its abilities saying, “a lot of good practices do exist on the continent and Africa countries should begin to look at each other for good examples.”

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Ping related different regional initiatives on water and said that the intra-African solidarity revealed during recent draughts in Somalia shows that Africa can contribute substantially towards resolving its water problems.

Mr. Kaberuka, President of the Africa Development Bank, recalled different initiatives by the bank and called for African ownership of its water projects, even as they continue to seek partnerships with development agenciesw while Ms.Molewa, president of AMCOW emphasized on the theme of the Forum – Time for Solutions – arguing Africa is doing its best, as testified by the growing number of African countries that have increased the budgetary allocations for water provision.

“Now is the time to use water to wash away poverty and underdevelopment”, she concluded.

The entire panel agreed that “a time for solutions” should also be an important step in preparing the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

This resonates with Africa’s position which is that water must be placed at the heart of all the issues on the agenda at Rio+20: for the green economy and in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

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