In 2017 there was a severe drought in parts of Uganda and many of the community groups realised the importance of rainwater harvesting and asked UWCM for advice. As Trustees of Uganda Concern UK, we decided that we would like to support a rainwater harvesting project – especially as this is a community led initiative.
The World Health Organisation specifies that 50 litres of water per person are required every day for basic sanitation, and 75 litres are needed if household members are to be fully protected against disease. But in rural areas most Africans use, on average, only 30-40 litres of water, and in the remotest areas as little as 4 litres per day.
In comparison, every person in the UK uses on average 142 litres of water each day (Energy Saving Trust).
UWCM work in very remote and rural communities where households do not have running water and although there are some water taps/pumps, many rely on the local river or stream for their water supply. A simple step such as installing a rainwater harvesting tank would enable families to have access to their own supply of water throughout the year and would reduce the amount of time spent each day on fetching water from the nearest source, as well as improving basic health and sanitation.
Initial research: We commissioned Uganda Water Project (UWP) to undertake a feasibility study of the communities in the Bulambuli District of Eastern Uganda to find out whether it would be advisable to install community or individual tanks. At present, the primary water supply for households in this region is a lake or river which is also used daily by animals. UWP raised the following environmental concerns associated with the conditions surrounding this facility: steep slope; dense vegetation; sexual harassment, assault or rape; mugging or other crime; algae/animal faeces
They concluded that due to the hilly terrain and the fact that the houses are widely dispersed it would be preferable for each household to have their own water tank (minimum 1000L).
At present, UWCM support 11 groups in the Bulambuli area each with 30 members ie 330 households who would benefit from having individual rainwater harvesting tanks. Uganda Concern UK are committed to raising funds to buy 1000L tanks for as many of these households as possible and the Trustees have been working closely with staff from UWCM and community leaders to ensure that communities take ownership of this project and do not simply rely on donors to provide all the resources.
Community leaders met with UWCM and agreed that anyone who receives a tank shall be required to cover the cost of providing the gutters, pipework and concrete base and would receive training on general maintenance and repair of the tanks. It was also agreed that if a member wanted a larger tank that they could pay the difference.
We were delighted that Kenn Road Methodist Church in Clevedon chose to support this project for one year starting in September 2019. Graham Roberts, a member of Kenn Road, joined a small group who went out to Uganda in January 2020 to visit the communities and discover just what a difference these tanks are having on the lives of those concerned.
We visited Stephen who had just completed the concrete base for his water tank. In the video below he is telling us what benefits this will bring to his family.
Since the start of this project, 66 water tanks have been installed and, as you can see from the comment below, each tank not only improves the well-being of the individual family but also that of their neighbours. This is what Sam said when he received his tank:
“Because of this sickness, sometimes the body is very weak to go for water from the stream and it becomes hard to keep disturbing neighbours who are a bit far and especially when it has rained heavily, and sometimes we end up sleeping without food. But now that we have got this tank we do not need to ask for help from neighbours but instead, we will be of help to them because they will also be getting water from us. The attitude the community people had towards us has changed and even the stigma is going to reduce. They now look at us as very important people in this community. Thank you UWCM and thank you donors”.
Unexpected bonus: As a result of our initial pilot study with Uganda Water Project who we commissioned to research the area and advise on which tanks to install, UWP later chose to install 2 x 10,000L community tanks in Bumugusha – one at a church and the other at a school which was totally unexpected and we were thrilled that they had done this. The community contributed bricks, sand and gravel and were extremely happy and excited to receive the tanks.
Future sustainability of this project:
Following discussions with UWCM and community leaders, it was decided that as from January 2021 we would no longer send out money for individual tanks but that we would fund a ‘revolving fund’ which would allow group members to borrow money to buy a tank which they then have to repay and that money would then be available to lend to another family. Although families will have to wait longer to have a tank it means that this project is sustainable and more people, eventually, will own one of their own. UWCM have chosen to work with a cluster of groups who already have a good record of running savings schemes and will continue to monitor progress.
During our visit in January 2020 we visited Namisindwa CMT and some of the families who had a tank installed – see photos below:
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