In November of 2014 Dasenech and Nyangatom communities, where more than 60,000 people live, were devastated by back-to-back floods of the Omo River that damaged and destroyed their water points. With the support of our partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC), we responded to this crisis with an emergency clean water project. [Read more about this project here.]
As this project nears completion we are happy to report that we have refurbished 16 wells, repaired two pipelines that supply fresh water, and repaired two roof catchments used for harvesting rainwater.
But our work involves more than providing emergency access to water. In this project, as in all of our projects, we built sustainability into the implementation. The 24,296 people in the communities served by this project are now empowered to self-monitor and self-manage their now functioning water points, keeping them clean and functioning into the future and ensuring sustainability. This is vital in an area where working wells are otherwise likely to breakdown or be contaminated within six months of installation.
How do we build in sustainability? By participating in our Community Based Learning in Action (CBLA) activities, communities discover through a dramatic mapping exercise how their traditional practice of open-field defecation impacts the water that they drink. This session “triggers” behavior change—motivating people to practice new hygiene behaviors and to construct and use pit latrines.
As part of this project we helped establish new or revitalize existing community-based Water Sanitation Committees in each of the participating Dasenech and Nyangatom communities. These WatSanCo are critical to maintaining the community’s clean water supply. They assume the responsibility for maintaining the well, monitoring its surrounding defecation free zone, and fencing the pump to protect it from damage by livestock. Each committee has equal representation of men and women, ensuring that the all community members are involved in the process. The project supplied every WatSanCo with working tools for preventative maintenance and coveralls and gloves for each committee member.
The government Water, Energy & Mines office conducted the theoretical training, which we supported with additional hands-on, practical training. The five-day training sessions covered well preventative maintenance, water site protection (fencing the well and maintaining the defection-free zone), and water fee collection so the community has the funds for futures spare part purchases.
This project shows how we build sustainability into GTLI emergency water projects. With training, tools, and supplies these local WatSanCo are now empowered to maintain their access to clean water and handle future challenges.