Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. Today nearly 1 billion people in the majority world don’t have access to it. While it is the foundation of life, all around the world, far too many people spend their entire day searching for it and walking for hours to fetch it.
Rural Mozambique has one of the lowest safe drinking water and sanitation coverage worldwide. Thanks to funding support from Misean Cara, the Dublin Province of the Redemptorists and SERVE have been able to support Muvamba Mission’s ‘Water for All’ programme to ensure access to safe, clean drinking water for rural communities in the Massinga District.
SERVE Projects Officer Kieran Cunningham undertook a monitoring and evaluation visit to Muvamba Mission and the ‘Water for All’ programme in late June / early July 2015. One of the objectives of the visit was to gauge if water is still the primary need in the area. Communities, beneficiaries, health professionals, education professionals and local government equivocally and unanimously stated water is still the greatest and most pressing need in the Muvamba area.
Muvamba Mission is located in Massinga District, Inhambane Province in Mozambique. Since 2006, Muvamba Mission has prioritised water provision, to the rural population in the area. There is a shortage of accessible, safe water for the rural population of Muvamba. A lack of resources at government level means that water supply has been hugely underfunded for decades. The Inhambane Province of Mozambique are arid and suffer from repeated severe droughts which have a devastating impact on communities. This results in a shortage of access to clean water.
The health challenges faced by communities due to a lack of water or access to dirty water include; diarrhoea, schistosomiasis, trachoma, skin and eye infections, malnutrition and stunted growth for children.
The ‘Water for All’ programme in partnership with Muvamba Mission aims to provide water, a basic human right, to targeted communities, so as to significantly improve the health of the local population, to boost school attendance rates and to transform the lives of local women and girls.
Through key informant interviews, focus groups, questionnaires and an observational study, Kieran was able to measure the positive outcomes of the ‘Water for All’ programme.
To date, the ‘Water for All’ programme has achieved the following results:
- 8 new wells with new hydraulic pump
- 16 new open wells with manual water pumps
- 23 wells repaired and new pump units installed
- 33 new community cisterns constructed
- 9 community cisterns fully repaired
- 74 community teams trained to maintain water resources
Before the programme, people reported having to walk for up to five hours to fetch water. During the drought periods, people can walk up to 26km (13km each way) to obtain water. Since Muvamba Mission prioritised water in the area, post-project reports indicate that over 60% of community members can now collect the water in less than an hour.
On average, 270 trips are made daily to a well to collect water and 75% of people collecting water from the wells are women.
Before the project, 30% of beneficiaries reported that they sourced water from unsafe and unprotected wells. 100% of respondents highlighted that they now source clean water from a new, safe, mechanised well.
93% of respondents reported that they can now allocate the time saved when fetching water towards work outside of the house. For example, the community can now focus more on their farming, in turn generating income. Community members reported that they used suffer more regularly with stomach complaints from dirty water and as a result were prevented from working on their farm. Now they can spend more time on the farm. Before the ‘Water for All’ programme, farmers would spend two days bringing their cattle to the water well as they would need to stay overnight. Prior to the project many farmers would also wake up and fetch water immediately, now they wake up and go to the farm first benefitting their farming livelihood. As a result, farms are bigger as people have more time to work, prepare their fields and tend to cattle.
Schools can also feed students with their own gardens, reducing costs. 34% of community members reported that they can now invest their newly created time to education and school work. Students, education professionals and parents all revealed that the provision of clean, reliable water has improved students; punctuality, time management, hygiene, participation, focus and continuous assessment results. The Principal of the Chicomo School stated that;
“The School doesn’t have official records yet regarding improvement among students, but improved punctuality and focus will lead to improved school performance as you have eliminated problematic factors, if you work on causes you change the results, this is well known in education”.
The programme has notably impacted on students time management – students are now on time as they have shorter distances to walk to fetch water in the morning. In the past students used to miss the first and second lesson but now that is not the case.
Also, at lunch time students used to fetch water making them late for the afternoon class, now their punctuality has improved. Students also have more time to do their homework and to prepare for lessons, thus they are participating more actively in class. Before students wouldn’t do their homework and would then be left out/ behind the next day in class. Students are no longer thinking about the long distances that they have to walk to fetch water after class, they can now focus on the lesson and their homework. When students are freed from fetching water they return to class and complete their education.
Overall the ‘Water for All’ programme, providing safe and clean drinking water to communities has been a huge success. Something that we often take for granted here, is a huge part of daily life and routine in the majority world. Time lost gathering water and suffering from water-borne diseases is limiting people’s true potential. The ‘Water for All’ programme is enabling communities to unlock this potential, by working to provide access to clean water to break the cycle of poverty.
It all begins with a water project that impacts lives and unlocks potential – but it is not that simple. Wells – if they are not maintained – break down. That’s why a water committee is formed in each community. They are at the centre of project planning, implementation, management and monitoring. This community based approach to development means that wells can be maintained and repaired by the community members- thus creating a more sustainable project.
SERVE are committed to the Water for All programme in the immediate to medium term.