CO2balance in Sierra Leone

CO2balance has been exploring the options for launching projects in Sierra Leone for a long time. Following on from extensive nationwide feasibility studies, we finally decided recently to launch an initial borehole rehabilitation and maintenance programme in partnership with the NGO CODE-SL. Having lived in Sierra Leone back in 2016 and been captivated by the country’s natural beauty and generous people, I was very excited to return to meet our new partners and to explore Kono, the remote district in the East of the country where we are conducting the pilot phase of our project.

The need is immense in Sierra Leone for projects that ensure access to safe water and promote improved sanitation practices. Official figures state that 53% of the country’s rural population lack access to an improved water source, but in reality this figure is likely to be much higher. Whilst many rural communities have had access to safe water from a hand pump powered borehole at some point, a vast proportion of these have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of training or resources for them to be maintained locally. The situation is even starker regarding improved sanitation, with just 6.9% or rural communities having access to improved sanitation facilities. The impacts of these trends can be seen in the shocking figure that over 90% of rural water sources in Sierra Leone are infected with E-Coli.

DSC05324

A broken-down handpump in Old Kissy Town, Kono district

My visit had 2 main purposes: to travel with CODE-SL to visit some of the communities in Kono where we will be working to repair and maintain boreholes and to attend the Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting, which introduces the project to local authorities in the target area and solicits their feedback.

The visits in Kono district were fascinating. We travelled to some of the most remote corners of the district, reaching the village of Kaadu where we looked across the Mel river into the Republic of Guinea. In Kaadu, we saw the broken down handpump which will shortly be repaired and visited the current water source, which is a murky and mossy pool in the forest about a 20 minute walk away from the village. We met Sita Sandi there, a local woman with 4 children who usually has to travel to the water source about 3 times per day. She reported that although they boil the water they collect, waterborne illnesses remain a major problem and that her son had just missed several days of school through diarrhoea. She looks forward to the completion of the borehole rehabilitation, as she hopes that it will save her the best part of 2 hours every day to have fresh water available in the village. Crucially, it will also reduce the scourge of waterborne disease which has greatly disrupted her children’s education.

DSC05236

Sita Sandi collects water outside Kaadu

Having visited the communities, we conducted the local stakeholder consultation meeting in the city of Koidu, which was attended by several councillors from Kono district in addition to representatives of local NGOs and leaders of communities to be targeted in the project. The meeting was a fantastic meeting of minds of the key stakeholders with whom CODE-SL and CO2balance will be working in the coming years, and the feedback for the project was overwhelmingly positive. Stakeholders praised the concept of the project, particularly its focus on long-term maintenance of water points due to the high risk that water points can break down if they are not regularly serviced. It was also discussed that there is a great need for the project to reach beyond the initial 30 communities, with stakeholders assured that if all goes well in the initial phase of the project, we hope to significantly expand the reach in the coming years.

IMG_20190328_160637200_BURST000_COVER_TOP

The CODE-SL/CO2balance team gather before the LSC meeting

I’d like to thank our partners, CODE-SL, for their welcome and for their hard work on the feasibility phase of the project. This marks not only our first project in Sierra Leone, but our very first project in West Africa. It’s very exciting to expand into this new region and we hope that it will be a gateway to further projects in West Africa in the coming years. The first borehole rehabilitations will be conducted in the next couple of months – watch this space for more updates from Sierra Leone!

Advertisements

Zambia Safe Water Project Development: Local Stakeholder Consultation

At the end of February, CO2balance Project Manager, Emma, travelled to Zambia to meet local partner organisation, ROCS, and to host a local stakeholder consultation for new borehole rehabilitation and maintenance projects in the Eastern Province. This is what she had to say about the trip: 

CO2balance has been exploring the possibility of developing a safe water project in Zambia for some time, so it was great to take the first steps into helping it come into fruition. Reformed Open Community Schools (ROCS) is an experienced and well respected local NGO that operate across Zambia. While their focus is predominantly on education and school projects, they also have significant experience in rehabilitating community boreholes and carrying out WASH campaigns.

ROCS Field Office in Lundazi

It was my first time in Zambia, and I was struck by the friendliness of the people and, as I was there in the ‘Emerald Season’, the lushness of the environment. The ROCS team gave me a warm welcome in Lusaka before we travelled up to Lundazi together to meet the local communities and stakeholders that will be targeted by the project, and to hold a stakeholder meeting to discuss the project design and impacts.

In the drive up to Lundazi we travelled through changing landscapes, and it was striking to see the reduction in forest cover in the more rural areas in the Eastern Province, our destination. Once in Lundazi we were able to visit rural communities in Lundazi, Lumezi, and Chasefu Districts. In all of these districts access to safe water presents a daily challenge for communities- with many of the boreholes installed in recent decades not functioning, they are forced to collect water from the only sources available to them, which are mostly ponds or streams, referred to locally as ‘dambos’. As the water sources are unsafe, many households have to boil their water over traditional 3 stone fires in order to purify it for drinking.

Speaking to a local Village Headman, he also underlined the impact that unsafe water can have on the health of his community. The majority of the community suffer from stomach related illnesses at least once a month, but most people can’t afford to attend a clinic for each incidence. Many of the women that I spoke to also highlighted the massive impact that having a reliable safe water source in their community would have on their every day lives- saving them valuable time and the burden of carrying heavy full jerrycans and firewood over long distances.

At the Local Stakeholder Consultation, stakeholders from across the District gathered to discuss the project and give their feedback on the project impact and design. At the moment, ROCS and CO2balance are aiming to rehabilitate and maintain 50 boreholes across Lundazi District, that will also focus on contributing to key SDGs including Clean Water and Sanitation, Gender Equality, and Good Health and Wellbeing.

It was a privilege to be part of the meeting, to hear first hand what the stakeholders thought of the project and what they think the impacts will be. Stakeholders ranged from local government to community members, and it was great to see that everyone played an active role in contributing, particularly in group discussions on safeguarding principles and SDGs. Overall, all the stakeholders were incredibly positive and supportive of the project, urging work on the ground to start as quickly as possible.

Stakeholders discussing the impacts that the project will have on SDG 5: Gender Equality

It was an absolute pleasure to spend time in Zambia with the ROCS team and the communities and stakeholders in Lundazi District. We are really excited to start moving on the project, and given the positive feedback from the stakeholders, we are aiming to start the rehabilitation of the boreholes in April, when they will start crediting. Watch this space for future updates!