A new beginning in Zimbabwe

Since Summer 2017, CO2balance has been exploring the possibility of starting a programme of borehole rehabilitation and maintenance in Zimbabwe. Almost a year after this research began, the idea is finally coming to fruition, with a partnership having been struck up with Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP). DOMCCP is an experienced local NGO with a strong track record of delivering poverty alleviation and HIV awareness projects in Manicaland, the easternmost province of Zimbabwe. As I write, the DOMCCP team are in the field in Manicaland making final preparations for the rehabilitation of 34 boreholes, an intervention that will bring safe water and alleviate the burden of waterborne disease for 2,500 households in the province.

I was recently privileged to be the first CO2balance staff member to travel to Zimbabwe to meet the DOMCCP team and visit the communities to be targeted through the programme. I was given a warm welcome by the DOMCCP team in Mutare city, where their head office is based, and then had the chance to spend a few days visiting rural districts of Manicaland including Mutare Rural, Nyanga and Chipinge. In all of these districts, the vast majority of boreholes which have been installed in recent decades are now not functioning, with Zimbabwe’s well-documented economic problems in recent years having contributed to the drying up of funding to maintain water infrastructure.

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Community members gather round a broken borehole in  Chipinge district

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A muddy pool used as a drinking water source in Chipinge district

Throughout these visits, I was struck not only by the warm and generous welcome of the community members that we visited, but also by the great need for the upcoming programme. For example, I met Ramwidzai Musimbi in Nyangani village, where the borehole has not been functional since it broke down over 4 years ago. In the absence of any alternative water source, Ramwidzai has been forced to walk 2 kilometres each way to collect water from the Savé River, meaning that she will typically spend 3 hours per day getting water for her household’s needs. The incidence of waterborne disease from the river is also very high, meaning in turn that Ramwidzai has to spend a further 3 hours per day collecting sufficient firewood in order to boil the water to make it safe. For people like Ramwidzai, the impact of having a safe water source just 200 metres from her front door cannot be emphasised enough. She will save at least 5 hours per day, be saved the backbreaking work of collecting water and firewood and have the opportunity to pursue business opportunities and spend time with her family.

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Ramwidzai Musimbi and her son with the fireplace and pot where they usually boil water to purify it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Henry Nyapokoto of DOMCCP with Tom by the Savé River

The other main event during my trip was the Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting, where key people who will be involved in the project from the government and communities were brought together to discuss the project and give their feedback. It was fascinating to be part of the meeting and to hear first hand about the impacts that stakeholders expect to see from the project. One of the most interesting contributions came from Tendani Sanikiwe, the facilitator of a club supporting people living with HIV (PLWHIV) in Manicaland. She spoke for several minutes about how members of the club are often excluded from discussions about the importance of safe water, but how access to safe water is crucial to PLWHIV due to their increased susceptibility to disease and need for safe water to ensure the efficacy of drugs. This was a great example of how the project will impact on communities beyond the impacts on climate change and health that we address through our current monitoring, and has the potential to bring great benefit to groups often marginalised.

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Participants pose for a photo after the LSC meeting

Overall, it was a privilege to be in Zimbabwe and to spend time with DOMCCP’s dedicated team. Thank you to them for the warm welcome and for the work in getting this exciting new programme off the ground. Zimbabwe is a country going through momentous change in its national politics, but whilst that happens the need for sustainable management of water sources at the community level is greater than ever, and we’re very excited to be at the forefront with DOMCCP. Watch this space for updates in the next few months!

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Empowering Rural Women; Challenges/Opportunities

Women empowerment leads to higher economic growth and a better quality of life for women and men alike.  Despite progress, it is still the case today that rural women’s double burden of farming, search for water and unpaid domestic work prevents them from participating fully and fairly in community development and income-generating activities. Improving rural women’s access to technologies that save time and labour is essential to reducing their workloads. Transforming gender relations within the family is also crucial to empowering women and enabling them to make decisions about their lives which affects their community at large.

So many times gender-biased social norms, laws and practices can also limit women’s access to essential assets including natural resources and education as well as social assets such as participation in rural organizations and other decision-making bodies like borehole resource committees. As a result, their ability to reach their full potential and influence decision is seriously undermined.

As Uganda today joins the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day under the theme ‘Empowering Rural Women; Challenges/Opportunities’, we look to appreciate the roles played by women in provision and maintenance of clean safe water to the community.

The borehole projects have given women the opportunity to participate actively in water resource management and decision making by allowing them access to each Water Resource Committee which encourages fair representation for both genders. It is a requirement that the 10-man committee should consist of at least 4 to 5 women to fill the gender gap. For long, rural women had been over shadowed and their roles limited to the household yet the activities they do, given the opportunity is a great game changer.

We visited Ilera borehole in Apala village, Kole District which is under the Lango Safe Water project area to speak to the women on their roles in the Water Resource Committee and this is what they had to say.

‘My name is Nestina Okoko Bosco aged 46 and a water user of Ilera borehole. I have a family of 10 members and live 300 meters away from the borehole. I was elected as the Vice chairperson of this borehole and given the roles of managing the borehole meetings, ensuring that the borehole is functioning well and the records are properly kept. I also sit in for the chairman in his absence during the monthly meetings and help decide on rising matters concerning the borehole’.

‘My name is Flo Ogwang, aged 35 and a member of the Ilera borehole Water User Committee. I am in charge of preventing children from playing with and around the borehole, maintaining hygiene around the borehole and any other matters that concern the source. I am happy with my roles because I get to participate in the borehole activities’.

‘I am Brenda Akullo and a mobilizer of the borehole committee. I am in charge of mobilizing people to clean the borehole, dig the trenches and soak pit, mend the fences and inform the water users about meetings. I also participate in the meetings and make suggestions to help improve on our borehole’.

‘My name is Dorcus Apio, aged 45 and a mother of 7 children. I am the treasurer of Ilera borehole and my roles are collecting water user fees, keeping records of the money collected and participating in the decision making process of how and when the money will be spent. I am also in charge of releasing funds for borehole activities like minor repairs and accounting for the funds in the treasury. I am grateful for this position because it has made me gain respect in society and in my household’.

‘My role as the caretaker of Ilera borehole is to make sure that the borehole is well fenced, the surrounding is clean by sweeping daily, ensure no animals access the source, make sure the people clean their water collection containers before accessing the borehole and supervise that the soak pit is well constructed’, says 35 year old Margaret Connie who lives 100 meters from the borehole. ‘I also control the use of the water source by regulating the time people are allowed to fetch water by opening and closing the borehole‘.

However, the men also have roles they play in the committee which are not limited to;

  1. Search for Strong poles for fencing and do the whole job of fencing the Borehole
  2. Settle disputes/grievance that always arise as a result of congestion at source
  3. Work with women generate water user fee and borehole management
  4. Facilitate water resource meetings
  5. Support pump mechanics and co2balance team in repair and maintenance of the Borehole in case of breakdown.

Gender-sensitive Local Stakeholder Consultation Meeting

On the 16th of January 2018, co2balance’s Lango Safe Water project carried out another Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting in Apala sub-county, Alebtong District. This was held to mark the launch of the Gender-sensitive Methodology as a requirement by Gold Standard.

This comes with the need for inclusion of gender-sensitive guidelines for the Lango projects in order to incorporate the monitoring of gender-based indicators into the borehole projects. This is meant to monitor the impacts of the projects on mainly women who for a long time have not taken center stage in borehole maintenance activities yet they are the primary collectors of water.  There are impacts such as women having to spend less time collecting water hence having the opportunity to engage in new livelihood projects that provide an extra income for their families. This new gender concept is a good opportunity to measure these impacts quantitatively and possibly improve the projects to enhance the positive impacts for men and women.

We were joined by the District Water Officer, the Chairman Water Board, Community Development officers, Women’s groups, local chiefs and village elders, water users from various boreholes and representatives from other Non-governmental Organizations.

A gender expert was invited to expound on the gender topic and explain its concept in detail, highlighting the need to first identify and understand gender gaps and why they exist in relation to the borehole projects.

The meeting was attended by over 70 participants from both genders who contributed greatly to the meeting by engaging with the moderators and presenters. The participants were divided into 3 groups namely youth below 35 years, women above 35 years and men above 35 years that held Focus Group Discussions (FDGs) about the various topics raised in the meeting. This was in a bid to enable all the groups discuss freely and express their views without prejudice.

The meeting took 3 hours with fair timing for all activities in the programme to be discussed satisfactorily. This also gave room for active participation from the audience that contributed greatly to the topic and had a question and answer session for further understanding. During the meeting, we were able to listen to different testimonies from the participants especially the women, giving their views on before and after the project implementation. A majority of the women who are primary collectors of water said that before the borehole was moved to the heart of the community, they faced lots of difficulty like traveling long unsafe distances to collect water, facing challenges like rape, assault and domestic violence because of the delay when collecting water.

Many of the women said they faced challenges of assault while collecting water from the open wells as there was no particular order of water collection at these sources. They explained that most times they and the children would be intimidated or even assaulted by the men who came to collect water at these sources and since they were not as strong as the men, they would be overpowered.

The women were happy about the sensitization at the meeting because even with the borehole close to them and some of them already being in the water resource committee, they were glad to know that it’s not just enough to be part of the committee but also to actively participate in borehole maintenance activities and decision making. They also believe that with the sensitization, they can have an equal footing with the men as far as order at the water source is concerned. They believe that there will be reduced cases of intimidation faced by the women, children and the youth.

The meeting was concluded with a round of collecting feedback from the participants about their view of the project and most of the participants loved the project and requested for more community engagement at borehole level and project expansion.

Pauline Vialatte’s visit to Uganda

Following the recent partnership between Co2balance and EcoAct Group, a company that provides unique expertise in planning for and implementing positive change in response to climate and carbon challenges, we had the privilege of hosting their Consultant – Pauline Vialatte.

Pauline who was visiting Uganda for the very first time had the chance to visit the projects under VPA 74 in Northern Uganda to learn more about the borehole projects. The purpose of her visit was to gain more experience and understanding of the projects and its impacts/benefits to the communities. Under VPA 74, she was able to visit 8 boreholes and have community engagement with the beneficiaries.

During the community engagements, the water users shared the changes they have experienced since clean safe water was brought to the heart of the community. They spelt out benefits including but not limited to improved health, sanitation and hygiene, enough spare time to engage in other income generating activities, increased school enrollment for the girl child since they no longer have to travel long distances in search of water and wood fuel. They also gave testimonies of the different activities they have been able to engage in as a result of the time saved from collecting water from distant water points.

Pauline visited some of the old unsafe water sources that were being used by the communities before the rehabilitation of the boreholes.

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Pauline looks at one of the old water sources previously used by Anyonomac community

She was also able to visit different households and learn more about their adaptation to  climate change and scarcity of wood fuel. This included how they are moving from cooking using open three-stone fires to more improved methods.

At the end of her trip, Pauline received several gifts on behalf of EcoAct Group from the borehole users as a sign of great appreciation for her visit.

 

Promoting Gender Equality in Uganda

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Members of a women’s business group collect water from a borehole in Lango sub-region

Projects under the Gold Standard, the principle body through which we verify carbon credits at CO2balance, are currently undergoing transition to a new methodology, Gold Standard for the Global Goals. Projects making this transition will be required to demonstrate the impacts they are having towards achieving some of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are delighted to announce that as this transition goes ahead, CO2balance has been approached by the Gold Standard to pilot the new guidelines for proving the gender-sensitivity and gender-responsiveness of projects.

Our projects to rehabilitate and maintain boreholes in Lango, Northern Uganda, are currently undergoing the transition to becoming fully gender-responsive projects. We have already gathered evidence of the positive impacts that the projects have for gender equality. It is well-documented that in Northern Uganda, as in rural areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of collecting water for household use falls disproportionately on women, who will often spend over 3 hours per day going back and forth to distant water sources. This prevents women from being able to engage in productive activities, such as learning and engaging in trades to generate income independently. Making long solo journeys to collect water also puts women at risk of danger, with widespread reports of assaults against women in rural areas.

Having collected findings on these trends before, we are well aware that our projects, in putting safe water sources in the very heart of the community, enable women to have time to engage in productive activities and allow them to avoid exposing themselves to danger. However, the challenge to date has been to quantify and verify the positive impacts of the projects in this area.

Being the first project to implement the new Gold Standard gender requirements, there will be a stakeholder meeting conducted in Lango to get community feedback on the status of gender relations in the area. This will be followed by a baseline survey which will give us a basis to monitor the impacts on gender relations of the projects in future. Although we are already aware of some of the indicators that are likely to arise through these studies, we are also very excited to potentially learn about new and wholly unexpected impacts of the projects. And of course, having quantitative data on the impacts of the projects will allow us to refine our activities and maximise positive impacts for both men and women.

This puts the projects at the cutting edge of the carbon projects field, as they will generate the first Gold Standard gender-certified credits. You can learn more about the guidelines and the pilot project in Uganda through article and the Gold Standard website. Watch this space to hear more about the progress of the projects over the next few weeks!

Growing Need for More Water

According to the Uganda Bureau of Standards, ‘Safe drinking water is water that is free from disease-causing organisms, toxic chemicals, color, smell, and unpleasant taste. In Uganda, safe drinking water is defined as water from a tap and piped water system, borehole, protected well or spring, rain water, or gravity flow schemes. Open water sources including ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, water holes, unprotected springs, shallow wells, and are considered unsafe water sources which if consumed without treating may cause various diseases’. UBOS

With all the above mentioned water sources, access to clean safe water continues to be a major challenge to the ever increasing population in Uganda. The rampant economic growth in Uganda has led to population increase which comes with high demands for provisions like water, health facilities, and infrastructure among others. Movements from rural areas to informal settlements around urban centers leaves the rural areas much neglected as all service provision is focused in the urban areas.

Otuke District in Northern Uganda is one of the areas that was severely affected by the civil war under the attack of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels which saw many people migrate to urban areas in search of safety and social amenities. After the war, the people started to slowly return to their homes but provision of social services still remained on a low.

As co2balance continuously expands its safe water projects in Northern Uganda, there continues to be a need a growing need for more water as many more people return to settle in their various villages.

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Joel Okello – District Water Officer, Otuke

According to the District Water Officer of Otuke, the area is still water stressed with so many villages having non-functional boreholes as a result of high costs of rehabilitating them. This leaves many people completely relying on unsafe water sources like open wells, swamps, water holes for their domestic water.

The District water coverage is 67.3%, with water source functionality increasing to 73% from 62% in 2014 before the intervention of co2balance. The number of villages without boreholes still stands at 141 though the total number of dysfunctional boreholes has reduced’, says Joel.

According to him, the partnership with co2balance has helped increase water source functionality to 73%. Co2balance partnered with Otuke District Local government in 2014 after a multi-stakeholders consultative meeting was held. Co2balance’s role was to provide clean safe water to the villages through rehabilitation of broken down boreholes. To date, a total of 45 boreholes have been successfully rehabilitated in the villages in Otuke.

Much as something has been done, access to clean safe water continues to be a growing challenge as many people still rely on unsafe sources like these below.

It was a great visit – Thank you Toshiba TEC, MediaCom, Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen.

The Uganda projects have continued to register success in providing safe clean water to the communities through the rehabilitation and maintenance of boreholes hence reduced dependency on firewood to boil their drinking water. This has been made possible by the partnership and continuous support from companies like MediaCom and Toshiba TEC through its Toshiba CarbonZero scheme.

At the close of October, MediaCom and Toshiba TEC accompanied by Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen traveled over 4000 miles to come and visit the Lango safe Water projects in Northern Uganda with the purpose of learning more about the projects and meeting the communities benefiting from the clean water from these boreholes.

They were able to visit a number of boreholes in the districts of Kole and Otuke – part of the Lango areas where the projects are. The community engagement was very positive as they were able to learn more on how these boreholes have impacted on the lives of the people. The beneficiaries/water users appreciated the companies for the continuous support through great entertainment and hospitality in form of singing, dancing and passing a direct vote of thanks.

In addition to visiting the boreholes, they were also able to visit Abari Primary school, one of the beneficiaries of the Lango Safe Water project and CSR projects that were enrolled last year to provide solar lighting and health sensitization to schools in some of the project areas.

The trip was concluded with a visit to the great Murchison Falls National park – pictures tell it all.

On behalf of co2balance, thank you MediaCom and Toshiba TEC for the continuous support.

Karibu tena!