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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Kenya Boreholes Project: Local Stakeholder Consultation

At the end of October, I travelled to Kenya to host a local stakeholder meeting for new borehole projects located on the coast in Kilifi County.

The coastal county is largely rural and is frequented by tourists during the dry seasons for its white sandy beaches stretching 265km along the Kenyan coastline. Its main economic activities are tourism and fishing, however, I was there for a different reason which was to address the lack of safe water sources for the local residents.

I visited Kilifi County once before in April 2018 and found that nearly every community borehole had been chained up by the county government due to the borehole either being broken or producing unsafe water for consumption. The boreholes had remained locked up due to a lack of funds to fix them so the communities had to resort to unsafe water sources such as open wells to collect their water.

The months before my next visit in October were spent by local field staff identifying broken boreholes to be rehabilitated.

In late October we organised to hold a Gender Sensitive Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting which took place in a community hall in Kilifi South sub-county. Up to 50 people attended the meeting which welcomed county government officials, community members, local NGO representatives and borehole managers.

During this meeting, we collected everyone’s views and feedback on the borehole project to ensure the project is designed in a way that benefits the users of the boreholes. Overall the feedback from the meeting was very positive with stakeholders urging the start of the project.

The rehabilitation of the boreholes is to begin in December 2018 when they will start crediting. The people of Kilifi county will have a reliable safe water source close to their homesteads reducing their time collecting water and also firewood previously used to boil unsafe water. CO2balance will monitor the projects annually to measure the health benefits to the communities and gender impacts of the project. This project contributes positively to the following SDG’s:

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!

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.

Project Visit

Last month, I returned from a trip to Ethiopia and Kenya where I was able to see projects that are in their infancy but also some of our well-established projects. It was great to see people’s enthusiasm for the projects with the expectation that the projects would make a measurable difference in their lives but also be able to talk to people that have experienced a change and who express their appreciation.

In Ethiopia I attended stakeholder meetings for 5 new projects that are being established together with one of our project partners. It was fantastic to see how professional and thorough the team were in organising the meetings but also how engaged the local communities and also local government were in the work that is planned for the area.

In Kenya, I visited our projects in Meru and close to the coast around Shimba Hills. The contrast in the landscapes and experience from the two different parts of the country was striking, from the fertile soils around Mount Kenya to the vast plains around Kasigau, near Shimba Hills, both were incredible! As always I was impressed by the relationship that our field staff have built with the communities since the project was established and their knowledge of the local area.

I want to say a big thank you, ameseginalehu and asante to both teams for the trip; it is one I will remember!

6 New Borehole Projects Listed in Eritrea

In Eritrea Co2balance and Vita are expanding in developing borehole rehabilitation offset projects. Adding to existing activities in the Maekel and Anseba District, 6 projects in the Southern District of Debub have just been listed with the Gold Standard. The projects will deliver access to clean drinking water for several dozen villages over a minimum of 7 years.

The local stakeholder meeting was held in Mendefera in May, bringing together 70 representatives of local and regional administration, water departments, WASH Committees and community members.

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Responses to the project were overwhelmingly positive, exhibiting a strong desire to get started as soon as possible. The communities engaged in the consultation showed a strong desire for the rehabilitation of their boreholes and a real interest in contributing to ensure long-term maintenance.

“Water is Life”, is a common saying among the stakeholders. Currently, however, access to this valuable resource is limited by inadequate water quality, requiring people to live with the negative health consequences or to boil their water. Using wood fuel is common practice, but deforestation and soil erosion have become significant problems in many areas.

Vita and co2balance will be identifying and start repairing boreholes this month in order to ensure access to clean water as soon as possible and to reduce the need for wood fuel use within the largely rural district.

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May Field Visit……..

Last month Lucas and I had the chance to visit our project areas in the districts of Kole, Alebtong, Dokolo, Otuke and Kaliro. While there we carried out many activities that ranged from conducting a local stakeholder consultation meeting for a new borehole rehabilitation project, a visit to the Ministry of Water district office – Lira branch, the newly rehabilitated boreholes in Kaliro and also a variety of different water supply schemes in Kabarole district.

Our first event was holding the local stakeholder consultation meeting with local stakeholders in which we sought their opinion on the projects’ design and social and environmental impacts; this was an essential step in implementing the project in which the local community has ownership – thereby maximising the chances of successful adoption.

The meeting was very successful, with stakeholders actively engaging with the project and participating in discussions. The stakeholders said that they found the meeting useful and informative, and the majority of feedback concerning the project was very positive.

We later moved to the Eastern part of Uganda and visited Kaliro District where CO2balance recently rehabilitated 10 broken down boreholes. With the help of our partners WAACHA and local hand pump mechanics, the boreholes were all functioning very well and the communities had all been sensitized on WASH during our annual training programmes.

Another region visited was the Western part of Uganda and while there, we met with a local organisation (HEWASA) a branch of Caritas that specializes in Water, Sanitation and Health among other activities. They gave us a lot of insight on the different water technologies that are being installed in the Kabarole region such as rainwater harvesting systems and gravity flow schemes which are an ideal solution due to its mountainous nature.