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!

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CSR Project in Rwanda – Update on Impacts

In 2017, CO2balance has been building on its successful carbon offset projects in Rwanda by conducting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project. Building on CO2balance’s work to provide communities with clean water in Gatsibo district, the CSR project has ensured that 4 primary schools have the facilities to make the best possible use of their water supply. This has involved the provision of handwashing facilities to schools where previously none existed, as well as rehabilitation of school toilet facilities to ensure that they are hygienic, lockable and private.

Handwashing point

A handwashing point in use at Kiramuruzi Primary School

This work has been complemented by building the capacity of schools to promote hygiene and sanitation. This began in early 2017, with the training by Rwandans 4 Water of teachers and groups of pupils on approaches to hygiene and sanitation. This led to the creation of WASH clubs in all 4 schools, which now meet on a weekly basis during term time and give presentations in school assemblies on the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene.

Ruth Muhorakeye, who is Deputy Head Teacher at Gorora Primary School which has been participating in the project, has given very positive feedback on the impact of these WASH activities. She notes that prior to the project, the remoteness of the school meant that having access to WASH information and facilities was a major challenge, but that she has seen major changes in recent months: “Making the toilet facilities private and enclosed was very important for the dignity of the pupils here, especially for the girls who suffered great shame at having nowhere to privately relieve themselves. We are very happy that pupils don’t have to worry about this anymore. We now see pupils washing their hands every time they use the latrine, and following the WASH training, teachers report that children are now engaging much more enthusiastically in keeping the classrooms and school clean.”

The CSR project’s other main activity has been the installation at each school of solar panels for lighting and charging points. This has been a major development, bringing electricity and light to the schools for the first time, as they are all located in areas which are not year linked to the national grid. This has been a tipping point, opening up major new opportunities for the schools. For example, Ntete Primary School had previously been provided with a laptop but had no way in which to charge it. However, the installation of a solar charging point has allowed this to be kept charged up, enabling teachers to download recent curriculum materials via mobile internet and present to pupils on subject matter to which they had previously had no access.

Light in classroom

A classroom lit up by a solar-powered light

Another impact reported by all primary schools has been that having light in classrooms for the first time has enabled them to keep the doors open in the evening, allowing pupils to study after hours. This is a major development, as the majority of pupils did not previously have lights in their homes, making it very difficult to complete homework. The benefits of this have been most keenly felt by pupils in class P6, the top year of primary school, who have been able to study in the evenings in preparation for their final exams, which are essential for gaining entry to secondary school.

The project has now passed its mid-point and will run until April 2018, when Rwandans 4 Water will hand over the continuation of the activities to the headteachers of the schools involved. Watch this space for more updates in the coming months!

WASH programme in Uganda

Any development practitioner would confirm the fact that without effective community engagement no clean water project can be successful, no matter how much energy, time and money spent on the project by other stakeholders. That is why CO2balance has launched a more participative WASH sensitization and community engagement programme in Kole, Otuke, Alebtong and Dokolo districts, where our borehole projects are implemented. The aim of the programme is to educate, train and engage communities on basic water, sanitation and hygiene issues in order to keep the water at both the borehole and the households level clean and fit for human consumption. Even when the water source itself is safe, water used for drinking may get contaminated because of poor water-handling practices or unsafe storage. That is why effective and continuous WASH sensitization in the communities is a very important part of our four Ugandan borehole projects. Andrew, our in-country-coordinator will soon report from the field with more updates on the programme.

Borehole user fetching water in Dokolo

Borehole user fetching water in Dokolo

Uganda trip

As Ellie already pointed out in one of the previous blog posts, travelling to the project sites and seeing our projects in action is definitely the most exciting part of our jobs. At the moment I am preparing for my trip to Uganda, where I will have the chance to meet with the communities in Alebtong and Dokolo where two of the CO2balance borehole projects are implemented. In the first half of the week we will go up-country and visit each borehole one by one while in the second half of the week we are heading to Kaliro to meet with our new project partner and to finalise the details of the upcoming stakeholder meeting. It will also give me and Andrew, our in-country coordinator the opportunity to discuss the ways we can improve the sanitation and hygiene component of the projects. As we received plenty of  feedbacks from both local and international stakeholders on our boreholes in the past months, we are looking for the ways to incorporate their suggestions, best practices into our on-going projects, hoping to make the boreholes even more useful for the local communities. Busy and very exciting days to come; stay tuned for the next updates from Uganda!