The Wide-Ranging Impacts of Clean Water: The story of Gloria

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Gloria pumping clean water a borehole maintained by CO2balance

The CO2balance team in Uganda conduct monthly visits to the boreholes to visit the communities, listen to feedback and carry out repairs. In February they met Gloria, who is the caretaker of Aminalucu borehole in Dokolo District, Northern Uganda.

Gloria is 39 and married with 5 children. She lives in Dokolo District – Lango, Northern Uganda and is a water user of Aminalucu Borehole owned by the community and under the maintenance of the CO2balance Uganda Safe Water project. She serves the role of the borehole caretaker on the water user committee and is responsible for the hygiene and use of the borehole by other water users. She lives approximately 100 meters away from the borehole and takes about 30 minutes to collect water adequate to meet their daily domestic water demand. Due to the proximity of the borehole to her household, she collects water 2-3 times a day which serves her entire household for all their basic needs.

‘Before CO2balance rehabilitated Aminalucu borehole, my children and I used to travel over 4 kilometres to a seasonal open well and would spend a lot of time collecting water, leaving other home duties unattended to. Due to the distance to the only water source we had, we would only make one trip to collect water which was not enough for our family needs’ narrates Gloria.

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Gloria and two of her children at the unsafe water source they relied upon before the CO2balance project

‘I am using the time saved to offer my labour to farm owners who will pay me as I plan on starting a poultry business with the money saved so that I can generate more income for my family needs. I am also happy with my position as a caretaker of the borehole because it has earned me respect in society and among my friends. With the time saved I am also able to attend water user committee meetings and contribute ideas towards the maintenance of our borehole’ concludes Gloria. At the moment Gloria is a maize farmer and, with the time saved by the borehole project, she’s been able to build a granary for storing the harvested maize.

She continues to say:

On two separate occasions, I was beaten by my husband for delaying at the well and not making his dinner on time. He did not understand the distance that we had to travel to collect water and later boil this water so that it is safe to use. Also on several occasions, my two daughters had to miss school because they had to accompany me to collect water from the far off open well and since it was a very unsafe trip, we had to set off at around 8am which meant that they had to skip school’

Gloria is happy that now she has enough time to engage in other domestic and productive work like cooking, cleaning, collecting firewood, washing and there is no more domestic violence in their home. Her children are able to attend school and she’s hopeful that they will perform better at school.

The Uganda Safe Water Project offers so much more than clean water. The time saved offers women the opportunity to engage in income-generating, leisure and social activities, as well as serving the community as part of the borehole committee. As mentioned by Gloria, the burden of collecting water is eased for children, who are then able to spend more time in school.

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Climate change, water security, and development

Much of the discussion and headlines around climate change focuses on rising global temperature and, though this is the driving factor, it is a longer-term and more abstract trend. One of the more noticeable impacts that has been and will continue to be seen is rainfall; how much will fall, where, and when.

As temperatures rise, evaporation will increase, and the surface drying will increase the intensity and duration of droughts. The warmer air will be able to hold more water, and rainfall will increase by around 7% for every 1°C warming, leading to more intense rainfall events when they do occur. Speaking with staff and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, this is already being seen and the once predictable rainfall patterns can no longer be relied upon. Periods of prolonged drought can be followed by unprecedented rainfall causing landslides and structural damage as was seen in Uganda and Kenya in 2016.

According to a study in Nature, changing land use and controls over water sources, coupled with the impact from climate change, have already altered the water supply and availability over the past 15 years. Water as a resource is shared globally and the abstraction and damming of rivers before they cross geographic boundaries has been the cause of international tensions which may be a significant cause of conflict in the 21st Century.

Rainfall is vital for most of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority engage in subsistence agriculture for their livelihood and obtain freshwater for domestic purposes from surface water or groundwater aquifers, recharged by rainfall and naturally purified as the water percolates through the ground.

 

Eritrea Boreholes (10)

Children collecting water from a nearby handpump in Eritrea

 

Having a close, reliable, affordable, and safe water source is invaluable to the well-being of a family or a community and improving access to groundwater is thought to have positive impacts on some of the key pillars of human development including health, education, livelihoods, and food security. Borehole hand pumps are a critical part of the water infrastructure in rural communities and will be ever more so with uncertain rainfall patterns but they often suffer from a lack of financial and technical support. CO2balance will continue to work together with partners to maintain this infrastructure and unlock the potential that safe groundwater brings.