Water - The Key to Survival

Most people never stop to think about the importance of clean water, because for those who have it in abundance it is just another plentiful natural resource. Water is necessary for the survival of most living things. In fact, dehydration--the lack of water--will kill an organism faster than starvation--the lack of food.

In addition to sustaining life, clean freshwater is needed by humans for personal hygiene, irrigation, industry, and recreation. Humans bathe in it, brush their teeth with it, use it to make crops grow and to cool industrial reactors, and swim, boat, and fish in it. But most importantly, clean fresh water and sanitation is crucial to maintaining and improving ones health. So for those who live without clean water, their livelihoods can be greatly affected by this.

For the village of Nakyerongosa in Uganda, when the integrated community managed water, hygiene and sanitation improvement project (COMASA) was launched, many of the villagers doubted how much of a change this project would have on their daily lives. But today, if you ask the villagers and project workers alike what their thoughts are on the water and sanitation program, they will say that it is one of the great examples of a successful project based on what has been carried out and achieved so far.

The community in Nakyerongosa like many others in Uganda work hard to improve their lives in different ways. Most of the villagers are peasant farmers and make a living off farming. As most rural villages in Uganda, Nakyerongosa has been blessed with rich red clay on lush hillsides, a moderate temperature, and plentiful rainfall. This combination makes it a more than perfect environment for the year-round farming and availability of “matooke”, the staple crop of the Baganda, as well as the seasonal production of coffee. Some of the villagers work in the neighboring Kakiri town and engage in a variety of professional and non-professional occupations while others rear goats, chickens, and, occasionally, cattle. A select few fish in Lake Wamala, or work as carpenters, mechanics, or sell produce in the market and ferry it on bicycles or motorcycles.

Most will agree that the community in Nakyerongosa has a lot going for it. The village has been endowed with most of the necessary resources that allows its people to engage in their different ways of living. However, the community is marred by ill health due lack of clean water and sanitary issues. This is a major barrier to the improvement of the community, its people and their livelihoods. The illness of one family member carries with it enormous financial consequences. Easily preventable and curable diseases like malaria and diarrhea become huge burdens on the community. When a breadwinner falls ill, an entire family can very likely be thrown into instant poverty. When a child falls ill, it forces a family to spend their little savings on caring for the child and paying for medication and hospital visits. Some have to even resort to the sale of livestock which could lead to the closure of businesses.

With the launch of integrated community managed water, hygiene and sanitation improvement project, all involved have seen great improvements to people’s lives and the community as a whole. The project has done a tremendous job in the sense that you can now see a noticeable reduction in water, hygiene and sanitation related diseases. This result was achieved by the unbiased attention that the project workers paid to this project, as well through a huge investment by the community in a number of facilities. To name a few, the community helped built a bath shelter, a dish rack, a hand washing facility, improved pit latrines and a water jar, all within a short time period. Everyone involved in the project has made outstanding contributions, but none are happier to reap the benefits than the community members themselves. Many benefits have been acquired by the community since the projects launch. Longer walking distances have been reduced due to the recent availability of potable water supplies. The villagers have reduced their use of “flying toilets”; and there is now improved access to facilities for the vulnerable community groups especially the elderly, children, women, HIV/AIDS headed households and the disabled. The task to reduce water contamination and instill better hygiene practices leading to a reduction in water borne diseases has been very successful as well.

While it is easy to boast about the successes and positive impacts that this project has had on Nakyerongosa, one can never find a better way to justify success than to hear an attestation from an individual who is reaping the benefits. In an interview with 70 year old Mr. Tom Musoke; a community member who knows Nakyerongosa more than most who live in the community today, we can feel the positive benefits of the water and sanitation project.

When the project staff arrived in his beloved village, he could not imagine what on earth they wanted to show them…..he was pretty certain he had seen all there is to see in his 70 years of age. He said that before the project came to his community he used to have two 20Litres of jerry can which he would use to collect water from a far away water point. In his old age, he had trouble walking the long distance to collect water for consumption at home. As a result, he had to go some days without and would have no water for drinking, cooking food, washing utensils, bathing and washing his family’s simple clothing. Due to the lack of enough water, his fellow community members viewed him as a crazy and shabby old man since he only washed his clothes once in two weeks. But after the intervention of COMASA in his community, he was one of the lucky elderly people blessed with a rain water harvesting jar with a 2000Litre capacity from the project. No more walking long distances, which makes him feel very proud and content with himself. Life is much easier now for him and his grand children. He can easily cook clean and sanitary food for them in a short time period and still have time to work on his small garden. He and his family no longer suffer from water related diseases like skin rashes and worms. He is so very grateful to the project and the work they have done in his community. The dream of washing his clothes more often has become a reality, and his life and that of his grandchildren has definitely changed for the better. His grandchildren are now healthier than before.

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