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.
For the average child born in a developed country, Christmas, Easter and their birthday bring many opportunities to garner myriad of toys from friends, family and acquaintances alike. Most of these toys do not hold the child's attention for long, or maybe they are abandoned for another favorite" toy, or eventually they are passed on as donations to the thrift store or the less fortunate when a new "fancier" toy is acquired.
However, this little fact does not take away from the utter joy that a child feels when being showered with a gift, regardless of which corner of the world they grew up in. So, when little Fadhili, a young student at the Community Breakthrough Support Mission school in Kimilili, Kenya, received a football as a gift from Jennifer (in USA), the utter joy and excitement that he and his classmates felt at receiving such a gift rivals the excitement any child would feel if they were to stay a month in Santa Claus’s toy workshop or even at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!
Reverend Wasike purchased the deflated football in Nairobi and brought the gift up to Kimilili to deliver it to Fadhili. When the ball was handed over to him, he was in the school compound with his other schoolmates. In its current deflated state, the ball was not much fun to play with, so Fadhili and his friends rushed into town with much exuberance to inflate the ball. With the task completed, the boys headed back to the school compound and were ready to show off their skills on the playing field.
Having never seen an actual football until then, chaos fueled by overwhelming excitement ensued amongst the kids, as one could only expect. Their childlike squeaks and squeals of excitement drew the attention of the adults who were having a meeting nearby, out into the playing field to see what was happening. What greeted them was nothing short of a comical performance by several young boys staging a display of their football skills.
In their excitement and attempts at play, all rules known to the agile game of football were quickly abandoned. There was no order to the game; the boys were jumping for the ball, running up and down the field, left and right, with each player trying his best to kick the ball. They were all so overwhelmed by this new toy that the game they played had no rhyme or reason to it, but then nobody cared. Each boy was trying furiously to shoot at the ball with his little feet or head. Since there was only one ball for the whole lot of them, many spent the day kicking their feet, or shooting their heads into thin air rather than connecting with the ball. But again, this did not matter. Even the ones who never got the chance to hit the ball would have it no other way. This realization did not devalue the fun they had playing with the football.
The teachers were also drawn into the field, as the noise got louder. They tried their best to impose some order to the mayhem. First, they attempted to isolate Fadhili with the ball so he could play alone with it; after all it was his new toy. But, this was a completely unrealistic situation to enforce and everyone could see that it did not and would not work. The other kids were too curious to stay away from Fadhili. The teachers decided it wise to allow the kids to play freely. Fadhili did not mind in the least sharing his new toy either as long as he was elected team captain.
Even though some kind of decorum was established, the teachers had to still be on high alert. As the saying goes, “boys will be boys”, so it did not take long for complaints of injuries and the like to start flocking in. It seemed the neighborhood children were also being affected by the overwhelming joy coming from the school playing field. It wasn’t long before the boys from the neighborhood were also running for the ball along with kids from the school. Everyone wanted to get involved, everyone except the neighborhood girls who stood by watching in awe from a distance. Faster than you could say “hello”, the school playing field became too small for the game at play. The teachers and people watching believed that this was one of the reasons why there were so many injuries amongst the kids. But, other than a scratch here and there, no major injuries were reported. This was quite possibly the best day at school the children ever had! The boys will certainly attest to that.
As for little Fadhili, he proudly left the school compound that day with his new football and a guardian for security. In tow were his friends, some old and some new, but all tending to follow him around town with his new toy. Who knew that something as inconsequential as a football – one of the most undervalued toys of this modern day could bring such joy to a small community, and turn a little boy into a Star. Fadhili will remember this day for a very long time coming.
What a project can achieve if all parties work together, the representative and beneficiaries!
Nakyerongosa village is located in Nakyerongosa parish, Kakiri sub-county, Wakiso district in Uganda. It is found in the North western part of Wakiso district, and is 8 km from Wakiso headquarters. Like many other remote areas, Nakyelongosa lacks most of the basic services such as electricity, tele-communication and health. Nakyerongosa parish has only one main tarmac road that is Hoima road. It is not easily accessible especially during the rainy seasons, and the majority of the roads are seasonal. Due to unavailability of health care facilities, patients have to walk long distances of over 4 kilometres to seek medical care in Kakiri health centre.
Ms. Nakalema Janet, a resident of Busujja village in Nakyerongosa parish narrated her story, thus: “Before the integrated community managed water hygiene and sanitation improvement project started in our village, we tried our level best to keep our homes clean but for the children it was not easy. Young children do not think about washing their hands after going to the latrine. As adults, we also had little knowledge on hygiene and sanitation.” However, Nakalema has a reason to smile.
Nakyerongosa village went online on nabuur and since then many people of goodwill have given the village a lot of ideas through the local village representative. Through the support of COMASA field team, “many things have changed in my home. I can see a very big difference in my family. I have a dish rack for proper washing and storage of utensils, and no longer have to wash on the ground. The latrine has also improved, and is used and maintained properly. The tippy tap which is used for washing hands is always filled with water, and my family is no longer careless with washing their hands after using the latrine”.
“Through the project, I was able to get a rainwater jar, and this has reduced on the money I spend on buying water. In Nakyerongosa parish, we have only 14 wells that are functioning and there are 4,191 people. My children no longer have to walk very far to fetch water. I also spend more time with them unlike before. My husband could not bother to assist me with housework, but thanks to the project, things have changed nowadays and I am currently saved from too much load that I had before. I can find time to rest now.”
“I have noticed that through improving my household, I am no longer spending a lot of money and time caring for sick children. I used to spend almost money on “boda boda” (motorcycle taxi) almost every month to take children to Kakiri Health Centre. I am now sure that when I keep my house and surroundings clean then diseases do not affect my family. I am extremely pleased with the project and my family will continue participating in the project and also maintain what we have acquired. I do appeal to nabuur to continue working with our representative to assist many other households in our parish”.
Ms. Nakalema and some of the beneficiaries are involved in follow up visits to households in the community to assess the impact of the project and to also spread the gospel about hygiene and sanitation improvements.
This article was written by the Local Village Representative as told by Ms. Nakalema Janet.