Water – the Stuff of Life

Reporting by Olga Turko

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Via our dedicated BT MyDonate page, you can support TDT’s work in drilling boreholes in Kigoma, and help bring significant changes to communities. It’s easy and MyDonate charges no commissions or fees.  Just click the button above!

Alternatively, if you’d like to discuss funding for another type of water project, perhaps inspired by the stories below, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Scale of Water and Sanitation Deprivation

Despite positive economic progress in Tanzania over the last decade, access to safe water and sanitation facilities remains sorely inadequate. Many applications to TDT involve water in some form, and a high proportion of grants awarded.

The United Nations Development Assistance Plan 2016-2021 (UNDAP II), published in 2016, reported:

“a high proportion of the Population of Tanzania face serious challenges as a result of poor access to a safe domestic water supply and adequate sanitation services. This leads to a high prevalence of preventable diseases which contribute to poor health, loss of productivity and intensification of poverty.”

It noted also significant differences in clean water coverage and improved sanitation across rural and urban areas and socio-economic status, with the following very stark figures:

  • On Mainland Tanzania, urban coverage of safe water is estimated at 88.6%, but just 46.8% in rural areas.
  • For sanitation, respective coverage was 26% urban and 7% rural. 87% of the population is without ‘improved sanitation facilities’.
  • Almost two-thirds of all heath facilities lack regular water supplies.
  • One-third of health centres and almost half of dispensaries have no safe on-site water supply.
  • Over one-third of health facilities and nearly 30% of hospitals have no latrine facilities for patients.
  • Nearly 38% of primary schools have no water supply on school premises – and of those that do, nearly half are not functional.
  • 96% of schools lack sanitary facilities suitable or accessible to children with disabilities, 84% have no functional hand washing facility.
  • Awareness of the importance of hygiene practices is low.
  • Government budgeting for sanitation is very low.

TDT works in the poorest regions of Tanzania, which are among the most disadvantaged regions for water and sanitation access. Government-provided water infrastructure often dates back to pre-Independence, and rural areas are littered with broken pumps and pipe work. Most villages have a water committee which is responsible for taking small payments to help with repairs, yet with very low incomes in rural villages, communities often do not have sufficient funds to pay them, and there is little funding available for district councils to make repairs.

Impacts on Health, Education, Prospects of Women and Girls

The impact is felt in numerous ways. Most obviously, in health. Many villages rely on water supplies that are contaminated by livestock, people washing themselves and their clothes. The consumption of such water inevitably results in water-borne diseases, such as the cholera outbreak during the period of August 2015 through January 2018 that resulted in 33 421 cases including 542 deaths. Children under five years old accounted for 11% of cases; overall, up to 1/3 of deaths in children under 5 in Tanzania are related to poor hygiene. The young and the elderly are the predominant victims of poor water access and quality.

The Tanzania HIV/AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey 2011-12 (THMIS) reported that 44% of households in the survey faced a round trip to collect water of more than 30 minutes. This reduces time available for education and work for those primarily responsible for fetching water, namely women and girls.

Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in Tanzania’s schools also affect school attendance, retention and educational performance. The rapid increase in primary school enrolment since the abolition of school fees for primary education in 2002 has put a heavy burden, and many new schools and classrooms are built with no consideration for WASH facilities. After reaching puberty, girls in particular are less likely to attend school if toilet and hygiene facilities are inadequate or non-existent. Children in such schools also face increased health risks including diarrhoea, worms and urinary infections – which can impact their ability to learn and could result in increased absenteeism. Poor attendance often translates into poor performance, and students who perform poorly are more likely to drop out early from school.

The Water and Sanitation Programme of The World Bank estimated the cost of poor sanitation to Tanzania at US$260 million in 2012 alone (0.7% of GDP).

Improving Water Supplies Community by Community

Good news!  Cost-effective and sustainable improvement in water supply IS possible for many communities. This can be delivered in a variety of ways, for example:

  • water harvest and storage;
  • wells;
  • drilling for water;
  • harnessing of existing supplies by creating or improving water points;
  • dam building or repairs;
  • pipelines;
  • pumps for irrigation.

In recent years, TDT has funded projects involving all of these. We have good experience of bringing together locally trained workers and community workforce, local government water engineers, and the management and practical skills of our local volunteer representatives. These bring reduced costs, construction benefits, and the benefit of shared knowledge.

Frequently, these projects have been funded by, or with significant participation by outside donors.

These donors are almost as varied as the projects themselves.  They include like-minded Trusts, charitable bodies, online giving groups, groups of friends, ‘in memoriam’  gifts and legacies, and individuals.  Often we can match the interests of the donor with a specific type of community of beneficiary group.

Read below to see the range of project types and beneficiaries.  With very varied costs, donations of different sizes can be put to good use, and make an immediate positive impact within a community.

TDT’s Community Water Projects

Below is a selection of TDT’s projects involving water, chosen to demonstrate the variety of project types.

Water Harvest and Storage – Schools

In 2017/18, TDT received generous support from the Hilden Charitable Fund, to provide water harvest and storage facilities in four secondary schools in Manyoni District, Singida Region.

These schools lacked clean water for drinking and any water for cleaning and hand washing.

TDT gave grants to the four schools – Isseke, Kinangali, Heka and Chikuyu – to build 40,000 litre concrete water storage tanks that would harvest water in the wet season from classroom roofs and store for future use.  The images below show water gathering at Kinangali, and then a completed tank at Isseke.

collecting water at Kilimantinde

underwater tank at Isseke Secondary School

Water Harvest and Storage – Health
TDT has assisted many health centres and dispensaries with water supplies. Here are just a couple of examples.

Mvumi School of Nursing is part of an Anglican Mission hospital that is not eligible for Government funding. A large new dormitory building was in progress, planned to double student nurse intake, but this included no water facilities. Mains water supply is cut off regularly during the dry season, and the student accommodation could not call on hospital supplies. TDT funded four 5,000-litre plastic SIM tanks, with cement bases and the necessary guttering and downpipes to enable water capture.

One of TDT’s longest-standing projects is the village of Kikukwe, where it funded the construction of a dispensary. For the original construction, Seaford Rotary paid for water harvesting and Britain-Tanzania Society members for electricity connection. In 2015, a borehole behind the dispensary was reactivated and a pump house built, sending water to a water tower for the dispensary to use. Unfortunately, the water tower was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2016. The generosity of donors to TDT’s earthquake appeal allowed TDT to provide funds for its repairs allowing the dispensary to continue provide life-saving help to the community.

The images below show the fourth tank being delivered to Mvumi, and the collapsed water tank at Kikukwe, before its repair and replacement.

water tanks at Mvumi school of nursing

collapsed water tank at Kikukwe Village

Water Tanks for the Elderly
TDT has not only supported the youngest in the society, but also the eldest. In 2018, a grant was awarded for the construction of 4 water storage tanks to be installed in 4 villages in Ihembe ward, 60km from Kayanga town. The water will only be available to elderly people who are less able to walk long distances to find water, and thus are highly exposed to the issue of seasonal water supplies.

Mrs Rehina Ihembe II village, beneficiary of TDT water tank projectBefore the construction of the water tank I could hardly afford to get enough water to drink, cook and clean my body. I took a bath only once a week. Now I can take a bath every after two days, and my granddaughter washes my clothes regularly. Please pass our thanks to that white man (Mr. Kelvin).”
Mrs Regina, Njojo Hamlet, Ihembe II village

The project cost of £4,000, was funded by three generous donations: two Trusts and a church.

Well Building

Below we show images of the construction of a shallow ring well at Basanza Dispensary, Uvinza District. This dispensary serves some 7,500 people. A previous water well was completely broken, and community members especially women used to walk long distances to collect water for the dispensary. At a cost of around £3,000 TDT was able to put that right. The community made a commitment to sustain the well through raising money for its maintenance.

Rajab Katole, District Medical Officer, commented:

“reliable water service to our health facilities is crucially needed to facilitate health services, especially helping mothers at labor, sterilization of medical equipments… washing purposes and helping the community to get clean and safe water… On behalf of the council, I do convey my genuine appreciation for your generous assistance which aims to improve the health status of our communities.”

Rope Pumps – low tech and effective!

it is estimated that up to 50% of water pumps in Tanzania are not functioning at any one time mainly due a lack of spares or local expertise. In Kigoma, our local representative, Benedicto Hosea, and his team have successfully hand drilled over 15 boreholes and constructed simple rope pumps that can easily be repaired by the villagers. Where geological conditions are suitable, approximately £1,500 is enough to fund a new borehole and make a radical difference to the lives within and around an entire village. Drilling equipment is purchased locally, and training is provided by our Local Representative’s NGO group.

The video at the top of this page shows a new rope pump being demonstrated.

One school to have benefitted from this approach is Kabagwe. Benedicto explained the challenge facing pupils and staff:

“The school has 456 students. They walk 3km one way every day to get water into their 5lts cans. The students are not settled for their classes because of water challenge. The 23 teachers and their families are not comfortable to stay at the school because of water problem.”

rope pump demonstrated at Kabagwe School

With generous funding from Allied Masonic Degrees West Midlands, the borehole was completed in April 2018 – see images above.

Dam Repairs

In 2017, damage to a small dam and its catchment pipework left nine rural villages in Kigoma and a local clinic with severe water shortages, or access only to contaminated river water with resultant increase in disease.

Generously funded by H&J Visram Trust, TDT gave a grant of £5,120 to the Bitale Village Executive Community leaders to implement a major rebuild to the dam and intake pipework.  The project enjoyed very positive local oversight and planning from the District water engineer department, the Development Officer and village community leaders. At a relatively modest cost, TDT was able to benefit the lives of approximately 51,000 people.

work on Bitale dam repairs

Irrigation for Agriculture
Agriculture is the backbone of less developed economies, especially in the mostly rural areas of Tanzania on which TDT focuses. Funding of water projects related to agriculture is therefore another means of addressing poverty and encouraging development.

In 2016, VSO volunteer Joseph Ochieng applied for a small grant to purchase 5 irrigation pumps that would enable Joseph to train the farmers in horticultural crop production. The pumps enable water to be pumped up to 400 metres from small ponds and streams and irrigate across small crop areas. As Joseph wrote:

“this donation will be of great benefit to women who are majority of the small holder farmers groups while their male counter parts are busy with coffee production”.

moneymaker pump used for crop irrigation in TanzaniaTDT’s VSO Small Grants Scheme has provided a very useful means for VSO volunteers to extend the success of their projects. In recent years, the VSO scheme has been significantly funded by an individual who was himself a VSO volunteer ‘back in the day’.

Water Points
Three villages in Kishanda Ward, Kagera Region, applied for a grant to improve their water supply. The villages had access to water through existing springs, but this was then contaminated by open access to animals, clothes and personal washing. By installing concrete supply points, with fencing, spring water could be protected from contamination. Other areas using similar structures in Muleba District report an immediate and dramatic drop in water-borne illnesses like dysentery and giardia. In Kishanda we expect this will improve the health of up to 18,000 people, as well as delivering a number of other knock-on benefits.

diagram of water connection and distribution chamber

Concrete water point at Kishanda, Tanzania

The cost of the project, over and above local contributions estimated at £1,650, was around £6,000. This was provided partly by a grant from H&J Visram Trust, and partly by a fund raiser held by our Treasurer with his friends.