Community participation

No more cholera

In Tanzania’s Hai District, local utilities provide safe drinking water to 80 % of the people. Two more supply schemes are under construction. Local water trusts, which are owned by the village people, are in charge of operations. Hai District has thus become an example of good water governance.

By Immaculata Raphael

Hai is one of the six districts of Kilimanjaro, located on the western slopes of the mountain in northern Tanzania. It has a population of almost 200,000 people. The district is rural; the community practices mixed farming, growing mainly coffee and bananas, but also maize, beans, finger millet, peas, sweet potatoes and yams. In the lower plains, open grazing of cattle is common. Administratively, it is composed of three divisions, 14 wards and 55 villages. Bomang’ombe with some 30,000 people, is the district’s principle town.

The Hai District Water Supply Project is co-financed by the governments of Tanzania and Germany (through the development bank KfW) and, recently, the European Union’s Water Facility. The phase started in 1990. The objective was – and is – the provision of clean and safe drinking water to the people. It is being implemented in phases. The last and final phase was approved in 2006. Total funding, so far, has exceeded € 33 million, of which some 80 % was provided by Germany. Beneficiaries have contributed self-help work worth more than € 900,000.

There were earlier attempts to establish water utilities in Hai District. In the 1960s and 70s, fourteen water-supply schemes were built. The water was sourced from the rain forests on slopes of the Kilimanjaro above the villages. Thanks to gravity, they did not require pumps. Nonetheless, all of these schemes either never became fully operational or were discontinued. The reasons were incomplete construction, lack of proper maintenance and poor management. There hardly was any sense of ownership or accountability; the occurrence of water-borne diseases was high, and women and children had to walk far to fetch water.

Ownership and participation

In view of this experience, the Hai District Water Supply Project today emphasises local ownership, public accountability and community participation. After construction, the water-supply schemes are handed over to local water supply trusts, the leaders of which are chosen by the community. The trusts are autonomous bodies owned by the villagers. So far, five trusts have become operational. Two more will become so once the final schemes are completed.

Once again, the water is sourced from the rain forests in Kilimanjaro National Park, and do not require pumps.

The trusts are entitled to hire and fire staff. They supervise the technical personnel as well as the management of the schemes. The trusts, moreover, set tariffs, pass the annual budget and decide on salaries. To ensure fair customer relations as well as sustainability, all water consumption is metered. Bulk meters on branch lines and distribution lines have been installed to control water losses and wastage.

Trusts hire staff according to Tanzania’s employment laws. Higher posts must be advertised in order to recruit professionals in an open and competitive process. Low-cadre personnel like pipeline attendants are trained on the job and recruited locally. Competition for these jobs is important too, however, since it improves performance.

The organisational setup fits the National Water Policy of 2002, according to which all Tanzanian villages elect Water and Sanitation Committees. Women must make up 50 % of these committees. In the Hai District, some committee members are also on the boards of the water trusts. The institutional structure is thus democratic. It serves transparency, public participation and accountability.

All schemes are implemented bottom up. The first step is always to sensitise the local community. This includes informing the village government, religious leaders and other persons of authority. The strategy is working out well. The target population understands that it benefits from safe water supply and that it needs to play an active role in making it happen. Success has been convincing so far, but it depends on the villagers. People from areas beyond the project-approved boundaries have requested that similar schemes be started for their villages too.

On the slopes of the Kilimanjaro, there is a tradition of communal self-help activities. In living memory, villagers have always cooperated on cleaning irrigation furrows or repairing access roads, for instance. It is well understood that each family must participate in joint efforts. The traditional way to sanction non-cooperation is to impose a fine. Should the fine not be paid, property will be taken away and sold.

The water trusts build on this communal spirit. There are public taps in the villages where everyone can fetch water. Many private homes are connected to the pipes, but such connections are only installed after the local Water and Sanitation Council has approved of the application. Non-cooperative members of the community are unlikely to see their applications succeed.

The local people are keenly aware of just how much safe water provision improves their daily lives. They are willing to assume responsibility because they remember well that the earlier schemes, which were supposed to be guaranteed by the national government far away, failed.

Success is evident. The project’s first five schemes are providing water to the target population efficiently, equitably and sustainably. Around 80 % of the district is now covered by the operational schemes. The project has also
– created jobs for trust employees,
– established boards of trustees that are models for community ownership,
– prevented the outbreak of cholera, something that used to happen every year,
– reduced the work load of women and children, who used to spend a lot of time fetching water, and
– boosted economic growth and devel­opment in the district’s towns of Bomang’ombe or Sanyajuum.

Future challenges

Because of the reliable water provision, people have begun to move to the Hai District. The growing population and increased economic activity, in turn, are leading to more water demand. The water-supply schemes will have to be expanded and improved accordingly. Another major challenge is to establish a well-organised mechanism to manage wastewater and garbage, especially in Bommang’ombe.

Additionally environmental conservation is important in the catchments areas in Kilimanjaro National Park. There is a worrying trend of water resources being depleted and their quality diminishing. Climate change is considered one but not the only reason.

Water is life. Its availability is crucial for community development. The success of the water-supply schemes in the Hai District are based on the beneficiaries’ participation at all stages. It has been possible to build a sense of ownership and responsibility. This is not in the least evident in collection efficiency: more than 90 % of the water trust bills are paid. Acceptance is overwhelming. This experience shows that good water governance is critical for sustainable success.

Related Articles