There is a significant gap in the developing world whereby many people still lack access to clean and safe drinking water, and approximately two billion lack adequate sanitation (Banker, 1999). The availability of an adequate clean drinking water supply is a fundamental need in daily life and in this day and age should be considered a human right. A member in the community, where this water project is being implemented, once said to me, "water is life." That statement could not be more agreeable. Access to a potable water supply also provides considerable health and economic benefits to households and individuals. Access to water also means that the considerable amount of time women and children spend retrieving fresh water could be spent more effectively on other tasks, improving their economic productivity, a key component in the alleviation of poverty (UNICEF, 2000).
This grant will serve the needs in the Quthing district, where a group has come together to execute a water project. The group was formed after my counterpart and I facilitated a mini Project Design Management workshop with the community members which has a need for potable water. The project idea began when we did a needs assessment of the area and found that potable and more accessible water was the most crucial need in the area. This is mainly because, in the last few years, the village has increased in residents which has caused more issues within in the community in relation to retrieving water. For example, some villagers have to walk distances that are unacceptable when compared to the recommendation that is stated by the World Health Water Standards. There are also some people that can only fetch water by walking through or across neighbor's yards which can sometimes lead to some social altercations.
With these constraints, there are negative health and developmental impacts experienced by the community members which force limitations on other activities and opportunities. Women, especially, may walk distances as far as one kilometers away from their respective homes. Women and children are the main beneficiaries of improvements in water supply and sanitation. Women benefit because they are responsible for the collection, transportation and storage of water in Lesotho (culturally speaking). In most cases, they get water from other areas or even other villages to support their entire families. The other vulnerable groups are people with with disabilities and elderly people who don't have easy accessibility.
For a rural water project to succeed, those involved must be fully committed to the project and prepared to take over operation and maintenance of the new and/or improved facilities. Time and effort must be spent supporting local groups until they can manage water systems on their own.
Attending meetings with these other groups was important to observe who the community leaders were, and who could also be apart of the development. However, it was not assumed that the leaders of the other organizations by default would become the leaders of the new water committee so my counterpart and I had the pitso and had people choose if they wanted to be in the group.
The Department of Rural Water Supply has also assisted with the expertise and a survey. They were able to help identify five spots to place the taps. They were able to compile project costs and a timeline. They have also been able to inform us about contractors who can work on the standpipe, globe valve, and pipe joining. The department has also said they can provide some trainings/talks on water management, sanitation, and overall maintenance for the sustainability of the project.
The community has been supportive, engaged and intentional about implementing a better water system in the Quthing district. After a "Pitso" which is a local community gathering, followed by a Project Design Management Workshop, they have taken ownership of their project and therefore have consistently attended meetings to discuss a water pipeline extension and plans for the area. When the Rural Water Supply came to do the assessment of the area, the community, which had formed a group for the water project, came along and participated in all the measurements, planning, and pointing out areas that needed the most support. By involving the community in the project design and planning, there has been a greater emphasis placed on the community members taking responsibility and pride in how the project will be conducted and implemented.
From meetings, it has been decided that the main components of the project will be working on the excavation trench, installation of taps and pipelines and backfilling trench. The main contribution from the community will be the provision of labor in the above activities.
The project will be sustainable since the group has formed and they have taken ownership of the water project. The taps will be protected because they were the ones who were empowered to implement the project, themselves.
The levy from the group that was formed will also serve as a source of sustainability, which can be used for any maintenance although, the RWS has informed the community that they can support in circumstances or issues of upkeep if any dysfunctions or problems arise.
The water project is also sustainable because, the water is coming from the mountains, it is gravity-fed, which means that adding taps to the area won't cause more problems of less water in the area because the water will continue to flow.
Finally, when the taps have been installed, the project won't need continuous funding. With a group formed, if there are any upkeep issues, they will know how to come together and have a system to handle problems that arise.