Women’s Groups, Water, and reducing death and hardship in rural Tanzania
Mission Morogoro (MM)
MM, a charity based in the Midlands, has been working in partnership with the people of Tunguli and Msamvu since 2012. These two villages encompass eleven remote hamlets, and a population of around 5,000 people in the upland region of Morogoro, Tanzania. Although this is a part of the world with no political unrest, where Christian and Muslim work side by side, there has always been immense poverty, and lack of access to those things that most parts of the world take for granted: health care, sanitation, water, and food. Maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world.
The mission of MM is to engage with communities and stimulate their self-development in health, education, agriculture and water/sanitation … and to provide at least some of those aspects of the development that would otherwise be unaffordable. Over the past 5 years this has included better and more reliable access to water and sanitation systems; a tractor and trailer; rainwater harvesting water tanks; various structural and equipment improvements for the Health Centre; a motorcycle ambulance; and start-up materials for micro-projects – eg training; sewing machines; livestock; bricks; etc etc.
However, to achieve the longer-term vision needs strong community buy-in, involvement and commitment to sustainability.
Tushikamane (‘We stick together’ – to be empowered)
Building this community buy-in needs more than simply meeting the traditional leaders and getting their assent. In particular, the evidence is now accumulating very powerfully that the young women of the hamlets need a voice. A key component of reducing tragic death of mothers and children is to engage with those same mothers, and help them become the stimulus, from deep within the community, for sustainable development to occur.
Beginning in 2014, and following the WHO recommended methodology, a programme began whereby a local team was trained to develop women’s groups, and to guide those groups to lead the communities out of under-development. The women of Tunguli and Msamvu readily responded, and quickly set up eleven groups, under the banner ‘Tushikamane’. Getting the support of the traditional leaders in the community was pushing on an open door.
Giving women a voice led to the distillation of a new set of priorities in each community – and at the top of the list in every case was water. Women and young girls still walk many kilometres, five times a day, to fetch typically 25 litres of dirty water, which they then carry on their head back home.
This means that many girls never get to go to school. Tragically, this dirty water is at the root of many fatal infections, such that 10% of children do not reach their fifth birthday.
Sanitation and Water Action (SAWA) is an indigenous NGO established in 2009. It supports communities to identify cost-effective, innovative solutions for sustainable Water, Sanitation & Hygeine (WASH) projects, in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Dodoma and Njombe regions. It is a lean, mobile, highly efficient organisation of motivated professionals, providing top quality work at low cost.
Since its inception in 2009, SAWA has facilitated many different programs in close collaboration with beneficiary communities, local authorities and different funding agencies including Mission Morogoro, Winrock International, UNICEF, Water For All, WaterAid, and AMREF.
SAWA has been providing WASH support to communities and schools to improve water supply services, school latrines rehabilitation and construction of new ones. Additionally SAWA provide training for teachers and school leaders on plans for sustainability, effective operation and maintenance. These have benefitted over 54,000 students and 260,000 community members.
SAWA, MM and Tushikamane came together for the first time in 2017. MM had already commissioned a water and sanitation report from SAWA, highlighting the dire need, and echoing the concern of the women’s groups:
Together, Tushikamane, MM, and SAWA decided to do something about it. The first site to be tackled would be Mjuwimi. The water hole beforehand was filthy, contaminated and partly blocked, and women spent many hours trying to get sufficient water.
The community was mobilised by the women’s group, who had highlighted the water problem as a top priority. The community provided the manpower and some of the materials, and SAWA provided the expertise. In a week of intensive work, the well was cleaned out, re-dug, and rebuilt using a new pump. By the end of the project, a new pump was delivering an extra-ordinary 12,000 litres per hour of clean, fresh water.
The whole story can be found here:
Because so much had been provided by the community, including manpower, the entire cost of the project to MM was less than £600.
The situation in Kwibomba was even worse – the water hole was many kilometres from many of those who used it, and the quality was dire:
Following a further collaboration between MM and SAWA, under the promptings and support of Tushikamane, another small miracle occurred:
Next steps for SAWA and MM
The plan is now to tackle all of the principal water and sanitation projects in the eleven hamlets, starting with the schools. For more than half of the population, defaecation is still done in the bush.
A full project plan and budget have been drawn up:
Vitally, the community buy-in and involvement will continue to be provided by Tushikmane.
Next steps for Tushikamane
With the women’s groups set up and the process taken to the point where the community have to be largely self-starting, it is a precarious time for Tushikamane. A recent month-long visit by Heidi Twilley, a Swahili-speaking nurse, provided inspiring stories about how the process was revitalising the impetus to take the communities into the twenty-first century.
However, some stimulation and guidance of the groups will still be needed, and for this we are in the process of a consultation, which might lead to the appointment of a local Facilitator. Representatives of MM will be travelling out both in March and August, to get a first-hand view. (They travel at their own expense. Every penny received by MM goes into its work, with zero admin costs.)
What we need
What is needed now is funding – not vast quantities, but enough to tackle each project, one by one. Because of the community involvement, and the expertise and inexpensiveness of SAWA, the entire water and sanitation programme will cost less than £10,000. Each component will cost £500 to £1000. A part-time Tushikamane Facilitator will cost less than £1k/year.
When we consider that £1000 will buy an entire school a toilet block with hand-washing, where currently many still poo in the bush and only ever have dirty water, money will never, ever be better spent.