Blessed Water

November 08 2018 | by

GETTING up two hours before school would have been an impossible task for most of us as children. But in the town of Kinini, in Mbare, Rwanda, collecting water from the bottom of the valley to meet the daily needs of the family used to be an early morning fifty minute round trip for many children – prior to the construction of a new water system funded with the assistance of St Anthony’s Charities, that is.

The village of Kinini lies in a rural area where the population lives mainly from agriculture (potatoes, beans, bananas and rice as an income crop). Livestock is almost non-existent and mainly for private consumption. Basic facilities are present, such as unpaved dirt roads and schools, with a health centre located in the neighbouring municipality. Electricity is available in 60 percent of homes. “The population is mainly distributed on hilly areas and is practically absent from the bottom of the valley, which is mostly humid and swampy,” says Fiordalisio Omar, MLFM Rwanda Country Manager, “the incidence of malaria is much higher here than in other areas of the country.”

 

Over 10,000 beneficiaries

 

MLFM (Movomento Lotta Fame Mondo – The Movement against Hunger in the World), an NGO which has been engaged in projects in Rwanda since 1987, carried out an inspection of the area in 2015 at the request of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, who were concerned about the lack of drinkable water in the area. “The situation during our inspection was certainly among the worst we’ve identified,” says Fiordalisio. “People, women and especially children, collected water from a distance, which often required a fifty minute round trip, and in many cases the water was certainly not drinkable. Those who were unable to get their own water – the old and infirm – had to pay someone to collect water for them, often paying ten times as much as the water costs from the new installation.”

There was no water distribution system, but a group of eight springs, of which five were captured at the bottom of the valley, obliging the population, especially children and women, to refill and carry by hand 20-litre containers every day. “Drinking water supply was a priority in this rural community,” says Fiordalisio. “Our project involved the construction of an electric pumping system to distribute water in accordance with both requests from the community, and technical and sustainability issues.” According to the data collected, the number of beneficiaries of the project would be nearly 10,300 people.

 

Ambitious project

 

The project proposed several phases: re-linking old springs and capturing new ones; construction of a water treatment station with a quartz and travertine filter system; construction of a 40,000 litre reserve at the bottom of the valley; extension by 1,100 metres of a power line to the pumping station; laying the supply line from the valley floor to the main reserve; construction of a 60,000 litre main reserve at the top of the hill near the primary school of Mbare; laying of 12,000 metres of pipeline to public structures and the local population; construction of 20 fountains. Additionally, during the entire project period, technicians would be trained to perform maintenance and, with the help of the local authorities and the Sisters, awareness of hygiene issues would be raised. The project would last 12 months and cost €226,409. With contributions from MLFM, the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, the Japanese Embassy, and the Associazione Mondo Giusto, the amount requested from St Anthony’s Charities was €50,000.

The project started in March 2017. It had its fair share of problems: “At the beginning of the construction heavy rains slowed us a bit,” reports Fiordalisio. “We also had some problems in the valley floor with the dimensions of the springs and those of the buildings, but it was only a technical problem. Later, we had problems with digging trenches for the distribution pipes as the ground proved to be harder, almost like rock, so more unskilled workers were taken on. Unfortunately, the electricity company was also late in laying power lines to the pump.” In spite of these difficulties, the project was completed in February 2018. “After two months of co-managing the project with the national water company to train the operators, we had a celebration of the completion in the presence of the bishop and officials from the district authorities. It was a party for the whole village,” says Fiordalisio.

 

Positive impact

 

The project is having a very positive impact: children are now near the water, and this allows them to have more free time to devote to study and play; there will also be a decrease in diseases such as dysentery and other water-borne diseases. Some of the locals, who were able to work on the construction, now have a permanent job working on the pump or at the distribution fountains. “The area of intervention is in the marshy valley bottom where malaria has a very high impact,” adds Fiordalisio. “We expect a drastic decline in this disease in the period to come, especially in the women and children who had to collect water.”

 “Finally we have water outside the house,” says one mother. “I no longer have to worry about waking up the children in the morning two hours before school because they have to go to the bottom of the valley to get water to prepare tea and wash; they can sleep more and I no longer worry about malaria.” The children at the primary school are also very pleased: “This water is much better than what we found at the bottom of the valley. It is also colder!” says one. The headmaster of the Mbare Primary School had some initial doubts about the success of the project, but is pleased with the results: “We feared that this time, as we had been promised several times, the water would not arrive. We saw instead how the project, the laying of the pipes, the construction of infrastructures progressed step by step. Then we feared that due to the delay in the power line we would not have drinking water at school even this year. Instead, when they started work on the line, the project manager came to advise us that we would have water in a few days, and so it was! It is really a huge contribution: the hygiene of the bathrooms, the cleanliness of the classes, the cleanliness of the students. An immediate impact, evident even from the first day!”

 

Deep gratitude

 

Muhanga District and a management cooperative will be responsible for the economic and financial sustainability of the project. Public fountain users pay a fee of 20 FRW for each 20-litre tank, a condition absolutely sustainable by the families since it corresponds to approximately 3 percent of the minimum daily income of each worker. This economic participation will create a reserve that can be used for repair or renewal of the hydraulic works and, in the future, for possible new extensions to the system.

“The project is over, and water gushes from the fountains at the top of the hill,” concludes Fiordalisio. “All the structures and fountains are connected, and the people now have water. I am certain that this will bring joy to the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony, without whom we would not be able to carry out projects of this entity. And with so many beneficiaries! In my own behalf, but also on behalf of the entire MLFM Italia and Rwanda staff, we thank you very much. Hoping to find ourselves in other projects ‘in the country of a thousand hills.’”

Updated on November 09 2018