A Cup of Water

September 05 2017 | by

“WATER is as precious as gold in Tanzania,” says Fr. Allan Bukenya, Assistant Priest of Siuya Parish in the diocese of Singida. “It is the most desired necessity and critical to the economic development of every local community.” Water, however, has been a problem for many years in Singida due to its semi-arid climate, so people have to purchase poor quality water, rusty in colour, which even when boiled and filtered still poses a health hazard to those with weak immunity levels. Hard rocks in Singida exacerbate the problem by making it difficult to drill in order to obtain fresh, drinkable water.


Two seasons


The Catholic Diocese of Singida was established in 1972. It covers a total area of 49,341 square kilometres with a population of around 1.4 million. Only 13 percent are Catholics. Singida is one of the poorest regions of the country. Siuya Parish has 50 small Christian communities with a total of nearly 7,000 Christians. “There are other denominations, including Lutherans and Anglicans,” explains Fr. Allan, “but there is a committed Catholic community which longs to receive the services of a priest.” Siuya experiences arid and semi-arid conditions; it has annual rainfall ranging from 500-800mm with high geographical, seasonal and annual variations. “There are two well defined seasons,” explains Fr. Allan. “There is the short rainy season during the months of December to March, which sometimes goes into April, and the long dry season from April to November. However, the rainfall does not meet the water needs of the people.” Most of the population practises subsistence farming, growing crops such as millet, cassava, sweet potatoes and sunflowers, and keeping livestock. There is little employment other than farming activities. “Generally, the economic state of the people here doesn’t favour huge development projects without external help,” continues Fr. Allan. “So, due to the fact that there is insufficient rainfall, the people always face a problem with water.”

With such scarcity of water, Fr. Allan says that there is a great danger of starvation due to famine; there is a lack of water for personal use for washing and cooking, and this has lead to lasting problems from waterborne diseases such as typhoid and dysentery. A failure to look after the environment is also a threat to the area. A project proposal to provide clean water was submitted to St. Anthony’s Charities: “By providing safe water we will reduce the risks due to contaminated water, and in turn improve their dignity,” Fr. Allan wrote. A grant of €8,000 was awarded and provided to the project in two instalments.


Life-giving well


The first instalment paid for work which included drilling a well, with water reached at a depth of 70 metres. This was not envisaged in the original project, but after negotiations with the company involved, the company agreed to this work instead of providing water from a more distant supply as had been originally planned. Materials were also purchased to fix the well and to lay the foundations for the water tower. “The drillers began to dig the well with hand tools,” says Fr. Allan. “It seemed like a dream, but soon it became a reality. They went deeper until they met hard rock. There was great joy when they reached water at 70 metres. The water they found was verified as sufficient to cater for the community needs.” After digging the well, heavy concrete rings were lowered to provide reinforcements for the walls. Although the ground surface seemed hard, the workmen had to dig deeper to provide a strong foundation for the water tanks so that they would withstand strong winds which blow at certain times of the year.     

The second instalment was used to complete the work, this included buying plumbing materials such as pipes and gutters, and also two 5,000 litre plastic water tanks, and raising the tanks to the height required. 


Good teamwork


“Women from the local community got their buckets and brought sand to the site with a lot of joy,” says Fr. Allan. “There are no words to describe the joy of the women in Siuyu at the beginning of the water installation process. The women are usually the ones who actually carry water from the water supply source back to their homes or to the church. The role of man and woman are more defined here than in Western countries when it comes to household chores. Central to these tasks is the constant carrying of water. It was no wonder that these women were happy as they dug trenches for the pipes.” The men also helped by digging out the sand for the construction and carrying it on donkeys to the site. The tower was then roofed to prevent damage from sunlight, and painted with a weather guard paint. “There was a very strong bond of collaboration,” continues Fr. Allan. “The project succeeded in bringing about good teamwork, and has contributed to providing a reliable source of water for the community. With a reliable source of water, sustainable agriculture is possible and vegetable gardens and orchards will be planted in the parish garden to ensure a constant supply of vegetables and fruits for nutritional benefits.”

Water-borne diseases have been drastically reduced as a result of having a clean water supply. Additionally, the community is taking more care of the environment by planting trees, which now have a plentiful supply of water. “Our people have learnt the very basic lesson of the importance of clean water,” continues Fr. Allan, “and community members no longer have to move across long distances to collect water. There is increased unity in the community. We have beautiful vegetable gardens from which the community feeds.”

The parish also has several future development plans as it works towards self-sustainability. These include: building a social hall which will also be used as an income generating project, creating programmes to empower women and the youth of the parish, the purchase of a car to help in the work of the parish and, of course, continuing to use the water they have both for domestic and agricultural purposes.


Sincere appreciation


“On behalf of our parish, I extend our sincere appreciations to you for financing our water project,” concludes Fr. Allan. “We have completed the project and our parish community now has safe and clean water. Thank you for putting into practice Jesus’ words which say ‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward’ (Matt. 10:42). We are now able to use the water in all our domestic and parish use. We have raised gardens and planted trees. Thank you for this generosity. In this process there has been a wonderful sense of collaboration, joy and dedication to work among the community members. Siuyu Parish and the diocese remain very grateful to St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony for having made it possible for us to get clean water. May God bless you and may St. Anthony of Padua intercede for us all.”

Updated on September 05 2017