How do your provide clean accessible water for a lifetime? This has been one of the biggest obstacles of international water resource development and something MissionCleanWater strides to answer. It is a challenge to always have someone on the ground. And if you do, sometimes issues with the water resource projects can go undetected or not reported. Working closely with each community, being completely welcomed by everyone, and ensuring their willingness to have ownership over the project is key in sustainable projects.
International charity work has been going on for decades now but really took a huge increase in 1961 once the Peace Corps were founded and when many celebrities banded together to stop world hunger in the 1970s. At this time, the organizational work was a little disorganized but the intentions of helping were there. Water projects began to increase and their remnants can be seen all over Tanzania. Nongovernmental and governmental organizations came to help but that was all they did. They found a community who might not of had water, created the project for them, and then left. If someone is offering you clean drinking water, or a bathroom, or farming assistance, you are not going to say no even though it is not what the community needs. Once these projects were completed, they broke down within a few years because the community was never taught how to maintain the project. Small mechanical issues can cause the whole project to fail when the issue could be a quick fix.
Many organizations are now realizing and seeing this issue and are beginning to spend a good portion of their donations on monitoring, rather than new water resource projects. A few things can be completed to guarantee sustainable projects.
Working with the community
One of the most important aspects of these types of projects is being welcomed by the community. If water is not what they want now, and they would rather work towards something else, then they might not be willing to take care of the project. During the development phases of the work, the community needs to offer something to assist with the process. This can vary from offering some construction equipment to help with the project, donating their time to help in any way, or even a monetary donation if the community feels that is the best option. Once this is done, they will have a better sense of ownership over the project. Their willingness to take care of it will be better since they used their resources to help.
Water User Committee
In some remote areas, even with simple project solutions, something can easily break. Community members have to be willing to form some sort of committee that will train, educate, and inform the community on their water. This is an important resource and needs to be properly managed. A Water User Committee is a group of individuals who are willing to keep the community informed of their project, help train people in water resources, and provide education on water or sanitation. If anything does go wrong and they can not fix it, they can contact the affiliated organization or the local contractor that completed the original project.
There are issues that can happen with the project that during development were unknown of. These issues tend to be social related and might have more challenging solutions. Even with community engagement and well planned engineering, these issues can happen. For example, the founder of MissionCleanWater, James Leitner, had the chance to travel to Tanzania and see a few clean water projects completed by different organizations. One project in particular was having issues with people using their project. They found that this was one of the few times that women had the chance to talk was when they were walking for water. Now that a completed project has been provided eliminating that walk, they do not want to use it because they can not see their friends. This was a special issue that simply was not calculated for but a good solution came that worked. Those ladies decided to take a role in the Water Users Committee. Every few weeks they hold a meeting to inform people about how the clean water is doing and spend time together afterwards to relax and chat.
It is imperative that the community is well informed on the projects being provided and are willing to offer a helping hand to make sure they get completed.