Often considered a non-profit cause, the provision of water sources for communities is done with little and sometime no community engagement. It is a mistake we, at WARwanda, are guilty of for our first 3 water wells in Rwanda ( it is embarrassing to admit, but yes, we faced some 'failures' or hmmmmm learning experiences along the way). Those wells now are found in desolate conditions with the beneficiaries easily returning to fetching water form dirty surface sources rather than repair the wells.
However, we have quickly learnt that in Rwanda, working with the people ensures long-time sustainability of infrastructures. We have grown from donors, to partners and now to implementers of communities’ goals of water access. It is much better this way and we learn from the communities everyday.
We have had a big transition from drilling a borehole to only have the population name it after to this: having the community contribute money to their own water point and knowing the well is theirs.
Today, at my desk I took this picture.
It is a bunch of cards going out to the communities of Rwensheke in Gatunda Sector, North East Rwanda. They will be used to monitor who is a member of the village water fund, thus can get water through a monthly membership without paying at the tap.
They are so much more than cards, because the communities, being concerned that their water well was being overused by other villages, requested us to help them with a system to monitor who is fetching from the well. This will ensure longevity of the pump system and be a source of income for the community as they may charge other villages for access to the water they contributed for.
The approach of listening to communities and valuing their requests requires humbling down and realizing that the people we are serving, most of the times beneficiaries in rural areas with minimal education, are as smart and mature and much more aware of their situation than we are. All they are lacking is that small piece of information. Something like knowing about germs or how drinking bad water is related to illness. Our mWASH trainings are targeted at opening the conversation with the communities. And already we are seeing major results in cases like Rwensheke.