Musangaro Community is a predominantly agrarian village. As far as the eye can see, the landscape is filled with farmland. As it was the planting season during our last visit, we saw the majority of people out cultivating their fields. The community is far from any nearby town or even shops, and is most easily accessed on foot, bicycle, or motorbike as the roads are tiny and muddy.
140 people here depend on Omumasaba Spring for all of their daily water needs, but the spring cannot give them clean water. Omumasaba Spring is an artesian spring, so its water bubbles up from the ground and forms a pool, rather than flowing down an incline from its source. As such, it looks like a milky brown puddle carved out into the earth. Around the spring it is quite muddy and slippery, made worse with the frequent rains.
To fetch water, community members must bring a small jug or bowl to scoop water from the spring and pour it into their larger containers. In its current state, there is no place for a makeshift discharge pipe. The process is time-consuming and frustrating, causing crowds throughout the day as people wait their turn to fetch water. The lines are especially concerning during the pandemic, when community members are trying to avoid groups and limit their time spent in public.
"It takes a long time to fetch water since you have to fetch, then wait for it to settle, then fetch again. And, some flukes (harmful flatworms) are present since it is open all year long," reported young adult Simon.
At the time of our last visit, the water was light brown in color because the previous evening it had rained heavily - even though it was already 10:00 am the following day. We could also see small channels of dirty runoff still running into the spring. With each person fetching water and with every rain, more dirty surface runoff pours into the spring and contaminates the water, carrying with it soil, farm chemicals, and animal waste.
Due to the spring's contaminated water, water-related illnesses in the community are widespread and most frequent during the rainy season.
"During rainy season we tend to get sick around here. It's not safe since the drawing point is slippery and if not careful, one can slide down and end up getting hurt badly," said 25-year-old farmer Beldine Omumasaba, who is also part of the spring's landowning family.
What We Can Do:
Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.
Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.
The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.
With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
One of the most important issues we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We and the community strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.
We will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.
Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.