Water tanks, saving lives in Isingiro district

 Water tanks, saving lives in Isingiro
Jennifer Nyakato, above in a black t-shirt stands beside her new water tank while her grandchildren look on, her house below in the right hand corner has also been given a touch up to match the new tank. Below in the left and middle is Scovia Tumwebaze standing beside her new water tank as well. (Photo Credit: UNDP Uganda 2015)

As the early year heat sears everything in its way, 50 year old Jennifer Nyakato’s new water tank stands out in her small compound like an oasis in a hot desert.

The 7000 litre tank built for her in November has been providing her family with water for last four months.

Built with concrete, the tank is a rain harvesting contraption which enables families like Nyakato’s to make good use of the long rainy season to collect water that will carry them through the dry seasons without having to make long journey to the nearby water sources which are six to seven kilometers away in many cases.

“This tank has saved me and the children a lot of time which we were using to go to the well,” Nyakato, a widow with five children explains. She adds that now the children can go early to school, while she uses that time to till her garden.

Key Highlights

  • The MJK tree nursery group is a community based organisation which is made up of 250 members in Isingiro district, Western Uganda.
  • Using small grant funding from the SENRCAM project, the group has built seven rain harvesting water tanks for its most vulnerable members. Group members have also built another three from their own contributions bringing the total to ten.
  • Women are the main beneficiaries of these tanks because it is their cultural role to fetch water for their homes/families. This water is many times located up to 6 or 7kms away from their homes, hence taking a lot of time away from other productive activities.
  • The group is also planting trees and promoting sanitation and hygiene among group members.

Across the road and a few metres from Nyakato’s home is 33 year Scovia Tumwebaze who also had a tank built in her home.

For Tumwebaze, the tank is a life saver because she no longer has to make the 3am journey to the well to fetch water.

“Before I got this tank, I’d wake up at 3am in the night to fetch water because the well is usually crowded during the day and you’d spend a lot of time waiting in queues to get water,” she says.

Although she’s married, she says it’s her duty to ensure that there’s water in the home so she cannot dare to ask her husband to escort to the well in the night and her five children are too young to be sent to the well at that time too.

“With this tank, I feel safe,” she adds.

The water tanks were received as part of efforts supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to promote climate change adaptation in Isingiro district and various other parts of Uganda.

The MJK Tree nursery community demonstration project is leading these efforts in Isingiro district. The five year old community based organisations has 250 members in the district. 92 of these are in Katembe parish, Kabingo sub-county where both Nyakato and Tumwebaze reside.

The group received a small grant of 21.3million Uganda shillings through UNDP’s Strengthening Sustainable Environment and Natural Resource management, Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Uganda (SENRCAM) project.

These small grants are intended to help small groups such as these to reach the people who are most vulnerable to the consequences are of climate change.

The project also focuses on supporting the efforts and capacities of local governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and communities to sustainably manage and utilise natural resources, integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation in their activities so as to build climate change resilient societies. This is being done through developing, piloting and implementing initiatives in biodiversity and ecosystem management, sustainable land management, efficient energy technologies and reduction in Green House Gas emissions. The project is being implemented by World Wide Fund for Nature Uganda in collaboration various ministries, local governments and CSOs.

We built seven tanks in seven homes, for six of those homes, the group members are women while the seventh is a man,” Deuson Kajumbe, MJK’s project coordinator says.

He also says that the members who received the tanks were selected by the group members after receiving training and sensitisation on sanitation, the importance of rainwater harvesting and tree growing. Kajumbe adds that another three tanks have been built by the group for other members, these were built using the group’s own savings.  

Group members selected those among them who are vulnerable, marginalised and who would otherwise have to walk 6 to 7 kilometres daily to get water for their homes. The selected individuals would have to at least meet basic sanitation standards in their homes including having a latrine.

“ In fact, the group members rallied together and built Nyakato a latrine since she did not have one in her home so that she would be eligible to receive the water tank,” Kajumbe said.

Rose Karuhanga, the water and sanitation officer for MJK project adds that having water close to home is very important because many of them have been raped as they go to fetch water in the night.

“When we visited health centres they told us that 15 out of every 20 women and girls visiting them were being treated for sexually transmitted diseases which many revealed to have likely picked from men other than their husbands who way laid them on the way to the well,” Karuhanga says.

She adds that although women do not discuss these things even with their husbands, having water close to their homes has brought then peace because they do not have to worry for themselves or their daughters.

The group’s other activities include tree planting with members in Kahirimbi-Katwengye and other sub counties planting over 20,000 tree seedlings in their homes and also along a 2km stretch that acts as a buffer zone for the Nakivale River.

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