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Mwitikira Water System

All that has to happen for us to realize how crucial a source of clean water is to our lives is for it to be cut off briefly.  Mwitikira is reminded of this year-round.  The Dodoma region, in which Mwitikira sits, is one of Tanzania’s driest.  The annual rainfall is half of ours, which is not too bad, except that it all comes in just 3-4 months of the year, leaving the other months latent with uncertainty.

Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, was keenly aware of this uncertainty and was elected, in part, because of his promise of free water for rural communities.  In 1968, Mwitikira was a recipient of this largesse and received a deep borehole and diesel driven pump, a large storage tank feeding a 6-point distribution system, a cattle watering point, a sheep and goat watering point and a cattle dipping station.  Boreholes are the most consistent source of reliable, clean water.

Over the next 20 years, because they couldn’t afford it, the government slowly retreated from this promise, reducing funding for maintenance and eliminating funding for operation.  Villages formed water committees and, to cover operating costs, began charging for water.  Because of the poverty in rural communities, many systems simply went out of operation once a significant component broke down.  In the mid-90’s, Mwitikira’s well collapsed and it was without clean water until a Belgian NGO drilled a new well in 2000 and installed a new pump and diesel engine. 

By the time St. Paul’s first visited Mwitikira in 2007, the shine had gone off the 2000 pump and engine and it was breaking down frequently; also, the village had expanded and the 1968 distribution system meant many of the newer villagers had to walk significant distances for water.  Furthermore, the village had turned over operation of the system to a contractor who was more interested in making money for himself than in serving the village’s needs.

Mwitikira asked St. Paul’s for help during the 2007 visit, but it was not until 2009, after some generous donations, that they were able to begin addressing the needs.  An engineer, Roger Whitfield, of the Global Missions Committee worked with Brian Polkinghorne of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika’s Development Services Corporation, Rev. Erasto Ndahani, the Mwitikira priest and Eng. Deus Mchele, the Bahi District Water Engineer, developing the following plan:

  • Cease using the contractor and establish a strong water committee with a mandate to run the system for the benefit of the village.  Rev. Ndahani agreed to become the first committee chairman
  • Replace the pump and diesel engine with new equipment
  • Extend the distribution system, adding 6 more points

 

This work was completed in September 2009 with villagers contributing significantly by digging 5 km. of trenches for the new piping.

As of 2017, the basic system is still in place and continues to be managed by the Village Water Committee.  It has not been trouble free, but St. Paul’s has remained committed, both financially and with technological assistance, to keeping the system operating.

The most significant challenge was in 2012 when the steel pipe, carrying water from the submerged pump up to ground level, broke, allowing the pump to drop to the bottom of the 270-foot deep borehole.  Attempts over a 4-month period to grab the pump/pipe and recover it were unsuccessful, rendering the borehole, and thus the water system, unusable. 

Restoring use of the system meant drilling a new borehole and purchasing a new pump, with a cost estimate of $45,000.  After much deliberation, St. Paul’s decided to support this restoration.  It was performed in steps over a 2-year period and completed in late 2014.

As of this writing, we believe we are entering a period of relative stability and that the village will be able to recover their confidence in the system.

We are trying to add to the stability by establishing a maintenance agreement with the vendor that provided the majority of the equipment.

We are also encouraging the Water Committee to become more reflective of the system’s operation with a view to make it more sustainable; for example, setting aside funds for future eventualities.

We have asked them to become self-sustaining by 2021 by becoming a Community Owned Water Supply Organization (COWSO).

Reports detailing the initial system restoration and subsequent repairs are available at the links listed below:

 

 

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