Ensuring constant availability of safe water can be a real challenge in a long dry season. Many media reports including a recent story that ran in The New Times under the title, “Rwanda’s longest drought in six decades: The effects on food security and lessons learnt,” indeed highlighted the effects of lack of water in a tough season.
In situations like these however, some individuals have shown great initiatives in managing water in a bid to ensure availability even when scarcity is a big challenge.
The Team Leader of Water for Growth Rwanda, Ebel Smidt and the Head of the Integrated Water Resources Management Department at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, Vincent de Paul Kabalisa visited the Eastern Province to assess the situation, identify key practices that ensure constant availability of water with an aim of building on those practices to find solutions.
In Nyagatare district, Rwimiyaga sector, Gakagati 2 residents have put in place some innovative ways to manage water better and ensure constant access. A water source centre in Gakagati 2 village for example was an initiative of the residents in this area.
From a distance, one can see a water tank with solar energy installation right above. At the source, hundreds of residents are able to fetch safe water for domestic use even at a time of water scarcity.
Innocent Semanywa who manages the tank on behalf of the entire community explains that water supply is basically done using solar energy.
“As long as we have sunshine, we are sure of constant supply of safe water from this source. The water tank has a capacity of 5000 litres and over 600 homes from this area and far, depend on this water source for survival,” Semanywa explains.
Claude Ishimwe, another resident was carrying his 20 litre jerry can after fetching from this source. He said that before this breakthrough solar system, homes around used to fetch from a nearby small water body which is mainly characterized by water hyacinth and pollution since livestock drink from the same source.
“We pay Rwf500 monthly to be able to fetch from the solar system source. It is affordable for us because we can fetch safe water that is also suitable for drinking,” Ishimwe said, with a smile.
Officials also visited the home of Merab Muteteri who has innovatively created a low cost water harvesting system for her home.
“I thought it would be a good idea to save all the water that goes to waste during the rainy season. I used extra iron sheets and connected them to a smaller house that I built right next to our main house. Inside the house I put tarpaulin (a large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant or waterproof material) to store all the water we harvested during the rainy season,” she explained.
According to Muteteri, the water collected during the rainy season was very useful for domestic use and for her cows to drink. “When this water collection point is full to capacity, we take a long time without fetching water from elsewhere,” she narrates.
According to Kabalisa, low cost water harvesting systems are being promoted across the country.
“With people like Muteteri who can showcase the benefits of using this system, I am very certain that other Rwandans will be encouraged to install it as an effective way of water management,” Kabalisa explained.
Water for Growth’s Team Leader added that the programme will draw ways of uniting all these local champions of innovation citing that the use of solar energy to pump water from underground is indeed something to emulate.
“Muteteri has also shown us that one does not need a lot of resources to harvest water that otherwise would have gone to waste. We will do whatever it takes to promote these practices because once adopted, many other homes can manage the available water better,” Smidt remarked.
Rain water harvesting is one of the key practices being adopted to efficiently use available water. While the nation receives heavy rainfall, less than 2% of river flow is captured and used, with water availability per capita reported at just 670 m3 per annum.
To ensure Rwanda’s water future, the Government of Rwanda has adopted Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as its overall approach to water management. IWRM is an internationally recognised approach to land and water management that promotes the coordinated development and management of natural resources to maximise socio-economic gains equitably and without compromising environmental sustainability.
To support the Government of Rwanda to meet its development goals, the Water for Growth programme, a four-year joint Rwanda-Netherlands initiative was established to promote improved management of water resources in Rwanda to contribute to socio-economic development and equitably improved livelihoods.
The writer is the Communication Officer at Water for Growth Rwanda.