Constructed in 2005 with twenty one (21) tap stands, Buhoma gravity water flow scheme has over the last twelve (12) years expanded to supply now seventy four (74) tap stands. With its source at the park edge in Nkwenda Village, the gravity water flow scheme supplies water to the three (3) villages of Nkwenda, Buhoma and Kanyashande. While this expansion of the gravity water flow scheme is consistent with population growth and the increased demand for water, it on the other hand highlights a big challenge that water supply to front-line communities to gorilla parks are facing.
Previously faced with lack of clean and safe water, the community in Buhoma trekked for at least 1.5 Kilometers or more every day to fetch water from the park boundary at Munyaga. Besides being far, the water from the stream at Munyaga is not considered safe. Talking about the situation then and now, 55 year old Jailes Kushemererwa says, “they saved us” referring to the development partners (UNDP and WWF Sweden, who sent funds through IGCP) and Kanungu Local government, that funded the construction of Buhoma gravity water flow scheme. Kushemererwa adds that, in the past one almost spent the entire day fetching water because of the distance and the number of jerry cans needed for a day. Kushemererwa notes that on average her household uses 60 – 100 litres of water.
The gravity water flow scheme has expanded to serve almost the whole of Buhoma town; water taps have been installed at households, in camps, and institutions in addition to the public tap stands. The water users at the tap stands pay a monthly fee of about 1,000 UGX ($.30) per household and 20,000 – 25,000 UGX ($6 – 8) per institution. According to the treasurer of the water user committee, Mr. Kapere Seth, the water user fees is used for repair and maintenance of the tap stands/scheme.
A water user committee is a group of five to seven appointed water users tasked with the management of a water facility. Kapere reveals that although the willingness to pay the water user fees is evident, only 50% of the users pay the water fees monthly, which he says is yet another challenge to the expanded scheme. Jailes Kushemererwa is among the said 50%; asked on what inspires her to promptly pay this fee, Kushemererwa says, “water is important and it has been brought nearer. So I have to ensure that I prioritize it among my monthly expenditures and pay for it. I can’t risk not to have it. I do not want to go through the past experience again”.
Commenting about the scheme’s operation and functionality, Mr. Byaruhanga Vallence the scheme plumber notes that, all the 74 taps stands are functional, and indeed this was confirmed at a couple of tap stands sampled during the field visit. All the tap stands visited were functional and the surrounding well cleaned and fenced. Vallence explains that the demand for water is overwhelming, time and again, they have a request from community Y or Z to extend water to them. Vallence attributes this increased demand to the increasing population in Buhoma. He adds that the system is already at or surpassed its capacity which has impacted on the pressure of the water; accordingly some tap stands have very little/slow water flowing while at some other tap stands the water dries up for a day or two. Buhoma gravity flow scheme is the only current source of safe and clean water in the area.
“The situation in Buhoma demonstrates the real challenges faced in ensuring those who live next to gorilla parks throughout the region have access to basic needs like water,” says Anna Behm Masozera, IGCP Director. Anna adds that “the parks and their continued protection can contribute to addressing this issue, both in protection of water catchment and water sources, as well as providing some funding for these projects from the income generated through mountain gorilla tourism.”