The water tank is only part of what is needed

Last week, IGCP Director Eugène Rutagarama wrote about visiting the water tanks constructed around Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This week we continue the exploration of the role of water in the conservation of gorillas and their habitat, this time across the border in Uganda.

Three newly constructed communal rainwater harvesting tanks were officially commissioned on December 18, 2010 by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, IGCP, and local governments around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) in Uganda. The funding for these tanks came from the Enterprise, Environment, and Equity in the Virunga Landscape of the Great Lakes Region Project.

When asking the mixed crowd gathered in Nsogera who among them was responsible for collecting water in their homes before they had access to communal water tanks, everyone – young, old, male, female- raised their hands. They all would trek several hours to access a tank at the boundary of MGNP.

However, now that a communal tank has been placed within their village, gathering water is a duty left mainly to women and occasionally children. Just one communal tank provides water to 216 families throughout most of the year.

Community members state that having the tank has provided them with many benefits including better hygiene and health, and even marital disputes are down as women can now both cook food and have water left over to wash their husband’s clothes.

"Before the tank, I couldn't walk the distance or pay someone to go for me. Now I can fetch it myself and can wear clean clothes," stated Gladys Nyambanabuza.

"Before the tank, I couldn't walk the distance or pay someone to go for me. Now I can fetch it myself and can wear clean clothes," stated Gladys Nyambanabuza.

The biggest benefits may come with less time needed to spend on the domestic chore of gathering water. Men spend more time in the fields or conducting business and estimate that they have doubled their earning potential. Children (and their teachers) attend school on time.

"My performance in school is improved because I now arrive on time and so do my teachers," stated James Manakiza, 4th year secondary school student.

"My performance in school is improved because I now arrive on time and so do my teachers," stated James Manakiza, 4th year secondary school student.

But having a successful communal tank is less about the tank and more about the community.

Nsogera has all the elements to make this conservation intervention work. Before the first brick was even placed, a water committee was formed. This committee of eight people is responsible for the maintenance and governance of the communal tank. This group take their responsibility seriously and get the maximum out of the tank and what it can offer their community.

Nsogera has been so entrepreneurial that on December 18, two more communal water tanks were officially commissioned, meaning that this one community has three communal water tanks. They now feel that all the families in their village can make it through the next dry season without having to search for water from other places.

“In other locations, communities have used communal or government land to place the collection tanks, even if that land was far from the village,” explained Christopher Masaba, Warden in Charge of Community Conservation at MGNP. “This community, however, pooled their money together and bought land so that additional tanks could be placed close to the village.”

This willingness-to-pay by the community is not all that common, even though the need for water is consistently great throughout the region.  By investing in these water tanks, the Nsogera community has demonstrated their ownership of them.

By making sure that resources like water are readily available to people near where they live, IGCP reduces the impact on resources available within and near the park. When people approach or enter the park to collect water, they can opportunistically take advantage and collect other resources as well, like bamboo or firewood. Reducing the opportunity for casual resource extraction improves the integrity of the park as well as park-community relations.

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