Water to Bring Parks and People Together

They gathered in large numbers; men, women, youths, children, old and young and sat anxiously under the big erected tent and on the verandahs of neighboring houses, while, some stood along the road just to witness what was about to take place. They patiently waited with their eyes beaming with hope, hope for a lasting solution to their all-time challenge. Babies cried and their mothers tenderly breastfed them to sooth and keep them calm until then.

The peaceful gathering appeared even more graceful with the green forest cover and mist covered mountains of Sabyinyo, Muhavura and Mgahinga that seemed to look down on them with smiles – saying “we are happy for you”.

 A calm community they seemed to be and the weather agreed with the day.

5th October 2017 a new water project “Water for Virungas” was launched in Kanyakwezi parish, Nyarusiza subcounty, Kisoro district Uganda. Nyarusiza subcounty is one of the water stressed areas in Kisoro district and borders with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The project that is funded by the Kingdom of Netherlands through the Dutch Embassy in Rwanda will ensure provision of safe and clean water to the communities around the Virungas, or volcanoes, as a way of reducing human presence in the park and managing conflict between the park and the community and sometimes amongst the community itself. In Uganda the project will be implemented in the sub counties of Nyarusiza and Muramba, Kisoro district.

And on this day a cross section of dignitaries including the implementing consortium members (MDF Global, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Witteveen+Bos, and Wageningen University), the First Secretary from the Dutch Embassy in Rwanda – Jan Vlaar, the area Member of Parliament Hon. Sam Bitangaro, the district leadership and the community in Nyaarusiza and Muramba sub counties had gathered to launch the new water project. The Launch ceremony was officiated over by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Kisoro district as chief guest. According to the RDC Hajji Shafiq Ssekandi, the sub counties of Nyarusiza and Muramba are the most densely populated sub counties in the district yet they have just 18 % and 16% of water coverage respectively compared to the town centre with 98% water coverage. They say that water is life but the communities in these areas are not living this life to the fullest, because of lack of access to safe and clean water in their communities.

The RDC thanked the Kingdom of Netherlands for their generosity and the implementing partners for working with Kisoro district on this project. He pledged total support within his means towards the project and assured the funders and implementers that the community is more than ready to cooperate for the success of the project, asserting that “The community’s turn up in big numbers is an indication that the people are thirsty for water and have come to receive the project whole heartedly with two hands”. Also speaking at the function Hon. Bitangaro expressed gratitude to the Kingdom of Netherlands for the kind gesture and appealed to the communities to protect, own and take care of the project like their very own. He cautioned them against stealing of pipes and other materials saying the community should be vigilant in reporting such bad practices to the leaders and action will be taken against the culprits.

Adding to the above, the deputy LCV Chairperson Mrs. Rose Manirakiza noted that “With the extension of safe and clean water to the community the rate of school drop outs and absenteeism will reduce because then children will not have to roam the area or trek to the park to fetch water and this in one way or another will guarantee the safety of wildlife and the park given the reduced influx”. She challenged the community to manage the project well to allow for continued benefits.

Sharing about the project the W4V project coordinator Mr. Gertjan Leereveld revealed that the project would invest between 4 – 9 billion UGX and is exploring opportunities to renovate the Kabiranyuma scheme, construct rain water harvesting tanks and a gravity flow scheme.

The RDC officially introduced/launched the project to the community and wished them well “It is my prayer that this water project will change the quality of life of the people of Muramba and Nyarusiza sub counties” he summed up.

Some members of the community at the function.

Some members of the community at the function in Kanyakwezi Parish.

Commenting on the new project, Roselyn and Judith, middle aged women from Kanyakwezi parish said the project is a “life saver”. “We can’t thank the W4V team enough for thinking about us, we suffer so much looking for water and balancing other household chores. Our children are always falling sick because of consuming unsafe water. This project is a ray of hope and we look forward to it with excitement” they remarked.

In a related development the project in DRC was also successfully launched on 7th October at a colorful ceremony held at Ihusi hotel in Goma (North Kivu province). The launch ceremony was presided over by the governor of North Kivu Province Hon. Julien Paluku Kahongya. On 6th October the team conducted a site visit to the target project area, Rutshuru territory adjacent to Virunga National Park and met with the Administrative Secretary of the Bwisha Chieftain with whom they shared the details of the project with.

Speaking at the launch in DRC, the Executive Secretary for the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) Dr. Georges Muamba re-echoed the purpose of the project saying, W4Vs is a transboundary project designed as a golden solution to real needs in terms of natural resources conservation and water access for the benefit of communities living around the protected areas – Virunga National park in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.  Water for Virungas project is implemented under the framework of the GVTC.

 The delegation in DRC after the field visit to Rutshuru territory.

The delegation in DRC after the field visit to Rutshuru territory.

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