Rehabilitation of rural water points and participatory health and hygiene education

More than 75% of Zimbabwe's population of  12.5 million people, lives in the rural areas where they depend on underground water for domestic use. A number of these sources of  water are low-yielding, unreliable and at times unsafe.  Persistent droughts have also resulted in most water sources drying up whilst in some areas, water sources are seasonal, forcing in communities to spend a greater part of the year without safe and reliable sources of water.

Water sources in rural areas are unreliable and in most cases unsafe

Water sources in rural areas are unreliable and in most cases unsafe

In most cases, decisions that affect the availability and consumption of water, have been left in the hands of government and local authorities. The service delivery of these institutions has however been inadequate. Post independence Zimbabwe witnessed marked efforts by the government to ensure that rural communities had adequate and reliable sources of water. The Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation programme which operated successfully up to the mid 1990s with funding from major donors such as DANIDA, SIDA, CIDA, JICA, DFID, World Bank, African Development Bank and the Kuwait Fund, saw the installation of over 30 000 boreholes around the country.

However, the successes scored began to be adversely affected by the country's economic decline towards the end of the year 2000. The government's budgetary allocations for the maintenance of rural water infrastructure in particular, and social amenities in general, were drastically reduced, leaving the management of the water infrastructure to the communities and other external support agencies.

Throughout the implementation of the government's water and sanitation programme, communities were not fully involved in the whole process and as a result, they were not equipped with the necessary skills and technical capacities to maintain and manage these boreholes. Even where such structures were established, the harsh economic conditions currently prevailing make it nearly impossible for the communities to go it alone without major external  financial injection. The sustainability of the programme was therefore compromised, subsequently leading to communities facing difficulties in obtaining safe water, causing many disadvantages such as the outbreak of water-borne diseases, or having to walk long distances to reach the far away functional water sources.

In response to these challenges, Practical Action Southern Africa implemented the Rehabilitation of Rural Water Points and Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) in Zimbabwe Project.

Funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and German Agro Action (GAA), the project improved access to water and sanitation facilities in some of the country's rural communities. This project started off in August 2003 and has been implemented in four phases now covering a total of 21 districts.

The Community-Based Management (CBM) concept was successfully integrated into the project by employing participatory methods focusing primarily on the communities playing a significant role in the management and maintenance of their own communal water infrastructure.

A total of 4 300 water points were rehabilitated and 33 boreholes drilled, in 21 districts of Matabeleland North and South, Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonaland Central and West provinces. The total number of functional boreholes in all provinces is estimated at 28 515, whilst that of non-functional boreholes is pegged at 8 668.

At the same time, to enhance sustainability of the whole project a total of 1848 Village Pump Mechanics were trained and  equipped with basic tools which can enable them to maintain the water points. 8748 members of the water point committees were trained on water point management skills as well as on constitution development. This additional focus on the capacity building of water point committee members on water management and Village Pump Mechanics (VPM) on training on borehole maintenance was done to enhance the sustainability of rural water supply.

Community participation in the maintenance of water infrastructure ensures the sustainability of the project.

Community participation in the maintenance of water infrastructure ensures the sustainability of the project.

Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PPHE) training was a major activities within the project. The training focused on enhancing the community members' knowledge on health and hygiene issues.

The training also exploited and exposed the indigenous knowledge base on health and hygiene issues and technologies.

Initial trainings on the PHHE sessions were once off trainings where Practical Action would train community members directly just one session per village or ward. But with time, the strategy changed to that of training peer educators in the PHHE field. These were cadres chosen by the communities and have a passion on community development and they are taken through three day training sessions. After the training they were equipped with training tool kits and expected to continue to carry out PHHE sessions in the villages they stay in. Practical Action monitors the quality of these sessions in conjunction with trained Environmental Health Technicians of the affected wards.

The methodology of implementation of the project has been all-inclusive and has enhanced the existing structures on the ground. Beneficiaries of the project apart from the communities include, the district water and sanitation sub-committee members, rural district councils' staff, District Development Fund staff and community-based groups.

To date, 398 district water and sanitation sub-committee members, 7598 community members, and 473 peer educators have received PPHE training.

In Ruwangwe, Nyanga district, during the first phase of the project, two gravity fed nutrition gardens were rehabilitated.  The scope of the work involved reconstruction of 1640 metres of canals, fencing and construction of a toilet. A total of 132 additional households benefited from this project bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 540 households. The community is now able to harvest two crops a year from the two gardens and these have enhanced tremendously their food and nutrition security. Solar dryers are now being used to dry and vacuum pack some of the excess vegetables. This has not only improved the food and nutrition security of the rural communities but has turned the fortunes of the businessmen and women at the business centre.

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