Here I Am

Girl from Upper Egypt

Water Stability Project


Women Who Want to Catch Rain

A GWI/Running Dry/CARE case study from Borana, Ethiopia. March 2009

“Sanitation without water is nothing,” explains Ellema Sorra. After she received a water and sanitation training organized by CARE Ethiopia, her search for a sustainable water source led her and twenty other women from two neighboring villages to construct an 81 cubic meter underground rainwater harvesting system. The women hope their work will give them a safe water source during even the driest months of the year.
Ellema is 25 years old and has four children – two girls aged twelve and nine and two boys aged six and two. Her days are busy: “There’s no free space. Wherever I go, there’s a job to be done.” She wakes early to milk the cows and prepare tea and food for her children, before walking to fetch water from the nearby Melbana town, a trip that takes two to three hours. In the afternoon, she works around the house and with her family’s livestock. As the day draws to a close, she once again repeats her morning routine, milking the cows and preparing a meal for her children, before finally going to bed around 10pm.

Ellema lives in the Didema cluster of villages in Melbana kebele, part of Miyo woreda in the Borana zone of Oromiya National Regional State region, the southernmost part of Ethiopia that runs along the Kenyan border. This pastoralist zone suffers from cyclical droughts, demanding increasingly innovative ways of managing resources. As population continues to grow and traditional systems of rangeland and conflict management are eroded, people’s livelihoods are under great strain.

Ellema’s woreda is one of the focus areas of the new Global Water Initiative (GWI), which aims to ensure that vulnerable populations around the world have reliable access to clean water in such a way that their dignity, rights, culture and natural environment are not negatively impacted. In Ethiopia, GWI member organizations CARE, OXFAM America, and CRS have formed a partnership known as “Running Dry – Empowering Poor People to Manage Water in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands.”

CARE’s program, “The Borana Water Resources Management and Learning Initiative”, aims to improve access to and management of quality water sources for 3,400 pastoralist households. Working in partnership with local government and customary institutions, the project especially works to improve women’s access to safe water. Women in Borana bear heavy burdens, particularly during dry periods when the men migrate with their livestock or increasingly, travel to cities and towns to offer their services as day laborers.

As part of the project, in May 2008, CARE together with government health officials in Miyo woreda organized training on water and sanitation. 42 people were trained and 24 out this total were women. Emma was absent from her village during the selection process but this did not stop the village for selecting her to represent them in the training. “They asked who’s the strongest woman who can go to attend the training and bring this information back to our village?”

They learned how to improve the quality of drinking water and discussed personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. In particular, they were taught how to construct latrines, which were at the time very uncommon in the communities concerned.

“After the training”, Ellema reports, “I awoke from my sleep. We used to say just there is “

No Bad Mother and Water”. But now we think about our environment. If we defecate in the open, our feces will pollute the pond and we will drink dirty water. Also, our children put soil in their mouths – before the environment was clean, the children were exposed to soil that could cause disease. Now we are safe.”

Ellema & her son in front of the constructed latrine

After returning to her village from the training, she asked the kebele chairman to organize an educational meeting. Determined to share what she had learned, she explained to her community the importance of environmental sanitation and the benefits of constructing latrines. At that time, because of the drought, most of the men were away – and even some of the women were moving away as the land became drier. Undaunted, Ellema
gathered five women and had a discussion with them about building a latrine in the village. After a week of digging, they completed the first latrine.

“I decided I should be the model in my village so I took the initiative first,” Ellema declares. Indeed, now 8 of the 12 villages in her village have built or are building their own latrines. The elders have even created bylaws encouraging people to use latrines. Anyone who does not build a latrine is fined fifty birr – while those who have a latrine but do not use it are fined thirty birr.

However, Ellema explains, latrines are not enough: “We need to have a good water source in the village. The pond we use here dries out one week after the rains. There is a borehole nearby but it’s not possible to wash our clothes there; it’s only for watering livestock. So we raised this question with our group – how can we keep ourselves clean?”

The women brainstormed about the best way to create a more sustainable water point. A pond was ruled out because within Borana culture it would be available for all and used by livestock. The women finally decided to dig a rainwater harvesting system, often known as a cistern: “Moving around our area, we saw other cisterns built by NGOs and the government. We didn’t know how to measure the depth or the width but that doesn’t matter; what matters is it holds water. So we thought why not build a cistern like the ones we have seen.”

The women worked for a month and half, laboring six afternoons a week with help from male relatives on Sundays. They used tools that were available to them; there is another NGO project nearby where community members are rehabilitating a traditional well. When these workers come home, the women take their tools to their worksite to continue digging the large cistern.

Excavated Cistern

The group Ellema founded now includes twenty-one women from neighboring settlements, ranging in age from 16 to 45. They have determined to complete the work by themselves if they cannot find additional support from NGOs or the government. In particular, they have been saving to buy a plastic tarpaulin to seal the cistern: “We know that cement will prevent the water seeping into the ground when the rain comes, so why not plastic?” Every week each woman contributes ten birr. Ellema explains that she raises her contribution by selling eggs: “Each egg costs one birr; I spend no money on other expenses like tea; I save all my money for this project.” So far the women have saved 1000 birr.

Women led the Excavation
Today the cistern has a volume of 81 cubic meters. If the women succeed in sealing the deep hole, they will have a new supply of water for a significant amount of time during the dry season.

Their project is not finished however; day-to-day they continue to work. The group has to ensure the cistern will catch and store sufficient water during and after the rains. The women also face problems building latrines. The ground is hard and rocky and it is hard to find sufficient roofing materials, especially as wood in the area is vulnerable to termites.

The women have asked for advice and help, and CARE is in a position to respond to their needs. As a first step GWI project staffs plan to provide technical advice on how to construct silt barriers and complete the cistern. They also plan to provide learning visits with other communities building latrines so the women can exchange ideas and experiences. The work and commitment of Ellema and her twenty friends and neighbors promises to make a significant difference in their own and their families’ lives. With the support of CARE and local government, they can continue to build upon their knowledge and inspire others in their area to do the same.

Changing Beliefs about Latrines

By Woldu Terefe, DM&E Officer, CARE Borana
Women pastoralists are frontline promoters of environmental hygiene and sanitation.

Fighting Taboos in Borana

By Saro Konsole. November 2009


Paying It Forward

Equal Pay for Water Services Project. Teculután, Guatemala. July 2009

Located in southeastern Guatemala, close to the border with Honduras, Teculután is hot and dry – a stark contrast to the country’s cooler highlands. Under the relentless midday sun, cicadas croon loudly in all directions. Fields of okra and watermelon give way to rolling hills that form part of the Sierra de las Minas mountain range, which is home to an important watershed and a diversity of rare plant and animal species, including the long-tailed quetzal – Guatemala’s colorful national bird. While most of the Sierra de las Minas range is now a reserve, bald patches spot the hills near Teculután, showing signs of illegal deforestation. Without their own land or other economic opportunities, poor farmers in the area burned the forest for many years in order to use the land for cultivation.

Now, however, CARE and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are working with local farmers and governments to reforest and protect the reserve. We began conducting environmental and economic assessments in the area in 2005 and, based on the results of those analyses, project implementation began in early 2009. Currently, 300 community members are involved in the project. [[image:file/view/Guatemala.JPG align="right"]]

Because we want to achieve sustainable results that continue for generations, CARE and WWF created a contract with the local government, which has agreed to establish a system by 2011 that will pay local farmers to conserve and reforest the area. Toward this end, the municipality has loaned farmers land in the valley for the next five decades, where they are cultivating okra, corn and watermelon. This has eliminated their need to clear the hillsides for cultivation. CARE also helped farmers to establish a drip irrigation system on their newly leased land to promote production and the conservative use of water. Moreover, we have done and continue to conduct market research to enable farmers to select the most profitable and sustainable crops for the region.

In the start-up period before the local government takes over the program, CARE and WWF are paying farmers to reforest the degraded hillsides. In the first half of 2009 alone, residents planted 90,000 seedlings. This work has also created jobs and pumped money into the local economy. For example, the project invested $10,000 in job creation (primarily reforesting work) in the first half of 2009.

Another important component of the project involves ensuring that big landowners and companies in the area, including a soft drink and beer company nearby, are paying for the water they are using. Currently, they do not pay anything even though they utilize vast amounts of water. CARE and WWF are now bringing companies together with farmers to talk about water quality and rights. To support the case that companies should pay for water use, CARE and WWF conducted a study to demonstrate that funding conservation efforts would actually save companies money in the long-run. Deforestation causes erosion, which contaminates the water supply, causing a serious and costly problem for companies. Reforestation is an easy and affordable solution to prevent such problems, so it makes good business sense for companies to invest in it now.

Water for Life

Mi Cuenca project. San Marcos department. Guatemala. July 2009

Water pours out of the tap in front of the Shexubei community school, splashing the arms of Crecencia Chavez and her young children as they wash their hands. Several months ago, this simple act would have been impossible. There was no tap stand here and no one in this small highland community in western Guatemala had running water. This absence was felt most acutely by women here, who had to walk an hour up and down the steep hillside on which Shexubei sits four to five times each day to collect water from the nearest well.

“It cost us, as women, to not have water,” said Maria Pelar Chavez, the only female member of Shexubei’s community leadership council. “Water is essential. It is the base of our health.”
Recognizing the enormous need facing families here, CARE helped Shexbui residents to construct a new water system in 2009 that now provides running water to all 101 households in the community.

“People were crying with excitement when the system was finished and they had water in their homes,” remarked CARE staff member Enri Maldonado. “They never had running water in their houses before.”

As in all of our work, CARE emphasized the importance of community participation and leadership. Shexbui residents played an integral role in building the new water system and were proud of their accomplishment.

“The water system extends to every house in the community,” remarked community leader Enrique Chavez with great satisfaction, while pointing to a home in thhands2.JPGe distance. “It took us three months to build.”

Access to safe water is crucial to people’s health and is fundamental in the fight against extreme poverty. Without it, people are extremely vulnerable to waterborne disease, which continues to be a leading cause of death among young children in developing countries. Furthermore, lack of access to water forces people – typically girls and women – to spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources, eating into time that could otherwise be used to earn income or gain an education.

“Before we (women) didn’t have time as we had to make four or five trips a day to collect water,” explained Crecencia Chavez. “Now that we have time, we are organizing a group of women and are using the time to learn new things. For example, CARE has provided us with trainings in health, nutrition and hygiene…Before, we didn’t know about many of these subjects.”

In addition to building infrastructure, CARE has taught families and schoolchildren in Shexubei to practice good hygiene to prevent disease. Inside Shexubei’s primary school, it’s evident from the frequent use of the new classroom hand-washing station that these hygiMagdalena.JPGene practices are becoming habitual. And that is a big step forward for community health.

“Now that we have running water, the school is so much cleaner. CARE provided support that we and the students really needed,” remarked primary school teacher Amparo Lucrecia Chavez. “We received hygiene materials, like soap, water filters, toothbrushes,
towels and cups too.”

To ensure the sustainability of Shexubei’s water supply, CARE also helped residents to form an environmental committee and to establish a tree nursery. Once mature, the trees will be planted in the watershed area to prevent erosion and maintain water quality. CARE’s goal is not only to provide reliable sources of safe water to poor communities, but to ensure the conservation of that water supply and the protection of the area’s natural resources.

For the 607 residents of Shexubei, the new water system marks a critical step forward on the path to overcoming poverty. By building new infrastructure, promoting hygiene education and protecting watersheds, CARE’s Mi Cuenca (“my watershed”) project is helping some 6,000 families in 42 similar communities in western Guatemala to make sustainable improvements in their health and wellbeing.


A Manifold Solution

Water and sanitation open several doors in one school . Global Water Initiative. May 2010

Opportunities Replace Water Scarcity

Tula Community, Kenya. May 2010


Water Can Bring Love

But Not Understanding. By Malaika Wright. July 2010

With Water Fees Collected

Akodokodoi Village Invests. By Malaika Wright. July 2010