USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Water and Sanitation

USAID in the Middle East: Using Data to Improve Regional Water Management (Part 1)

Note: This is the first post in a 4-part series. Read part two,  part three and part four.

Few places are drier than the Middle East and North Africa. Host to 5 percent of the world’s population, the region has only 1 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. Population growth and increasing demands for food, housing and jobs place extreme pressures on water resources, raising the potential for conflict within and between countries. Climate change could make a challenging situation worse.

The first step for effective water decision-making is data – understanding the location, availability and quality of water resources. To be effective, water management decisions need to be grounded in the best information available. However, political and economic constraints often mean that decisions affecting water use in the region rely upon outdated or inaccurate information.

Making use of NASA satellite data, USAID helps the region’s water managers understand and plan for current and future water needs. This land cover map of northern Tunisia was derived using USAID supported remote sensing and modeling tools. Photo Credit: International Center for Biosaline Agriculture

USAID is working to put accurate data – and the know-how to interpret them – into the hands of the region’s water decision-makers. Since many in the region access shared water resources we are also promoting international cooperation and data sharing toward effective regional water management. Our Middle East Regional Cooperation program (MERC), for example, brings together teams of Arab and Israeli scientists to address common development problems.

This series profiles several initiatives focused on data, technology, cooperation and decision-making. Last year’s World Water Day edition of Global Waters portrayed others.

USAID’s work around the region has helped to improve water and wastewater services available to the region’s citizens, lessen the potential for water-related conflicts, encourage cooperation and increase the region’s ability to adapt to climate change and maintain food security. Water plays a central role in every country’s development. Its availability and quality can hinder or accelerate socio-economic progress. As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in her 2012 World Water Day speech, “the water crisis is a health crisis, it’s a farming crisis, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis.  And therefore, we must have an equally comprehensive response.”

Effective water decisions require accurate data. Using science and technology to improve water decision-making, USAID is helping the region to overcome scarcity, and ensure that water serves as a catalyst for sustainable development.

Regional: In Jordan and Elsewhere

Effective water management requires a regional approach. Water does not necessarily abide by the man-made lines drawn across the sand marking today’s international borders. Rather, it flows – above and below ground – along lines understood by geographers, not those drawn by cartographers. Therefore a transboundary approach, informed by accurate water resources data and decision-making tools, is essential. USAID has taken the lead in making available U.S. satellite data and remote sensing capabilities to key regional water decision-makers.

Joining forces with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the World Bank, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), and national agencies in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, USAID has developed a suite of advanced land surface models to provide regional scale hydrological data relevant to water resource planning and management. Satellite data is verified by local government measurements and fed into analytical models to turn raw data into decision-support tools.

“The overarching goal of these projects is to improve the data available to researchers and decision makers and help foster a culture of data-informed water resources policy and management,” said Mark Peters, USAID’s Regional Water Advisor.  “USAID is playing an important role in making the most of increasingly scarce regional water resources around the Middle East. Our programs demonstrate the importance of science and technology in water resources decision-making, using data and decision-support tools to make optimal use of water resources and mitigate against water-related conflict.”

For example, in Jordan, one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, USAID is working closely with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) to ground-truth NASA satellite data. The detailed satellite information on groundwater levels and vegetative cover are used in conjunction with population statistics and measures of water levels in wells throughout Jordan to enable NASA and USAID scientists to accurately track water levels in aquifers throughout the country. Making use of this resource, USAID and the MWI are able to improve water resource planning efforts, and avoid the over-depletion of key aquifers.

Models indicate that certain aquifers are at risk of over-depletion, and as a result USAID and MWI have redoubled efforts to reduce agricultural water use in these areas. Such findings are reinforced by cooperation between Jordanian scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey evaluating groundwater level and salinity trends around the country. Data produced as a result of this cooperation help prioritize locations for groundwater management, provide a baseline for evaluating impacts of the reduction of over-pumping, and increase public awareness of groundwater trends. “There is severe over extraction of the highlands aquifers,” argues MWI Secretary-General Basem Telfah. “With new information coming from both our well and satellite monitoring systems, it is very clear that Jordanians have to act quickly to change agricultural practices.”

Sound water management begins with good data provision. Groundwater resources are under increasing pressure in the MENA region, and declining levels in many aquifers highlight the need for careful future management. Given the growing and diverse needs for water, decision-makers need to understand current resource limits and the impacts of future policies as they balance competing demands. The United States is a leader in using satellite data and remote sensing technologies to inform water decision-making. We are making available these powerful tools around the arid Middle East as the countries of the region chart their own hydraulic future.

Read other blog posts in this series:

 

Photo of the Week: Celebrating World Water Day

In Niger, a nine year old girl with a brother or sister on her back and about 25 pounds of water on her head. She just walked 3.2 miles one way to fetch this dirty water. She does this three times a day — everyday. Photo Credit: Gil Garcetti

Fields of Hope in Burkina Faso

As I rode through the dry, dusty countryside of Burkina Faso in late February, I began to wonder how any plant could thrive in the constant heat, and with seemingly little water. Considering the 2012 food crisis, when late rains led to poor harvests and resulted in widespread food insecurity across the Sahel, I wondered how farmers were able to make this dry, hard land produce anything.

With only four months of rain a year – on average 20-35 inches total – farmers are often dependent on this little rain to produce enough food to feed their families and earn enough income to purchase food in the dry season. It’s a delicate balance – too little rain, and their crops fail; too much rain, and their crops fail.

The importance of water particularly becomes stark when you visit communities that lack a good water source. Families have little to eat because they can’t grow enough due to lack of water; children are in poor health because the water source is not sanitary.

Women in Kofogou repairing a dike. Photo credit: USAID

Yet across eastern Burkina Faso, in areas where USAID’s food assistance programs have been working for the last 10 years, green fields are bringing hope to thousands of families, even during the dry season.

Where land was previously infertile or unproductive, land rehabilitation, particularly in the lowlands, has meant farmers are now able to grow high value crops such as rice during the regular harvest season. This provides much needed food and income, especially in comparison with the small yields from cowpeas, sesame, millet and sorghum grown in small household plots. During the dry season, many families are even able to grow onions, tomatoes, green beans, and other crops on these rejuvenated lands to bring in extra income to support their families.

Water was key to these successes. In every community we visited, families identified water as the main constraint to food security. But where USAID partners Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ACDI/VOCA and Africare were able to create or improve water sources, or teach farmers how to capture rain during the rainy season, communities were thriving.

In the hamlet of Kofogou, one woman spoke to us about how for the first time she was able to cultivate rice herself, instead of buying rice, because she now had a plot on the lowland she and other community members redeveloped through Food for Work. Food for Work is work done by community members in exchange for food. On her 0.15 hectares of lowland she now produces ten 75-KG sacks of rice, providing food for her family and a source of income when she sells some of the rice she has parboiled.

I heard similar stories throughout my visit to Burkina Faso. All communities that have been successful identified water access and lowlands development as keys to their success. In Wattigué, the rice producers group “Teeltaaba”, or “Support Each Other”, was organized last year for the 37 farmers working on the newly redeveloped lowlands. In its first year of production on the lowlands – before the 2012 food crisis – the producers group harvested over 15 tons rice. The group sold a portion of this to traders in the larger towns of Kaya and Ouagadougou, rather than individually as small batches to traders in nearby Tougouri as they had in the past. This resulted in better prices. The group’s 2012 sale of rice netted $1,800 income for the 37 farmers. This doesn’t even count the additional tons sold to local women for parboiling and rice collected from each farmer in the community to help feed 68 kids for 3-4 months at the school canteen. Read more on Wattigué.

Rassomde water irrigation system which is shown providing water to their fields of onion and tomato. Photo credit: USAID

Rassomdé community most struck me. Located in Gourcy province northwest of Ouagadougou, Africare had worked in Rassomdé until 2010, at which time their development food assistance program closed. In traveling to Rassomdé, we hoped to see communities faring better than others which weathered the 2012 food crisis, as a result of Africare’s previous assistance. We were not disappointed.

As we drove up to their fields, we saw 30 hectares of green – onions and tomatoes grew everywhere. Their proximity to a reservoir helped. With Africare’s assistance, communities developed these 30 hectares of land, making multiple canals to bring water from the reservoir to the fields. Today, three years after Africare’s departure, producers can pay their expenses and still earn a net income of $617 per household from vegetable gardening in the off-season. Read more on Rassomdé.

While significant challenges remain because of a lack of water or lack of access to water, what we saw demonstrated to me that lasting positive changes are possible, through helping farmers and their communities. I am encouraged that these efforts in Burkina Faso are similar to what’s being done across the Sahel in USAID’s development food assistance programs. These changes are exactly what will lift communities out of a cycle of crisis and lay the foundation for their continued growth.

8 Things Our Future Military Leaders Need to Know About Water Management

Last year the National Intelligence Council released its first-ever Global Water Security Intelligence Community Assessment (PDF). The report noted that during the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems—shortages, poor water quality, or floods—that will risk instability and state failure. Additionally, between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources.

At USAID, we support a wide variety of water programs that foster economic development throughout the developing world. These programs help mitigate the prospect of conflict and play an important role in both meeting emergency relief needs and bringing long-term stability to people in areas afflicted by conflict.

One day, our future military leaders will be planning and implementing peace-keeping operations, and it is important for them to know how the range of water management approaches implemented by USAID can help foster stability, resilience and economic growth.

I was thus pleased to receive an invitation from Col. Wiley Thompson, the head of the United States Military Academy Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, to deliver a lecture in mid-December on water to about 140 West Point cadets. As these men and women will one day be leading our country, I was honored to impart lessons about how water management may help strengthen the cadets’ capacity to lead.

Chris Holmes with West Point cadets following the lecture on water management. Photo credit: USAID

While my core message to the cadets was this –Water management is key to stability, to improving health, to producing food and energy, to adapting to climate change – there are eight key lessons that I believe would help these cadets as they continue their educations.

1. USAID and the military can and must form effective partnerships.

The Army and USAID have partnered on wide range of water activities, such as: increasing the energy output of the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan, restoring carp fisheries in Iraq, and providing relief to flood and earthquake victims in Pakistan. Such partnering is supported by the USAID- DOD Civilian Military Cooperation policy (PDF). Both USAID and the military bring differing but complimentary technical expertise. In addition, the military provides the logistics support and security to support USAID efforts in the field. This collaboration is essential, especially in providing security in areas prone to conflict and in providing emergency humanitarian assistance requiring the transport of medical supplies and relief personnel.

2. Women leaders must play a vital role in leading water programs.

In Afghanistan, the USAID Sustainable Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene program supports the development of women leaders, including Female Health Action groups. Women leaders play an essential role in leading community-based water organizations and in resolving disputes over water.

3. Policy Makers must take an integrated approach, linking sectors, programs and policies.

The objective of USAID’s recently initiated Rwanda Integrated Water Security Program is to improve the sustainable management of water quantity and quality to positively impact human health, food security, and resilience to climate change for vulnerable populations in targeted catchments. This integrated water resource management project is intended to serve as a model for USAID water projects.

4. Remote sensing and communications technologies change the game.

In East Africa, The USAID Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) is identifying where climate change is actually occurring, analyzing climate change data in patterns over the last 30 to 50 years. This enables USAID and its developing country partners to look in to the future and take steps to adapt to climate change.

The Indonesia WATER SMS project will apply new data-collection tools and sharing methodologies through Short Messaging Services (SMS) and web mapping to increase civic participation to improve water services. Residents, using hand phones and email, can rapidly report chronic and acute conditions.

5. Think across the border.

More than 300 water bodies are shared by two or more countries. Tanzania and Kenya border the Mara river. The USAID Transboundary Water for Biodiversity and Human Health project in the Mara River Basin (TWB-MRB) has helped local communities to develop new water services, refurbish nonfunctioning water systems, and improve sanitation services. There has also been support for setting up water user associations and village savings and loan groups, emphasizing the participation and empowerment of women and the long-term sustainability of the new organizations. Major conflicts can arise over water resources, grazing lands and territory; loss of assets, livestock, hundreds of people killed and  thousands displaced. This calls early focus on  a peace building process, e.g., strengthening Institutions for peace and development

6. It’s not just high tech.

Meeting complex economic development needs requires combining traditional low-tech approaches to water management, such as sand-dam water catchments, with sophisticated high-tech approaches. As part of the climate adaptation strategy in Mali, informed by data from the high-tech FEWSNET, USAID also supports programs that reintroduce traditional soil conservation and management programs to increase food production, a tried and true low-tech approach to enhanced productivity that is being practiced of millions of acres. Drilling rigs for bore holes can easily be counterproductive if not sited in close collaboration with all stakeholder groups in a wider landscape, and linked to local village management capacity.

7. We must provide sustainable solutions to enhance the resilience of communities.

USAID and other donors, through the Productive Safety Net Program, identified a population of 8 million people in Ethiopia particularly vulnerable to climate change. Building large-scale water irrigation and supply systems helped provide sustainable, lasting assistance to enable these communities to weather the 2010/2011 East African droughts.

8. We can’t do it alone.

In Ethiopia, the USAID-funded Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER) program works closely with regional and community governments to develop access to clean, safe and sustainable water sources.

 

When I arrived at West Point, I was awed by the history and physical geography of the place, the Academy high on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, gray granitic slabs of stone emerging from the hills, blending into the school’s impressive stone architecture. The geology, the architecture, the teachers, the students all conveyed one word: strength. In reflecting on my interactions with West Point faculty and students, I came away encouraged and impressed by their understanding of the “strength” of effective water management, how it links both the respective resources and missions of  the military and USAID to foster stability and economic development.

Partnering for Development in Water

To meet the water, sanitation and food needs of the global community, we face huge constraints. Public and private funds for development are limited. Significant water resources are being depleted at a rapid pace. Arable land occupies a relatively small portion of our planet. Conflict and natural disasters cause immense suffering and impede the progress of development, turning back the clock. Yet, in one area we do not face constraints. That is in our capacity to empathize, to set a purpose for our lives that responds to the needs of others, and to realize that purpose by creating and implementing solutions whose scale and impact is potentially immense.

Chris Holmes speaks to the water community of Colorado. Photo Credit: USAID.

During my recent trip to Colorado, I met with several groups that embody this capacity – creative, compassionate and enthusiastic academics and Rotarians working to research, innovate and implement new solutions to some of the development challenges we face today. Many of these challenges focus on, or relate to, water. Water is vital to sustaining life, essential for the sustainable production of crops and critical to many manufacturing and industrial processes. Water availability, or lack thereof, is an issue familiar to Coloradans, and their state faces many of the same challenges that countries around the world face: drought, growing populations, and rising water needs of multiple users. The water community of Colorado has expertise not only on domestic water issues, but also on global issues such as water scarcity, treatment and sanitation.

I had the opportunity to meet with some of the members of this community, including students and faculty from University of Colorado at Boulder and Denver, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and Regis University, and Rotarians from the cities of Denver and Evergreen. In my discussions with these groups, I learned about their current development activities, including partnerships with USAID, and shared some of the approaches USAID is currently employing, including open source based development, partnerships and finance, science and technology, integrated programming, resilience and scale.

Universities and groups like Rotary are key partners in reaching USAID’s development goals. Both groups are familiar with the type of interdisciplinary thinking that USAID is using in our effort to establish linkages between sectors, such as water, agriculture and energy in order to bring about new solutions. Developing and implementing effective linkages will be key to USAID’s ability to meet global water and related food and health needs. Universities make a huge difference in educating the present and future generation of leaders who will find it critical to use these approaches and tools to save and improve lives. My visit left me feeling optimistic and excited about the future of global development, and I look forward to our continuing partnerships with universities and Rotary groups.

A Lasting Impact on Food Security

I recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to visit food assistance programs implemented by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. My first impression of the Congo was the same feeling I had in Uganda when visiting projects there last year – why in countries so lush and ripe for agriculture were people so food insecure? Food insecurity is a complex issue, and for the DRC it includes key issues such as low productivity, lack of market access and infrastructure, ongoing conflict and poor nutrition practices.

As a country struggling to pull itself out of conflict, the DRC is a challenging environment to work in. Never mind the logistical challenges for our partners and staff: little infrastructure in program areas; communities cut off by rains, conflict or other factors at certain times of year; and monitoring difficulties due to USAID staff being based on the opposite side of the country from the projects.

Despite these challenges, I was amazed at the ability of USAID’s partners to have as much positive impact as they have had on food security. This was particularly apparent in the visits where development assistance had ended the previous year, but the lasting impact of programs was still very visible.

I visited two communities previously supported by Food for the Hungry (FH) – Kamalenge and Kateba – which continue to benefit from initiatives started under FH’s previous program.

In Kamalenge, the water management committee responsibly manages the use of water from the community water pump installed by FH, by creating a fee-based system for maintenance. Under this system, households pay 100 francs a month per household and adhere to a strict usage schedule, ensuring each household has access to the water and the water source does not run dry.

Nearby, a women’s goat breeding group is still working, giving goats to households in the community and selling the extra goats.  This income is helping with children’s school fees. In the coming year, with additional proceeds, the 25 members of the goat breeding group hope to start a pharmacy in the village for community members.

In Kateba, I met a mother care group who continue to teach health and nutrition messages to new mothers and child caretakers in their community. Using songs and flipcharts to teach the messages introduced by FH, women are improving their household’s health and nutrition, all with their own food resources. They were proud to declare the village free of malnutrition as a result of these efforts.

The seed multiplication station in Emilingombre made a lasting impression on me. This station resulted directly from the difficulties they had in their first development food aid program procuring improved seeds and cuttings of disease resistant varieties of cassava, bananas, and other crops. This challenge resulted in FH creating a seed multiplication station within its new beneficiary communities so farmers had more direct access to seeds and seedlings. Using seeds and seedlings developed on demonstration plots from their previous program, they have built a 22 hectare station and nursery, which the communities will maintain with Food for Work during the life of the program. Eventually, the station will be self-sustained by the community to provide plant seeds and tree seedlings of multiple varieties. The tree seedlings will also help reforest nearby areas.

These small examples are reflective of a holistic set of activities USAID partners are implementing to address food security from all angles. I left DRC impressed by our partners’ ability to operate and communities to thrive in such a challenging environment. I am eager to see the gains they will make in the coming years.

Why Africa Water Week Matters

Last week, the White House unveiled a new strategy for Sub Saharan Africa (PDF) to promote opportunity and development, particularly sustainable access to clean water. Walter North shares highlights from his recent participation in Africa Water Week addressing the world’s most devastating water challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.

Water is fundamental to development. As Secretary Clinton said during World Water Day earlier this year, “the water crisis is a health crisis, it’s a farming crisis, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis. And therefore, we must have an equally comprehensive response.”

Most of the world’s water challenges are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 300 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water and more than 500 million lack access to improved sanitation. Every year 800,000  children die from diarrhea – one child every 20 seconds. USAID recently launched the “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign, to envision a world where diarrhea is no longer one of the top three killers of children under five. Since diarrhea is primarily caused by unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene, USAID must target the people and places most in need.

Mid-May, I spent some time with water ministers, professionals and NGOs from across Africa working in the water sector to discuss these challenges, as part of as part of the fourth Africa Water Week, held in Cairo. There, I was delighted to hear a commitment to action – not just further discussion – from everyone gathered at the most comprehensive gathering of water sector experts on the continent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the World Water Week Conference

Note from World Water Week Conference on the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services- Christian Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator

Today at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, I had the privilege of opening and moderating an exceptionally important session focused on “Do Rights-based Policies Enhance Women’s Leadership and Contribute to Sustainable WASH Outcomes: Taking Stock and Moving Forward.”

We tackled the added-value of rights-based policies in order to enhance women’s leadership and contribute to sustainable WASH outcomes in a seminar jointly organized by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Freshwater Action Network (FAN), U.S. Department of State, WASH Advocacy Initiative, and WaterLex. The discussion centered on 4 key topics:

  • Best practices around equity and inclusion;
  • Women’s leadership in sustainable WASH programming and policy development;
  • Rights-based standards and M&E in WASH management; and
  • Citizen service engagement

Achieving sustainable access to affordable and appropriate water and sanitation services for all, including the poorest and most marginalized, remains a major challenge for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.

In my opening comments, I stressed the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services. I stressed that it is time to support and enhance the capacity of women to develop and lead the implementation of water and sanitation solutions; women have the right to participate equally in decision- making within their communities to help address these needs.

Session presenters included:

  • Hilda Coelho, Freshwater Action Network (FAN) Representative and President of CRSD in India;
  • Hélène Boussard, Research Coordinator on Water Governance for WaterLex;
  • Mary Ann Brocklesby and Sheena Crawford; and
  • Kate Harawa, Country Director for Water For People, Malawi

Concluding the seminar, Sanjay Wijesekera, Team Leader for WASH at DFID, called on all participants to move evidence into practice. He said, “Rights-based approaches have been successfully deployed to drive change and accelerate progress on the WASH Millennium Development Goal targets. However, to use such approaches effectively, we need to ensure that the legal and policy frameworks are harmonized with human rights commitments, and that we document systematically these experiences.”

I strongly recommend reviewing the presentations made at the session.

Sustaining Human Life and the Environment

Ultimately, I believe, our planet’s sustainability will be determined by one overarching action: how mankind protects, supports and realizes the potential of human life and human systems and that of other species and ecosystems— and how sustaining life and the environment go hand in hand.

In that regard, I participated last month during World Water Week in a “WASH/Environmental Working Group” panel which addressed the linkage between the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and the protection of human health undertaken by water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs.

At that meeting, on behalf of USAID, I invited the NGO participants to continue our dialogue and meet with a wider range of USAID experts. On April 13, representatives from the WASH Advocacy Initiative, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) came to USAID. They met with several USAID executives, including Eric Postel, newly confirmed Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade; Dr. John Borrazzo, Chief, Maternal and Child Health Division, Bureau for Global Health; representatives from USAID ‘s Bureau for Food Security and Bureau for Policy, Program and Planning; and myself.

The meeting examined ways in which the USAID and the NGO community might increase their impact on sustaining both human populations and ecosystems by working together to build on past success and develop new models of integrated freshwater supply and water supply, hygiene, and sanitation approaches, as well as ways to effect WASH-Food Security integration.

We discussed the USAID-funded WASH–NRM “Healthy Families, Healthy Forests” project in Madagascar being undertaken by CRS and CI to conserve biodiversity and provide critical health services to remote rural populations.  Another project, supported by USAID and TNC in Ecuador, established a revolving fund both to protect a major watershed and to provide water from that watershed to the urban poor. Additionally, we also addressed WWFs’ “Green Recovery” approach to assist people recovering from disasters by minimizing harm to the environment.

Looking ahead, we will continue to consider ways in which to forge this crucial linkage between the protection of natural resources and human health.

On World Water Day, Rain Water Harvesting Highlighted in Zimbabwe

USAID/Zimbabwe commemorated World Water Day 2011 on March 23 with a special ceremony to draw attention to the efficiency and effectiveness of rainwater collection as a way to provide clean water to families and schools. The event took place at the Tasimukira Primary School in Chitungwiza, outside the capital, Harare.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart with USAID/Zimbabwe Mission Director Karen Freeman and other officials. On March 23, 2011, USAID held a World Water Day celebration in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe at the Tasimukira Primary School, where students benefit from a USAID program that harvests rain for a clean water supply. Photo Credit: USAID/Zimbabwe

Since 2009, USAID has supported the Peri-urban Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting (PROOF) program to provide safe drinking water to over 26,000 Zimbabweans in urban and rural areas.  The program was initiated in response to the worst cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe’s recent history, which led to nearly 100,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths.  Poor water and sanitation systems, inadequate access to health care, and underlying risk factors such as malnutrition contributed to the severity of the epidemic.

Through this project implemented by International Relief and Development, USAID provides clean water to Zimbabweans until the water system is overhauled.  The initial phase of the program focused on the high-density suburbs of Harare and Chitungwiza.  In June 2010, it expanded into Mutare and Buhera in southeastern Zimbabwe.

To date, USAID has supported the installation of 805 rain water collection systems serving 2,653 households and eight schools with over 26,000 total beneficiaries.  All components of the rain water harvesting systems are manufactured in Zimbabwe, creating jobs and a nascent rain water collection industry in the free market.

 

 

 

Rain water collection systems consist of roof gutters and a water storage tank.  The equipment provides abundant clean water during the rainy season, when the highest incidents of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, are seen. With regulated consumption and sufficient water storage capacity, these rainwater collection systems can provide clean drinking water all year round.

International World Water Day was first recognized by the United Nations in 1993.  It is held annually on March 22 to focus attention on the importance of fresh water and to advocate for the sustainable management of fresh water resources.  World Water Day 2011 emphasized the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, and conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

Page 4 of 5:« First« 1 2 3 4 5 »