14 March 2017

Uganda: Rural Women's Group Changes Lives Through Sanitation Projects

A women's group in Luweero District has taken the campaign to boost hygiene and sanitation practices to another level. The group has not only encouraged members to improve sanitation and hygiene facilities in their home but have also spread good cheer to their different communities.

Since the group's inception in 2012, Kikunyu Kwagala Women's Group based in Butumtumula Sub-county, Luweero District, has so far built 125 rain water harvesting tanks. Members in this group are encouraged to have a pit latrine, kitchen, hand washing facility, and a rubbish disposal pit so as to be exemplary in the communities they live in.

Agnes Namuga Mugwanya, the chairperson Kikunyu Kwagalana Women's Group, says in the past, many residents used to depend on water from valley dams shared by animals. "You could spend between three and four hours at the dam. But that is changing because we harvest rain water and store it and this has been helpful, especially with farming," she says.

As a result, money that would otherwise have been spent on treatment for using contaminated water is now being converted to plan and expand on income projects.

Behind their success...

Edward Lukwago an officer at Busoga Trust attributed the success story of Kikunyu Kwagalana women group to hard work, unity willingness to learn to improve the livelihood of their respective communities.

"They work as a group and do all the construction work for the rain water harvest tanks because they are trained and have also mastered the art of constructing and maintaining the water tanks," he says.

They do not need to hire experts to clean the tanks. They do the work themselves and are even ready to be contracted to build the rain water harvesting tanks for people outside their group.

The group members testify that the rate at which their children contract diseases has greatly reduced because of the improved hygiene and sanitation practices. "We clear the bush around our homesteads and ensure that we do not have breeding grounds for mosquitoes which cause malaria," Lukwago says.

Impact

John Paul Kibalama the LCIII chairperson, Butuntumula Sub-county, says the women under Kikunyu Kwagalana have excelled in hygiene promotion and are now a model group for the sub-county which will soon receive funding to expand and promote similar projects. "The women have mobilised members to have sanitation facilities and are active in the construction of the rain water harvesting tanks."

Jane Nabawanda, 54, a beneficiary of a rain water harvesting tank under the hygiene and sanitation projects says her family used to trek a distance of 7km to the nearest valley dam for water. "We used to spend a lot of time walking, looking for water both for farming and home consumption. Now the water is right in our compounds, she says.

The recipients of tanks are sensitised on how to keep it clean as well as reserving water to use during dry spells. Members in the group pay a non-refundable Shs40,000 while cement and wire mesh are contributed by Busoga Trust.

Appeal

Although these women have taken strides, they insist there is need for government to do more. "We appeal to government to consider drilling bore holes to help us get clean and safe water, especially during the long dry seasons when we do not expect any rainfall," Florence Namubiru, another group member, says.

However, parts of Luweero District especially the cattle corridor areas of Butuntumula, Kikuysa and Kamira Sub-counties have a poor bed rock which does not support the sustainability of deep shallow wells including motorised bore holes. The bore holes drilled in these areas get dry leaving residents without clean and safe water. According to Luweero District LC5 Chairman Ronald Ndaula, this is why the district leadership has been lobbying for valley dams.

Statistics

While the national figures for safe water coverage in rural areas as by June 2016 stands at 67 per cent, statistics from Luweero District Local Government for safe water coverage stands at 64.2 per cent. The district, according to Robert Kalenzi, the Luweero District water officer, has drastically scaled down on the allocation and drilling of shallow wells in the cattle corridor areas because many of the shallow wells have dried up because of the poor bedrock in parts of Butuntumula, Kikyusa and Kamira sub-counties. The district received Shs669m to drill 19 motorised bore holes with the detailed hydrological survey already underway in the different parts of Luweero District.

Kalenzi says hygiene and sanitation levels are at 69 per cent with the cattle corridor areas of Kamira, Kikyusa and Butuntumula still struggling to in areas of good hygiene. In some of these areas, two out of 10 homes own a pit latrine.

This is partly attributed to the nomadic culture of some of the residents while many simply do not mind to have a pit latrine since they spend more time in the bush looking after their cattle.

Limited access to hand washing facilities

As Uganda joins the international community to commemorate the International Water and Sanitation Day, International Forestry Day and the International Meteorology Day, which will be celebrated between March 21 and March 23, a series of activities are lined up. These include the Sanitation Week where stakeholders will undertake programmes aimed at promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices, tree planting campaigns to boost environment conservation and programmes by the Meteorological Department.

According to Martha Naigaga, the officer in charge of Environment and Health at the Ministry of Water and Environment, access to hand washing facilities in schools is still low. Only 34 per cent of schools have access to washing facilities which puts the lives of children at risk of faecal related diseases. The revelation corroborates statistics on hand washing facilities in Luweero-based schools. According to the district sanitation office, about 27 per cent have access to such facilities.

Many schools have water tanks but are non-functional. "We need to continue sensitising school managers and stakeholders about the need to install water facilities to ensure that children wash hands after visiting the toilets. These habits are taught in schools but never practiced. These practices should also spread to the community where the children come from," Zena Nasur, the Luweero District secretary for Health and Education, says.

Cate Zziwa Nimanya, the country executive director of Water for People, says many small businesses that thrive on water and sanitation have sprung up because of their interventions. "The use of collected faecal matter for many other things like briquette, fertilisers saves the environment but also creates employement for many youth," she aded

She says the country still has a long way to ensure proper sanitation but with continuous education of the public about the dangerous of poor hygiene, diseases such as cholera and typhoid will be history.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

Uganda

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