Water Blogged

Visit to Dodoma: a report

Posted by Patty Hall on April 18, 2012

H2O for Life is collaborating on 15 projects in Tanzania and 15 projects in Malawi. It is a collaboration including WASRAG, Rotary International; P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water; H2O for Life and Africare, the implementing NGO. Recently, Nancy Gilbert, a representative from WASRAG with Rotary International visited Dodoma to visit several of the projects. Please read her blog below. We need your help! Together, WASRAG and H2O for Life and P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water have committed funding from our schools and Rotary clubs to support the projects. There is work to be done. Schools desperately need our help. If your school is looking for a project that will change lives, please visit our resources page. Find out how your students can become water advocates and great stewards of water, while taking action to change lives around the world. It is a win-win for all of us.

(from Nancy Gilbert, Adopt-A-School project manager for Wasrag)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012, I flew from Nairobi to Arusha, changed airports, and connected with a MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) flight from Arusha to Dodoma. MAF provides air services to support charitable work, and is a Christian organization. I have never been invited by the pilot (and only crew) to pray before each leg of a flight! Either it was not a reflection on his skill, or it worked, but in any event the flight on the 6-seater aircraft was uneventful.

News from Nancy:

At the Dodoma landing field I was met by the Africare driver who took me to the Dodoma Africare office and an introductory meeting with the regional director, project officer, and capacity building officer.

The team reviewed the program, and progress to date. We also reviewed a package that had been put together by the Tanzanian gov’t and provides a training package for trainers on hygiene education. It includes various modules and tools and activities for engaging and informing teachers and parents in a multi-day program. It was put together in 2010 and distributed for testing and feedback. The finalized package is supposed to be available this year. I am trying to get a soft copy of the draft materials.

A significant part of this program is the provision of PUR packets that very effectively make water clean. The packets will be used as an interim measure and then any remaining, distributed to the communities for their use. The first school had a limited water supply and we did not discuss the quality of that water. Assuming it isn’t clean, then PUR would indeed be most important while the permanent system is being put in place.

The second school had no water supply and the villagers used shallow dug wells. So again, PUR would most likely be tremendously important, certainly until a more permanent supply is developed at the school, and thereafter for the community.

The last school also had no water supply. In this case the villagers source water from a bore hole although as I describe below, that doesn’t run all the time as it’s wind powered but has no water storage tank. Students come to school with containers of water, presumably from that well. During the time that it isn’t producing water, I don’t know what happens. It could be that villagers revert to shallow dug wells, in which case PUR would be very useful.

Meetings have taken place with all the schools and now planning begins in earnest. This week (April 16th) a number of meetings are scheduled with local government officials, community officials, schools officials, teachers and parents. In all meetings, the role of the school, community and parents is stressed and their contributions and commitment is critical to sustainability.

On Thursday, the group visited three schools. Present were the local rural water officer water technician, and education officer (all gov’t), the Africare regional director, capacity building officer and myself. The schools we visited were:

Ipagala B Primary School
Sogeambele Primary School
Chihikwi Primary School

In all the schools the students look bright and quite healthy, despite the difficult circumstances.

Ipagala B Primary School

This school is located in the middle of a community on the outskirts of Dodoma. It has 735 girls, and 721 boys. There are 40 teachers, 2 men and 38 women. Currently the school’s water supply is a tap in the ground, kept under lock and key to prevent the local community from using it. Water comes from a municipal source but is intermittent. Often there is none. We watched the girls filling a bucket – bending over and filling it cupful by cupful. It was a painstaking process.

There is a toilet block that consists of 2 stalls for boys and 2 stalls for girls. In addition there is one hole for the teachers to share. There is no water in the toilets except for bucket fulls used to clean it from time to time.

No facilities exist for hand washing and hygiene is basically non-existent given the lack of water, soap, and education.

A meeting had been organized during our visit with the local government authorities, ward leadership, school leaders, and parents.

Discussions concluded that the first priority is better sanitation – 37 pit holes are needed for the girls, 28 for the boys (Tanzanian regulations say20 girls per hole, and 25 boys per hole), as well as 4 for teachers (2 for the men and 2 for the women). This will be a big project.

In addition, an improved water supply will be put in. Likely this will be a rainwater harvesting system and tank, but if funds permitted a well would be considered. All of the schools have a guard that patrols at night, so if a solar panel was affordable, security does not seem to be an issue (often with solar the biggest concern is theft).

The needs of all the schools will be determined and rough budgets established. Then the process of figuring out what will be spent where will take place.
The meeting was very successful with many pledges of support.

Sogeambele Primary School
We headed out to Sogeambele which is about an hour’s drive out into the country. The road went from paved highway to big dirt road, to smaller and smaller road. The rains had recently come to the area and everything was green, flowers blooming everywhere, and the vistas were lovely. The region is dotted with rock outcrops that are stunning. It looks like giants were building play towers and tossing giant sized marbles around.

The school was smaller, simple, but with lovely flower beds in front of the classes. We were met by the school director who walked us around the grounds. Sogemabele has 161 boys and 166 girls (total 372). The classrooms are crowded and have very few desks. Blackboards are simply concrete walls.

The sanitation facilities have been installed in this school – 4 VIP toilets for the girls and 4 for the boys. This is a big improvement. So the big need remaining is water. The school serves 4 villages. The villages source water from shallow dug wells.

Options for water include rainwater harvesting, or possibly a well (if affordable).
The next meeting of Africare staff with teachers and parents is taking place this Tuesday.
As with all the schools there is huge need for other support. All the classrooms were filled to overflowing. Most students didn’t have desks. And library and other aids were largely absent.
Chihikwi Primary School
This school is also located out in the country and involved long miles on small dirt roads that often were no more than a walking track. A few times we had to squeeze the four by four between someone’s house and a field of millet or corn, or barrier for animals. It was tight!

When we arrived at the school the children were waiting eagerly. We had a tour of the school from the director. There are 357 students – 187 boys, and 193 girls. The school serves three villages.

We were shown the “latrine”, which was nothing more than a low stone wall behind which the children defecate on the ground. It was hard to navigate the area without stepping in human feces. Not far away was an area that was being prepared as an interim step until proper latrines could be constructed. It consisted of sticks shoved in the ground, a shallow trench around the sand, and a few depressions in the centre section. The idea was to make this the girls’ area, and the former, for the boys.

Interim measure – for the girls

The school has no water supply. Students bring containers of water with them, and this provides drinking water, and the source for any other water needs.

The area does have one well and a wind pump (but no storage tank) installed by a Roman Catholic organization from Canada. A water committee is functioning well, and collects a small fee for each bucket of water (20 Tanzanian shillings). Last year they collected about 400,000 shillings and so had money to pay for repairs when the wind pump needed maintenance.

At the school we had a meeting with school officials, the local political leader, teachers, and parents. One parent told us that in November and December there is very little wind, especially during the day, and therefore no water. Would we consider putting in a pump to replace or back-up the wind pump, so they would have more reliable water? He suggested we could pipe water from the well to the school – a distance of 1.5 km.

We went and had a look at the wind pump, although we couldn’t get really close as there was no road and the walking was difficult. I suggested one option would be to install holding tanks up in the air so that when there was no wind, they would still have water available and it would be gravity fed through the system. Apparently it does get windy at night in November and December, but that isn’t much use to the villagers.

The rural water supply official estimates an average need of 20 litres/day per person. These three villages have a population of 820 people.

The other option being considered is a rainwater harvesting system at the school.

The Rotary Club in Dodoma meets Thursday’s at 5:30 so I went to the meeting place. But unfortunately no one showed up. I will continue to try to connect with them in hopes of involving them somehow in the program.


The Africare in-country team is continuing meetings with the school communities at all 15 schools. In each case they need to fully examine, in collaboration with teachers and parents, the needs, and options. Then detailed plans will be completed based on available funds.

In all cases hygiene education is part of the program.

There is lots of opportunity for further collaboration to support these schools in other ways once the WASH program is fully implemented.

It was very useful for me to meet all the participants, visit three of the fifteen schools, and see first hand the obstacles and challenges. There is capable support on the ground and the program is moving forward steadily. Once complete these WASH programs will have huge impact on students, families and communities.

All pictures taken during the site visit are available on the Start with Water Flickr page


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