Published on: 18/10/2023
How it began
Since August 2022, IRC WASH has been supporting South Ari Woreda in implementing the water safety plan in a pilot phase in four selected sub-districts (kebeles). The objective of the water safety plan is to improve WASH governance through the implementation of a water safety plan. The water safety plan improves water quality, quantity, and service level by identifying hazards and risks, involving the community in preventive measures and strengthening the water scheme management, and ensuring improved sanitation facilities. IRC WASH supports the establishment of the WSP teams, follows up the implementation process, and enhances the water resource management through community contribution.
Community engagement revives water scheme in Arfes Kebele.
In Arfes Kebele of South Ari woreda, there are four water facilities. One of them, Zobonant spring, provides water for 58 households. The water facility has a spring capping structure, a 10-cubic-meter tank, 500 meters of pipeline, and one water distribution point. However, it had been out of service for four years due to a pipeline burst and faucet failure.
The kebele water safety plan (WSP) team identified the absence of a scheme management body specifically a WASH Committee (WASHCO) as the main cause for the non-functionality of the water system.
The WSP team in collaboration with the South Ari Woreda Water Mine and Energy Office established WASHCOs for all water schemes and federations (joining all WASHCOs in a kebele) at kebele level. Those established WASHOs and federations with the support from kebele WSP team mobilised the user community and woreda water mine and energy office to fence the source of the spring, clean the tanker, and maintain 400 meters pipeline.
As a result of these efforts, the Zobonant water scheme was brought back into service after four years. WASHCOs set monthly tariffs for water service and started collecting revenue.
According to the plan, the newly formed WASHCOs and federations have been coordinating with the community for the implementation of the water safety plan.
Chairman of the Arfes Kebele Federation, Abayneh Daulo, said, "We clearly discussed with the community and explained to them how their water could be contaminated in various ways. They were shocked to learn this and agreed to set a tariff on the spot and collected 350 birr in one day. The woreda water office has supported us in supplying pipes, and the community participated by transporting them, facilitating logistics for the woreda maintenance technicians, and procuring spare parts from the collected monthly revenue. The water scheme was maintained and back in service within one month after the first WSP awareness session, and the community started drinking clean water. The financial and labour contribution of the community is estimated at 45,000 birr. If there are strong and committed facilitators at the kebele and scheme levels, the community can even construct large water schemes using its own resources. They have the desire and the ability to do so."
The community participating in a water scheme rehabilitation in Arfes Kebele | Photo by Nebiyu Gashawbeza
The experience of Fakatar
The Fakatar protected water spring is found in Shirshir Kebele of South Ari woreda. It has been serving the community for 20 years, but it was facing several challenges, including water contamination from users as they had been washing clothes, taking showers in the water collection area, and animals were drinking water from the same point.
In July 2022, the Shishir Kebele established a WSP team to address the above challenges to water safety. The WSP team together with the water user association developed a WSP including flood diversion, fencing the water scheme, revising the user bylaw, and separating body bathing and animal drinking area from the water fetching point. Both the kebele WSP team and the scheme water user association members coordinated with the user community for its implementation.
Dari Dermi, chairperson of the Fakater water user association, said, “the WSP has a number of positive impacts on the community, users are now more satisfied with the water service, and revenue collection has improved. In addition, the collaboration between water user association and kebele WSP team raised awareness on personal hygiene, household latrine use, and water handling at home. As a result, more households are using improved sanitation facilities”.
Effective implementation of Water Safety Plans (WSPs) hinges on multi-sectoral collaboration, bringing together stakeholders from health, water, education, agriculture, and administration. This cross-sectoral approach is exemplified in the WSP implementation efforts undertaken in the kebeles of South Ari.
Ejigayehu Nigatu, a health extension worker in Shishir Kebele, South Ari Woreda, said, "Before the implementation of the WSP, I didn't understand the water system, even how it worked, was managed, and delivered service." She had been working in the position for more than 10 years and had participated in different WASH activities, but she had only focused on the health components. After two years of participating in the WSP team, Ejigayehu now understands the overall water system. These days, she understands all water supply technologies in the kebele, and she is supporting unserved communities to construct their water schemes using the water potential in the village. In collaboration with the kebele WSP team and the woreda health office, Ejigayehu is advocating and promoting improved latrines and sold 54 SATO products to the community, most of which are under installation.
Education office representatives are also active and valuable members of the WSP teams in most pilot kebeles. Bizantu Belihu, Director of Sida Minch Primary School and a member of the WSP team said, "Previously we haven't had this kind of opportunity to engage in various kebele-level WASH activities. From my participation in the kebele WSP activity, I believe we will provide water service to our school community because we included all institutions in our WSP."
Bereket Geribew, an agriculture officer, has joined Sida Kebele's WSP team. Previously at Arfes Kebele, he led tree planting initiatives around water sources. Continuing his efforts at Sida Kebele, he identified water sources for catchment protection, selected suitable plants, and procured 100 seedlings.
Bereket noted his awareness of afforestation's benefits but acknowledged his limited hands-on experience in water system protection. Sida, Shishir, and Arfes Kebeles are starting to plant seedlings around water sources.
The South Ari Woreda is recognising the change taking place in the pilot kebeles due to the WSP. Yonannis Melti, head of South Ari Water, Mine and Energy Office said, ‘’The water safety plan has brought about a remarkable change in the community. Previously, residents relied on the woreda to construct, protect and maintain water schemes, referring to examples from neighboring kebeles. However, with the development and implementation of the water safety plan, the community has taken an active role in WASH initiatives, particularly in safeguarding water safety. This shift in mindset is a testament to IRC's support and guidance. Encouraged by this success, we must now focus on replicating this experience in other kebeles.’’
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