UPGro T-Group research finds cancer-causing viruses in Kampala and Arusha slum groundwater

by Isaiah Esipisu and Dr Jan Willem Foppen (T-GroUP)

In Summary

  • The study found that most groundwater in the two slums contains traces of herpes virus, poxvirus and papilloma virus.
  • Cancer is one of the top killer diseases in East Africa, blamed for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

Watch EGU press-conference presentation by Dr Foppen (start 18:00 minutes into recording)

Researchers from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and their peers from Uganda and Tanzania have found traces of 25 DNA virus families — some of them with adverse health risk for humans — in underground water in the slums of Kampala and Arusha.

The study, whose findings were presented at the Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna on Monday, found that most groundwater in the two slums contains traces of herpes virus, poxvirus and papilloma virus.

CANCER

The latter could be one of the causes of cancer in East Africa.

“These viruses have never been found on such a large scale in ground water. Perhaps it is because there has never been an in-depth analysis,” said Dr Jan Willem Foppen, one of the lead researchers and a hydrologist at the IHE Delft — the largest graduate water education institution on the planet.

Cancer is one of the top killer diseases in East Africa, blamed for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

According to the latest report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, some 32,617 new cases were reported in Uganda last year, with 21,829 deaths.

32,617 DEATHS

In the same period, Kenya recorded 47,887 new cases and 32,987 deaths while there were 42,060 new cases in Tanzania with 28,610 deaths.

Scientists have therefore expressed concerns that the widespread use of groundwater in slums for cooking, cleaning and bathing poses a risk for the residents.

In the two-year study, the scientists analysed surface water (river and drain), spring water, wells and piezometers (groundwater from specific depth) in the three countries.

“We found 25 DNA virus families, of which 14 are from above ground hosts like frogs, mice, rats, cows, horses, monkeys and humans,” Dr Foppen said.

DISEASES

Of the human disease causing pathogens found in the samples, herpes virus and poxviruses can lead to skin infections while the papilloma cause some types of cancers such as cervical, laryngeal and mouth.

“This could be just a tip of the iceberg. We have not found all the viruses. We found the most abundant ones,” Dr Fopen said.

“Let’s do something about sanitation. Let us improve our sources of drinking water and identify new pathways with communities towards sustainability.”

Versions of this article have been published in:

Further papers and data will be published soon.

Cutting-edge discovery on viruses in groundwater: T-GrouP at EGU press conference

Associate Professor Jan Willem Foppen, leader of the T-GroUP project will be presenting his team’s work on mapping DNA viruses in groundwater under African cities at a press conference on Monday 8th April at 14:00 CEST.

This is part of the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), that will be held in Vienna, 7-12 April at which Jan Willem will be presenting.

More details about the research findings to follow.

Meanwhile… here is what T-GroUP has published so far:

  • Nastar, M., Isoke, J., Kulabako, R., Silvestri, G. (2019). A case for urban liveability from below: exploring the politics of water and land access for greater liveability in Kampala, Uganda. Local Environment, DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2019.1572728. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13549839.2019.1572728 
  • Silvestri, G., Wittmayer, M. J., Schipper, K., Kulabako, R., Oduro-Kwarteng, S., Nyenje, P., Komakech, H., Van Raak, R (2018). Transition Management for Improving the Sustainability of WASH Services in Informal Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa—An Exploration, Sustainability, 10(11), 4052, available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/11/4052 
  • Lutterodt, G., van de Vossenberg, J., Hoiting, Y., Kamara, A.K., Oduro-Kwarteng, S., Foppen, J.W.A. (2018). Microbial groundwater quality status of hand-dug wells and boreholes in the Dodowa area of Ghana. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 (4). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph15040730
  • Nastar, M., Abbas, S., Aponte Rivero, C., Jenkins, S. & Kooy, M. (2018): The emancipatory promise of participatory water governance for the urban poor: Reflections on the transition management approach in the cities of Dodowa, Ghana and Arusha, Tanzania, African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2018.1459287
  • Grönwall, J. & Oduro‑Kwarteng, S. (2018). Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri‑urban Accra. Environmental Earth Sciences, 77(6). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12665-017-7181-9
  • Lutterodt, G., van de Vossenberg, J., Hoiting, Y., Kamara, A.K., Oduro-Kwarteng, S., Foppen, J.W.A. (2018). Microbial groundwater quality status of hand-dug wells and boreholes in the Dodowa area of Ghana. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 (4), 730. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5923772/
  • Komakech, H.C. and de Bont, C. (2018). Differentiated access: Challenges of equitable and sustainable groundwater exploitation in Tanzania. Water Alternatives, 11(3), 623-637. Available at: http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol11/v11issue3/457-a11-3-10/file
  • Grönwall, J. (2016). Self-supply and accountability: to govern or not to govern groundwater for the (peri-) urban poor in Accra, Ghana. Environmental Earth Sciences75(16), 1163. doi:10.1007/s12665-016-5978-6

UPGro Early Career Researchers: Q&A with Suleiman Mwakurya

Suleiman Mwakurya worked as a research assistant on the Gro for GooD project in Kenya, based out of the Rural Focus field office in Kwale. He recently took on a new role working for the Kwale County Government. Gro for GooD Co-I Patrick Thomson caught up with him to find out about his new job.

PT: What is your current job now and how does it links back to your work with Gro for GooD?

SM: I started work as Superintendent Geologist for Kwale County Government at the end of 2018. My main role is carrying out hydrogeological surveys for the county government, and I’m also involved in supervision of the drilling machinery owned by the County, supervising the drilling crew and managing the rig. When I’m not in the field, I’m in the office working on project management and evaluating tenders for drilling of new boreholes. We are overwhelmed with boreholes! Everyone is coming to the county government asking for help with the drilling machine – more people want boreholes – we have a backlog of over 100 boreholes so we have been tendering some of this work to private contractors. I’m involved in designing of programmes of works for these contractors – how and where they are going to drill, installation and how management will be handed over to the county government. I also do some installation of solar pumps, electric pumps and handpumps. I really thank UPGro in general, and the whole Gro for GooD fraternity… as the project certainly equipped me with some of the skills which I’m currently using, including handpump repair and installation.

PT: How has Gro for GooD research influenced the development and management of groundwater resources in Kwale County?

SM: The County doesn’t have a lot of resources for groundwater development and groundwater monitoring. We have been drilling boreholes but we don’t have data. Hydrogeologists like Mike Lane and Professor Dan Olago can help the County with the kind of information, data and expertise that they have in terms of groundwater management. Capacity building and training for county staff is also useful. The County is working on the World Bank funded Kwale County Water Supply Master Plan and we are in the initial stages of this for the three major towns – Ukunda, Msambweni and Kwale—targeting the palaeochannels [water-bearing geological features located by the Gro for GooD project]. We are through with 28 exploratory boreholes and have the results, so are now preparing to drill a number of production boreholes. The timing will depend on the procurement process but hopefully drilling will commence in 2020. The first step will be to drill three boreholes in Kinondo, which are the ones that are going to be used to supply Ukunda town. After that we hope to drill another three boreholes in Msambweni and Milalani to supply Msambweni.

Drilling in Kwale Country (credit: Mike Lane)

PT: Tell us about your time with UPGro.

SM: I worked on the Gro for GooD project for about two and a half years. I was based in the field office in Bomani, Kwale County and was closely involved with the water quality research – sampling and recording data at 49 sampling sites every fortnight. I also assisted on the geophysical surveys, household surveys and surface water monitoring. Actually the skills I acquired at UPGro have made a big improvement in my career, particularly the experience of working on geophysical surveys and groundwater monitoring. I also had training and experience with organisation and interpretation of data as the project collected a large volume of data on groundwater, rainfall, surface water and water quality. Calvince [Wara – Research Manager at the Bomani field office] was a very good mentor for me and helped me develop skills in data management and analysis. Working with the Gro for GooD project has also inspired me on the welfare side – the household surveys made me aware of issues for people around here who face difficulty with water supplies. In densely populated areas, we see many people queueing up to use the same handpump. I have been developing proposals to upgrade some handpumps to solar pumps.

PT: What are your plans for the future?

SM: I have a passion for hydrogeology and I’m happy that the Gro for GooD project helped me develop this passion. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Nairobi in 2013. I started working as a drilling supervisor and then I joined the UPGro project and it has really opened up how I look at hydrogeology and groundwater. I learnt a lot of things from it. I’ve been looking into applying for an MSc programme maybe in Hydrogeology, or perhaps Geophysics or Hydrogeochemistry.

New state-of-the-art research collection on groundwater sustainability across Sub-Saharan Africa

An important new collection of papers has just been published online in the Hydrogeology Journal:

Substantial increases in groundwater withdrawals are expected across Sub-Saharan Africa to help nations increase access to safe water and to amplify agricultural production in pursuit of UN SDG 2 and SDG 6.  Long-term groundwater-level records or chronicles play an important role in developing an improved understanding of the hydrogeological and climatic conditions that control access and sustain well yields, informing where, when and how groundwater withdrawals can sustainably contribute to building resilience and alleviating poverty.

There are four papers in the collection (and an overview essay) that provide a sample of the new research outputs emanating from The Chronicles Consortium and UPGro GroFutures:

  • Evidence from chronicles in seasonally humid Benin and Uganda show annual cycles of replenishment from direct, diffuse recharge generated preferentially by heavy rainfalls. Kotchoni et al. show how chronicles from different geological environments in Benin can be modelled very effectively on a daily timestep with an improved watertable fluctuation model.
  • In semi-arid southwestern Niger, chronicles show that recharge to weathered crystalline rock aquifer systems occurs directly from rainfall but is restricted by a thick clayey aquitard developed from schist. However, greater recharge is shown to occur indirectly via riverbeds of ephemeral streams which provide preferential pathways through the saprolite.
  • Evidence from the Makutapora Wellfield of semi-arid central Tanzania that groundwater, abstracted at rates exceeding 30,000 m3/day, is sustained by episodic recharge associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Further, abstracted groundwater is partially modern, derived from rainfall within the last 10–60 years.
  • Studies from Benin and Niger highlight the low storage of weathered crystalline rock aquifers and the importance of modern recharge in sustaining groundwater use. The low storage and low but highly variable hydraulic conductivity of weathered and fractured crystalline rock aquifers found over more than 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa may, however, have a potential advantage. Such aquifer systems restrict opportunities for intensive and competitive abstraction and are thus potentially self-regulating. Low-intensity groundwater abstraction distributed across the landscape also complements existing land-tenure systems in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa dominated by smallholder agriculturalists.
  • The chronicles provide invaluable datasets to help direct assessments of past impacts of climate variability—e.g. ENSO, Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO)— and abstraction on groundwater storage. Such records, when continuously updated, can also provide key input to water resources management by tracking emerging risks to water security from groundwater storage decline or groundwater flooding (e.g. Murray et al. 2018).
  • Regional-scale (>50,000 km2) networks of long-term piezometric records can also be used to test the reliability of largescale, satellite observations from the Gravity Anomaly and Climate Experiment (GRACE). Indeed, the emergence of GRACE measurements of changes in total terrestrial water storage adds a potential tool, albeit at a much larger scale (>200,000 km2), to estimate changes in groundwater storage where records do not exist. However, there are substantial uncertainties from such estimates.

For full details read:

Please note that all five papers are open until 30 April, after which only 3 of the papers will be Open Access.

Text adapted from Topical Collection: Determining groundwater sustainability from long-term piezometry in Sub-Saharan Africa

New field experiments assessing groundwater storage in the Iullemmeden Basin (Niger/Nigeria)

re-posted from GroFutures

New field experiments assessing groundwater storage in the Iullemmeden Basin have recently been completed under GroFutures by a team of early career researchers. From December 2018 to January 2019, Fabrice Lawson from the Université d’Abomey Calavi and IRD in Benin (UAC/IRD), and Jean-Baptist Gnonhoue (IRD, Benin) worked with colleagues, Rabilou Mahaman and Boukari Issoufou from the Université Abdou Moumouni of Niamey (UAMN) in Niger to conduct field experiments applying Magnetic Resonance Sounding (MRS) and Time Domain Electromagnetics (TDEM), to generate in-situ measurements of groundwater storage. Such measurements of groundwater storage are rare despite their fundamental importance to understanding quantitatively the availability and sustainability of groundwater resources.

In total, the team conducted experiments at 26 sites, including 13 in the Dallol-Maouri region in central Niger and 13 in the Goulbi-Maradi region in southeastern Niger, just north of the border with Nigeria. Fabrice and Jean-Baptist led this field research sharing their expertise with their counterparts in Niger. Fabrice and Jean-Baptist (an early career scientist and engineer, respectively) developed their expertise to apply these sophisticated instruments under the tutelage of Jean-Michel Vouillamoz of IRD based at the University of Grenoble, France. The team was also supported by the lead GroFuturesresearchers in the Iullemmeden Basin Observatory, Professor Yahaya Nazoumou at UAMN and Dr. Guillaume Favreau of IRD, Niamey.

Results from field experiments and the subsequent processing and analyses of data will inform not only evaluations of available groundwater resources in these regions of the Iullemmeden Basin but also stress-testing of groundwater development pathways, developed by stakeholders, through numerical modelling. Well done to Fabrice, Jean-Baptist, Rabilou and Boukari!

Combined Benin-Niger GroFutures field team with supporters working in Goulbi-Maradi (left); Early Career scientists under GroFutures, Fabrice Lawson (UAC/IRD, Benin), Jean-Baptist Gnonhoue (IRD, Benin), Rabilou Mahaman (UAMN, Niger), and Boukari Issoufou (UAMN, Niger) running MRS experiments in Goulbi-Maradi (right).

3 new UPGro papers + Groundwater to be the UN-Water theme for 2022

We are delighted to report that UN-Water, the coordinating body for water issues across the United Nations, in a meeting this week agreed to make the theme of the 2022 World Water Development Report and World Water Day: “Groundwater: making the invisible visible” http://enb.iisd.org/water/un/30/html/enbplus82num34e.html

Meanwhile three new UPGro papers have recently been published:

“Groundwater hydrodynamics of an Eastern Africa coastal aquifer, including La Niña 2016–17 drought”

Núria Ferrera; Albert Folch; Mike Lane; Daniel Olago; JuliusOdida; Emilio Custodio  (Gro for GooD)

Key Points

  • An East African costal aquifer was characterized before and during La Niña 2016/17.
  • The recharge was reduced 69% compared to average annual rainfall.
  • Lower recharge during first and nil recharge during the second wet season
  • No important groundwater quality changes observed inland
  • Increase of seawater intrusion even during the wet season

This paper is accessible from here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719302177?dgcid=coauthor until 13 March

“A case for urban liveability from below: exploring the politics of water and land access for greater liveability in Kampala, Uganda”

Maryam Nastar, Jennifer Isoke, Robinah Kulabako & Giorgia Silvestri (T-GroUP) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13549839.2019.1572728

Key Points

  • Despite efforts of local governments and NGOs to put public service delivery systems in place, there is a gap between goals and actual impacts on citizens’ quality of life
  • Decentralisation has faced challenges from the emergence of national partisan political struggles in local areas.
  • Pre-paid standpipes were installed with magnetic charge cards handed out for free. Initially a UGX25 card top-up bought 4 jerry cans (20l), overtime this reduced to 3 jerry cans. If a card was lost or stolen then a replacement cost users UGX15,000-25,000, which was unaffordable to many slum dwellers who then bought water from the standpipe caretakers for UGX 100-250/jerry can. Intermittent water supply from pre-paid meters is another factor making residents seek alternative water sources – generally unsafe springs, or from vendors and resellers at UGX 200-1,000 per jerry can.
  • Water is just one problem for residents – access roads, waste disposal, expensive school fees and high youth unemployment also mentioned in interviews.
  • Local elections have not happened as mandated because the government fears they will lead to social unrest. This has contribute to resident distrust of local government. 
  • Land ownership is a major barrier to water access and sustainability: there are no clear land records and there are many layers of complexity involving landlords, tenants, the city and traditional authorities.  Changing the land title from private to communal for WASH facilities is essential.
  • Political parties do sometimes co-opt community leaders and demobilise communities, but they can also create political spaces for debate on governance, rules and policies.
  • Strong social capital/networks and trust can help mobilise community power and resources, but can exclude some residents from decision-making processes.
  • NGOs, universities and social movements can play a crucial role in magnifying the ability of communities to act together and achieve liveability goals.

Transition Management for Improving the Sustainability of WASH Services in Informal Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa—An Exploration. 

Silvestri, G.; Wittmayer, J.M.; Schipper, K.; Kulabako, R.; Oduro-Kwarteng, S.; Nyenje, P.; Komakech, H.; Van Raak, R. (T-GroUP) https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/11/4052

Key points:

  • “Transition Management” is a participatory planning technique developed for addressing sustainability issues in Europe. The UPGro T-GroUP project is one of the few examples of trying to apply the method in another context: Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania), Dodowa (Ghana).
  • The authors identify five contextual factors that account for unsustainable WASH services:
    • Access to water and sanitation in informal settlements comprises a mosaic of formal and informal practices, water sources, sanitation facilities, behaviours and actors.
    • Fragmented and low governance capacity. Low levels of trust between actors.
    • Landownership: unequal and skewed. In Kampala, water and sanitation projects failed due to land conflict; landowners ‘donated’ land for the facilities but after some years later they would take back possession of the land and deny access to the facilities without paying.
    • Public participation in general and WASH services in particular:  more vulnerable community members are excluded
    • Unequal access to WASH services, for example water price varying on social status, with women being disproportionately disadvantaged. Low access to education plays a crucial role.
  • Transition Management was developed based on liberal representative democracies, but this experience in Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that here it needs to be about enlarging and strengthening democratic space  – as a method it is not neutral or universal but shaped by cultural norms and expectations.

Multiple actions have been developed by community members in Kampala to address their sustainability problems

by Giorgia Silvestri re-posted from T-group.science

At the end of October 2018 the local transition team in Kampala has been very active organizing three ‘agenda setting’ transition arena meetings with participants from multiple communities (such as Makerere, Mukubira, Bwaise and Kawaala) in informal settlements in Kampala. The meetings aimed at supporting participants to develop short, medium and long term actions that would address the already identified local problems.

The local transition teams started the arena meetings by sharing some of the most important insights from previous meetings such as the vision narratives previously developed by the participants. The back-casting methodology was then used to support the participants to identify short, medium and long term actions.


Figure 1. A group of participants Kawaala community during the back-casting exercise

The majority of the short-term actions developed by the participants were associated to educational and awareness raising activities related to water, sanitation and waste management. Some groups of participants discussed how to teach community members correct hygiene practices, proper construction of toilet facilities and practices of maintenance and protection of water sources. In one of the groups in Makerere and Mukubira zones, participants discussed to run a water harvesting plan at household level and to start lobbying with institutions like KCCA and NWSC to increase sensitization activities at community level related to water and sanitation best practices.

During the meeting with participants from Makerere and Mukubira zones, one of the developed long term actions consisted of creating a rewarding system for individuals who would carry on good practices in protecting and preserving water sources.

Other major actions developed in all organized meetings were related to ensure the enforcement of laws related to water, waste and sanitation management. In Bwaise, for example, the implementation of fines related to poor toilet usage and construction were discussed.  

Additionally, participants in all areas spoke about the importance of mobilizing community members and setting up active groups aiming to carry on sensitization activities and to ensure the maintenance of services over time. For example, in Makerere and Mukubira zones, one group of participants would like to form a water committee, while in Bwaise zone the group of participants focusing on the problem of sanitation had the idea to form community led groups to prevent unplanned toilet construction.

Other important actions included the creation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) for supporting the local circular economy by producing products from waste materials.


Figure 2. A group of participants from Makerere and Mukubira zones are brainstorming about the actions to be developed in their communities.

The results of the ‘agenda setting’ arena meetings show that the implementation of facilities and services alone do not contribute to solve local water, sanitation and waste management problems. Rather, a combination of actions is needed for addressing the rooted and interlinked problems. New organizational and governance capacities at both community and institutional level need to be developed in order to ensure the maintenance of facilities over time. The change of practices and behaviors related to water, sanitation and waste management need to be constantly supported by organizing awareness raising and education activities, by mobilizing and empowering community members, such as through active groups as well as by ensuring the reinforcement of laws. The collaboration and dialogue between local community members, institutional organisations, NGOs and private companies play a key role in the implementation of these actions and will be further explored in the next meetings taking place in January.

The Politics of Water 3: Area Mechanics in Malawi

by Naomi Oates, re-posted from University of Sheffield

Competing narratives surround the role of ‘area mechanics’ in Malawi

In November 2017 I started my ‘politics of water’ blog as an outlet to share experiences and findings from my research in rural Malawi on water governance and service sustainability.

The first instalment describes my initial impressions of Balaka District while the second explores the relationship between extension workers and rural communities.

This might have left you wondering – what about everyone else?


Area Mechanics receive hands-on training in water point repairs (Author’s own)

Water services in Malawi are decentralised, at least in theory.  This means two things. Firstly, district councils, together with district water offices, are mandated to develop and monitor water infrastructure in rural areas.

Secondly, communities are expected to maintain and repair their water points with minimal external assistance. For more serious problems, local ‘area mechanics’ are their first port of call, followed by the district water office.

In reality, district water offices are severely under resourced, there are currently few area mechanics, and the effectiveness of community-based management varies considerably. However, where they are present, area mechanics are thought to play an important role in keeping water points functioning.

Area Mechanics: volunteers or entrepreneurs?

So what is an area mechanic? This sounds like a simple question, but the answers are complex and contradictory.

The area mechanics Thoko interviewed in Balaka for her MSc research tended to consider themselves, foremost, as volunteers working for the greater good of the community. After all, they were selected from the local community and have strong social ties with the people they serve. An area mechanic may be a relative, a neighbour or a fellow churchgoer, even the village headman himself. Trustworthiness was emphasised by communities as an important criteria.


This training manual describes area mechanics as ‘artisans in advanced hand pump repair operating on a payment basis’ (GoM 2015)

The depiction of area mechanics as volunteers has been echoed in my own conversations with extension staff and NGO workers, but in combination with another term – entrepreneur. According to national policy, area mechanics are meant to operate as independent businesspersons. They are given training and a few basic tools, after which they are expected to make a small profit to sustain their operations. They are also encouraged to sign written contracts with communities to clarify payment for services.

This model is clearly aimed at economic viability and is meant to incentivise area mechanics by providing them with an income. Arguably, the model has failed to gain traction locally because it ignores the social context in which area mechanics operate.

A third view is that area mechanics are integral to formal water governance arrangements – in other words part of, or plugging a gap in, the government’s extension system. This may not be stated explicitly, but is implicit in the use of government issued ID cards.

To give another example, area mechanics are sometimes (but not always) introduced to communities by a government representative in order to establish their legitimacy. Several of the area mechanics Thoko spoke to wanted their role to be formalised to enable them to negotiate fees with communities, or conversely in the hope of receiving material and financial support from government.

The ambiguity of water mechanics

Despite appearances, none of these narratives is mutually exclusive, and they may be employed at different times depending on the context. As one extension worker explained to me:

“Area mechanics are entrepreneurs by design and should make communities aware of that. They are supposed to have a signed agreement. The area mechanic needs to be paid, a little.”


Area mechanics often prefer working as a team – two heads being better than one! (Author’s own)

He then went on to clarify:

“It is not payment as such but a token of appreciation. It is up to them if they want to work for free. However they shouldn’t deny assistance to a Water Point Committee just because they don’t have money.”

The ambiguity surrounding area mechanics can be confusing and could be viewed as a failure of policy (or its implementation). But, in my view, that conclusion would be overly simplistic and misses the point.

The co-existence of these different narratives, or interpretations of policy, leaves room for negotiation and pragmatism. These are arguably important ingredients for success, especially when adapting policies to local realities. In short, the role of area mechanics in Malawi’s water governance system is not yet set in stone.

In addition to my PhD fieldwork this blog draws on previous work by the authors under the UPGro Hidden Crisis project. Check out our report on the political economy of rural water supplies in Malawi.

Developing short, medium and long term actions for improving water, sanitation and waste management in Dodowa (Ghana)

re-posted from T-GroUP.science

On 28th and 29th of March and on 23rd and 24th of May 2018, the Dodowa Transition team supported the inhabitants of a number of Dodowa communities taking part in the Transition Management process to develop short, medium and long term actions supporting the improvement of water and sanitation services in their communities. In order to do so, the transition team organized eight different arena meetings with participants of the Apperkon, Wedokum, Zongo and Obom communities. In addition, representatives of local institutions, NGOs (e.g. People’s Dialogue) and grassroots initiatives such as the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor and People’s Dialogue were invited to join the meetings.

During the March meetings the participants worked in different groups and defined and described the actions for getting closer to their visions of cleaner, healthier and safer communities. In addition, discussions were held on which practices and behaviors need to change in order to achieve their visions.

During the meetings in May, the participants were asked to give priority to some of the actions already developed in the previous meetings, to discuss them in more detail in different groups and to develop a plan for each priority action. The presence of community mobilisers and representatives of NGOs and local institutions was key in this phase of the process. They shared lessons learnt in their work, gave examples of activities and projects developed by active groups of inhabitants in other communities, and collaborations existing between community members and local institutions.

They also shared methods that effectively resulted in engaging and raising awareness related to multiple issues including water and sanitation practices and behaviors. It was important for the participants to hear how community members started to collaborate with local authorities and other institutions and managed to get support for implementing water and sanitation services.

These insights were particularly important for inspiring the participants and for motivating them to act in their communities. The developed action plans for the priority actions included multiple issues such as the resources needed, the list of institutions and stakeholders to collaborate with, and the skills and knowledge needed to implement them.

At the end of the meetings the participants developed multiple action plans, related for example to the organization of community festivals for raising awareness on water and sanitation practices, the participatory mapping of existing water and sanitation services in the communities, and to start a dialogue with the local authority (i.e. district assembly).

 

Photo: Participants from Wedokum community listening to a representative of a local grassroots movement (credit: T-GroUP)

“They Gave Us Breakfast and a Good Meal”: Roles, Perceptions and Motivations of Water Point Area Mechanics in the Maintenance of Borehole Hand Pumps in Balaka District, Malawi

by Thokozani Mtewa, Evans Mwathunga, Wapumuluka, Mulwafu

Abstract

“In the rural areas of Malawi, water is accessed mostly through boreholes. The borehole and hand pump functionality concept is currently getting a central place in development agenda for the provision of affordable and safe water supply under the Sustainable Development Goals.

A study on area mechanics and borehole functionality was conducted in Balaka district in Malawi in 2017. The study used qualitative research methods of data collection using
political economy analysis to understand the role of Area Mechanics (AMs), their relationships with water point committees and other stakeholders, their perceptions,
motivations and challenges. Questionnaires and an audio recorder were employed to
collect data from individual interviews and focus groups.

The study findings revealed that even though the system of AMs is well defined in
policy, in practice things are done differently. The AMs defined their jobs differently; from entrepreneurs (10%) to community volunteers (90%) and the sizes of catchment areas of AMs are mostly divided informally and unequally which affects service delivery.
The study also found AMs are motivated by both monetary and non-monetary benefits
from the communities under their jurisdictions.

Consequently, overall the level of incentives and disincentives seem to have affected
their maintenance service provision as well as their relationships with other water point
stakeholders. For proper functioning of an AM system as part of groundwater infrastructure, this paper therefore proposes the need to revise the policy and procedures in training, selection and allocation of AMs as well regular short term trainings to area mechanics at district level.”

Source: Conference Abstract