Groundwater Science meets Policy at AfWA Congress

Day 2 of the AfWA Congress in Kampala, and the UPGro-convened stream of groundwater sessions got underway. First up was  session focusing on the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP), with an opening by AMCOW Executive Secretary, Dr Canisius Kanangire, followed by a panel, featuring Tim Sumner from DFID

This was followed by two further sessions with lively presentations and Q&A on UPGro research from GroFutures and T-GroUP. Tomorrow, further sessions will include presentations from UPGro researchers and other close groundwater partners, including BGR.  These few days have been a culmination of many years work to bring UPGro researchers close to others working on African groundwater and to policy makers at the continental and national levels.

Afterwards, Isaiah Esipisu caught up with Dr Paul Orengoh who explained the aims and progress of APAGRoP:

(Photos; Isaiah Esipisu/Kirsty Upton)

Groundwater could be the solution to contaminated Kampala slum water crisis

by Isaiah Esipisu

After a recent study discovered traces of dangerous viruses including cancer causing pathogens in shallow groundwater in Kampala slums, residents of Makerere 2 Zone C can finally breathe a sigh of relief as further studies indicate that deeper groundwater in their area could be safe for drinking.

In collaboration with a community based organisation known as MAK H2O Project, scientists from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education together with their counterparts from Makerere University have been working with communities to find out the best way of managing their groundwater in a sustainable manner.

“As a short term measure, we have been encouraging community members to boil the water from slum springs before drinking,” said Brian Lutaaya, the Chair – MAK H2O Project.

Most of the water springs in Makerere 2 Zone C are just a few meters from pit latrines, a clear indication that the water, which appears to be sparkling clear, is likely contaminated with fecal matter. The water is fetched from an open earth surface. This makes it susceptible to all manners of waste contamination brought around by wind, rainfall runoff water and even malicious individuals.

“We are fully aware of the dangers involved, but we have no alternative source of water for drinking and for domestic use,” Edith Kansiime, one of the area residents said during a field visit by UPGro delegation to the 2020 Africa Water Association (AfWA) International Congress.

Taps in most parts of the slum went dry some years ago. The only available alternative is to buy mineral water from the shops, which is too costly for most of the slum dwellers.

As a result, the surface water has exposed them to several disease causing pathogens, some which are life threatening.

A recent study by IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in collaboration with scientists from universities in Uganda and Tanzania discovered traces of 25 different harmful viruses in surface water in the slums of Kampala and Arusha.

The study, whose findings were presented at the Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria, found that most groundwater in the two slums contained traces of herpes viruses, poxviruses, and papilloma-virus. The latter could be one of the causes of different types of cancers in the region.

Cancer is one of the lead killer diseases in the East African region, claiming about 100,000 lives every year.

According to Lutaaya, the condition of spring water in Bwaise in Kampala, where the study was conducted is not different from the situation in lower Makerere slums.

“To our knowledge, these viruses have never been found in groundwater before on such a large scale, perhaps because there has never been an in-depth analysis,” said Dr Jan Willem Foppen, one of the researchers.

To support the communities, the scientists have been conducting experiments to understand the nature and safety of groundwater in these slums.

In lower Makerere slum for example, the research scientists through the UKaid funded UPGro programme, in a project known as T-GroUP, the scientists have sunk two boreholes, one with a shallow depth of just three metres, and another with a depth of 25 metres.

The researchers have been monitoring the water quality in both boreholes for a number of months, and the early indication is that the deeper borehole has much safer water compared to the three metre shallow borehole.

“We have not concluded this study, but there is an indication that deeper groundwater is likely going to be the solution for thousands of residents in this slum,” said Dr Foppen.

Through the T-GroUP, the scientists have been experimenting with practical transition groundwater management strategies for the urban poor in Sub Saharan Africa. They employ the Transition Management theory to find radically new and collaborative ways of using and managing urban groundwater.

From a dream of becoming a Medical Doctor to a Civil Engineer – the Career Journey of Jennifer Isoke

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu

Jennifer Brenda Isoke is a Ugandan female Civil Engineer with a purpose. Besides being a public servant, Isoke has spent invaluable amount of time in different universities since 2003, preparing and delivering lecture presentations to students pursuing Construction Technology, Concrete Technology and Mechanical Plant.

She has lectured at the Uganda Technical College Kichwamba, at the Department of Water Engineering, and at Ndejje University College. To date, she is a part time lecturer at the Uganda Christian University Mukono, and she also works at the Uganda Technical College Elgon as a senior lecturer.

J-Isoke
Jennifer Brenda Isoke (photo courtesy of: J B Isoke)

Besides her dedication to imparting of knowledge to upcoming civil engineers, she is a public servant working at the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board, which is a government Agency under the Ministry of Education Responsible for the national assessment of tertiary institutions in Uganda.

Given her vast knowledge and experience, Isoke has been part of the UPGro team of researchers under the T-Group. As a result, she has made a number of presentations in major conferences not limited to a presentation at the plenary session at the 2019 UMI conference, which was done in the presence of former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki.

UPGro Knowledge Broker team caught up with her, to find out what drives her enthusiasm.

[main photo: Jennifer Isoke sharing a copy of the UPGro research with residents of Bwaise, Kampala; Photo courtesy of J B Isoke]

Continue reading From a dream of becoming a Medical Doctor to a Civil Engineer – the Career Journey of Jennifer Isoke

Dodowa residents prone to diseases from contaminated wells – Research

by Gifty Amofa/Christabella Arkvi, Ghana News Agency 

More than 12,000 people are likely to contract water-borne diseases if they continue to use water from their contaminated dug wells in Dodowa, in the Greater Accra Region, according to a research report.

Samples of water were tested for rotavirus, bacteriological quality and others, with about 27 percent of the dug wells testing positive for Rotavirus in the Zongo, Wedokum, Obom and Apperkon communities, where the research was conducted.

Professor Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng, an Associate Professor of the Department of Civil Engineering, of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), who shared the findings, said the groundwater, located near toilet facilities and refuse dumps had been contaminated with human and animal excreta.

Continue reading Dodowa residents prone to diseases from contaminated wells – Research

Dr Robinah Kulabako: A new vision for empowered communities and safe water in Kampala

Dr Robinah Kulabako of Makerere University describes the research work of T-GroUP – one of five projects in the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) and her work on Transition Management to trigger community action to improve access to safe water.

Listen to the interview with her by Isaiah Esipisu on Soundcloud

Find out more here: t-group.science
and here: UPGro/T-GroUP

Photo: Dr. Kulabako at Africa Water Week 2018 (I. Esipisu)

Transition Management mobilises community members in Obom, Ghana to organise neighbourhood clean-ups

Re-posted from T-Group by Giorgia Silvestri

Figure 1. Women and children during the clean-up activities

Residents and community organisers from two communities within Obom area (‘School town’ and ‘Water works’) came together to organize a clean-up activity. According to one committee member of Obom, this activity was possible due to the pilot projects developed as a result of the Transition Management process (as part of the overall T-GroUP project).

One of these pilot projects consisted of the development of jingles (i.e. short songs that are usually transmitted via radio) by different groups of community members on issues related to the sustainable management of local resources (e.g. water, sanitation and waste management in the communities).

These jingles were transmitted over the last months through the local communication centres and raised awareness among community members on water, sanitation and sustainability issues.

According to the committee member, this level of engagement among community members has never occurred before: ‘the T-GroUP arena meetings united us and we are now moving forward’. People are becoming more conscious of their behaviours, like collecting and recycling waste, avoiding open defecation or building proper and sustainable sanitation facilities.

Figure 2. Community organizer gathering people after the clean-up activities

In addition to the clean-up activities, community members have started, for example, to learn how to build sustainable toilets through the participation in training or to organise meetings and events to engage other community members in sustainability activities.

After the clean-up activities, people from ‘School town’ community provided some drinks and participants from the different communities had the opportunity to get to know each other and share their experience in participating in the clean-up activity.

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

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.