News and Blog

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.

Webinar: Communicating groundwater-climate behaviour with African farmers

As part of RWSN webinar series on “Leave No-one Behind” we have webinars tomorrow in English and French on “Communicating groundwater-climate behaviour with African farmers”.

This webinar presents two examples of work from the UPGro: Núria Ferrer and Dr Albert Foch from the Universtat Politéchnica de Catalunya (Gro for GooD project) will show what global and regional climate variability, and climate change, means for soil water and groundwater in coastal Kenya, on which farmers depend. Cristina Talons, from the Lorna Yong Foundation (BRAVE project) will then present their work in Burkina Faso and Ghana to communicate with farmers using radio to provide essential support to their livelihoods in the face of climate challenges.

Register for the English (13:30 British Summer Time) https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_fdI-9RUSRciYum2COSP6Kw

Register for the French (11:00 Central European Time): https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ab4HDYCRS5uoCHdanZAw3A

I hope you can join us, and if you can’t the recordings will be available afterwards here https://vimeo.com/ruralwater and here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_HF52TbX73xANXQ_ezXrEg/videos

Groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa – special issue of Hydrogeology Journal

The IAH Hydrogeology Journal has published a special issue focusing on groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa and good overview is provided in the online Preface.

The main UPGro contributions are:

Prof. Dan Olago (University of Nairobi / Gro for GooD) Constraints and solutions for groundwater development, supply and governance in urban areas in Kenya

Dr Callist Tindimugaya (MWE Uganda / UPGro Ambassador) Review: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable groundwater management in Africa

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).

Job: AMCOW Groundwater Desk Officer

Closing Date: 4 March, 2019

African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW)

AMCOW is an intergovernmental, Pan-African, non-budgetary institution working under the Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment of the African Union (AU), and provides political oversight on water resources and sanitation in Africa. AMCOW’s mission is to promote cooperation, security, social and economic development, and poverty alleviation among member states through the effective management of the continent’s water resources and the provision of water supply and sanitation services, and is mandated to provide political leadership in the implementation of the African Water Vision 2025 and water components of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The Groundwater Desk Officer will be responsible for setting up and operationalizing the groundwater function at AMCOW Secretariat. He/she will coordinate all groundwater activities with the view to shaping knowledge and action on groundwater development and management on the continent. Specifically, the position holder will:

Systematically map and maintain an updated database of stakeholders engaged in groundwater activities on the continent.  This includes having a clear understanding of the types and sizes of such institutions/organizations, and their thematic and  geographical foci.

Work with such identified institutions/organizations with the view to establishing coordinating and collaboration  mechanisms and platforms for groundwater activities in Africa.

Lead in Collating, Analyzing and Managing Knowledge on Groundwater with the intention of shaping opinion and  influencing action on sustainable groundwater development and management in Africa, at appropriate levels.

Click here more for details…

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.