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.

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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

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.

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.

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)

Arena meeting participants visited a number of informal settlements in Arusha (Tanzania)

re-posted from Tgroups.science

On May 30, 2018, the participants of the Transition Management process, multiple actors active in different organisations and sectors such as the government, NGOs and the University, visited different informal settlements in Arusha with the aim to learn about local challenges and opportunities (e.g. innovative projects and initiatives).

Continue reading Arena meeting participants visited a number of informal settlements in Arusha (Tanzania)

How is the Transition Management approach applied in Dodowa peri-urban area? Have a look at these short videos!

Re-posted from T-Group.science

The first video shows a number of insights and key moments from the first Transition Management arena meeting organised by the local transition team. Participants first reflected on and discussed the main problems affecting their communities. Their inputs were collected and problems were prioritized. In the majority of the meetings, inadequate sanitation facilities, water contamination and improper waste management were mentioned as priority problems. The participants were then invited to discuss the reasons for the persistence of these problems in order to reflect upon their rooted causes and the interconnections between them.

Continue reading How is the Transition Management approach applied in Dodowa peri-urban area? Have a look at these short videos!

How are multiple actors identifying and discussing the main problems affecting their community? Insights from the Transition Management process in Kawala community, Kampala (Uganda)

Sixteen participants belonging to Kawaala community participated in the first Transition Management arena with the aim to define the most urgent and priority problems in their communities. The participants arrived on time and shared since the beginning of the meeting their motivation to participate. Most of the participants already knew the T-GroUP research team since it has been disseminating its research findings in the community and some researchers participated in some of the meetings organized at community level. The dissemination of information and the continuous engagement of the researchers at community level played a key role in building trust with the community residents and in creating a comfortable atmosphere during the Transition Arena meeting. After an introduction given by the local team coordinator Prof. Robinah Kulabako, the participants discussed in two groups the most important problems in Kawala community.

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Figure 1. Participants of the TM arena meeting working in groups.

Participants voiced the following as the main challenges affecting their community: lack of water supply, insecurity, inadequate sanitation facilities, poor infrastructures (e.g. roads and houses), contamination and scarcity of water, unemployment and poor waste management services. Then, participants in each group were invited to discuss the causes of these problems as well as the reasons of persistence. Multiple causes of the problems described above were discussed, such as the low awareness of the residents on how to build proper sanitation facilities or how to collect waste, the corruption and political tensions in the different sectors, and the lack of consultation and participation of local residents in decision-making processes run by local authorities. A representative from each group very enthusiastically presented the main points discussed in their group, as shown in the following picture.

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Figure 2. A participant presenting the main insights from the work done in his group.

The other participants actively participated in this last part of the meeting by asking questions, sharing their point of view and adding other examples connected to their experiences. One of the highlight of the meeting is that political tensions should be taken into account in the multi-stakeholder process because they are one of the causes of failure of many projects and initiatives in Kampala. The engagement, participation and collaboration with local authorities like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and public utility companies like the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) is key for the development of new practices, cultures and policies related to water, sanitation and waste management. Additionally, the unsustainable behavior and practices of local residents regarding water, waste and sanitation management needs to be taken into account and innovative ways of engaging and sensitizing citizens need to be explored.

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Figure 3. A woman sharing her point of view during an open discussion.

 

Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems

by Jan Willem Foppen, re-posted from T-GroUP

Arusha is one of the faster-growing cities in Tanzania. The urbanization process is causing multiple interconnected problems. The first arena meeting organized as part of the T-Group Arusha Transition Management process was held by the local transition team with the aim to identify the existing community problems in Arusha. Below we briefly describe the findings from the first Arena meeting.

Continue reading Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems