Improved sanitation and water access for Morrumballa communities

The story of Quembo

Anna Vincente Chico, a grade three pupil is queuing up with her classmates and awaiting her turn to drink water from a newly installed water tap at Chingondole Primary School in the Zambezia province of Mozambique. A few months ago, she and her school pupils would have had to walk at least a kilometre to fetch water from the nearest water point.

She aspires to be a doctor when she grows up. However, in an environment where schools are under resourced and lack even the most basic of amenities, her chances of attaining her dreams are next to nil. Among other issues to be addressed to improve the education system in Mozambique is investment in infrastructure including water and sanitation facilities.

“We now have piped water at the school and we no longer walk long distances when we feel thirsty during school days. The water is safe to drink and we can now wash our hands after using the toilet”, said Ana.

There has been a remarkable change in the lives of the pupils and teachers at Chingondole Primary School, who now have access to safe drinking water from a solar water reticulation system installed and the school pupils now have access to adequate latrines.

This has been as a result of Support for communities in rural Mozambique: the provision of improved access to water and sanitation, education on issues including hygiene, health and sanitation project implemented by Practical Action Southern Africa in partnership with Save the Children UK in Morrumbala District in Mozambique’s Zambezia Province.  Funded by the Cooperative Group in the United Kingdom, the project was implemented from March 2010 to April 2011 and sought to increase access to safe sanitation and water facilities to 200 households including 1300 children of school going age in the Districts of Morrumbala and Mopeia (Quembo, Nhamisundo and Chingondole).

Rural sanitation is a major concern in Mozambique where only 26% of the rural population has access to improved water sources and 19% to sanitation.  Hygiene practices are also very poor in rural communities.

The project therefore worked on countering these challenges among communities in Morrumbala and Mopeia Districts to improve rural water supply and sanitation. In addition to constructing physical structures such as latrines and water points, the project also focused on increasing knowledge of good sanitation and hygiene practices.

From March 2010 to April 2011 the project achieved the following milestones:

  • 201 households’ ecological sanitation toilets were constructed and are in use and the communities have increased access to safe sanitation.
  • 26 Health and Hygiene Peer   educators from three local communities in Chingondole and Quembo (Zambezia Province) were trained in Participatory Health and Hygiene   Education and are in turn training the 2000 local communities.
  • 28 squat hole Blair Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines were constructed and are now in use at three school in the two districts Chingondole (Chingondole (6) and Quembo (16) in Morrumbala district and Nhamissundo (6) in Mopeia district)
  • Five Village Pump Mechanics were trained in basic hand pump maintenance
  • Three new boreholes were drilled at Chingondole and Nhammisundo Primary schools and at Quembo village. The Boreholes were fitted with Afridev hand pumps (Which are the accepted technology in Mozambique) and head works. However, the borehole at Chingondole Primary School was later equipped with an electric pump. By end of project, no break downs had been reported showing the impact of the water point training received by the community.

At Chingondole Primary School, the project installed a solar powered water pumping system and solar electricity in the classrooms. The solar water pumping system is now providing piped water to the school and the surrounding community.
In a country where rural energy access remains low at 7% this system is providing a viable renewable energy source that tackles access to safe water and at the same time providing electricity for rural schools and communities.

According to the school Headmaster, Arthur Zeka Candrinho, the solar water pumping system has had a positive impact on the school’s 800 pupils and over 180 households from surrounding communities.

“The school children used to walk distances of up to one kilometre just to get drinking water. This used to disrupt lessons as the children spent more time walking to and from the nearest water point. The school is the only one in the district with this innovation and children are now motivated to come to school”, he said.

The solar system providing lighting to the classrooms has enabled the school to conduct adult education through evening classes.  Apart from the solar installations, there was a component to distribute rechargeable solar lanterns to school staff and the local community. The lanterns are recharged at the school.

“Chingondole Primary School is the first such school in the district to have this system and it is likely to attract more qualified teachers to the school and also increase our school attendance figures”, concluded Candrinho.

The project also covered significant ground in the construction of sanitation facilities at schools in the two Districts. In Mozambique thousands of children die every year as a result of diarrhoea and other diseases related to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene. Only 30 per cent of primary schools have access to safe water and sanitation facilities. This has a detrimental impact on the enrolment, retention and performance of children at school, especially girls.

Quembo Primary school for instance was established in 1997, but the classroom block was constructed using mud, sticks and grass thatch. Pedro Lapso Binze, a teacher at the school stated, “Since the establishment of the school, the children have never had a latrine to use during lessons and used nearby bushes. There is a general lack of household hygiene leading to waterborne diseases which are also prevalent in the school such as diarrhoea and skin infections”.

“The situation has improved now and the children have toilets to use during school lessons. As teachers, we are working very hard to ensure that these sanitation facilities are hygienic and the children are now aware of hygienic practices such as washing hands and the importance of drinking safe water. We also hold regular programmes on hygiene promotion at school and within the Quembo community”, added Binze. 

According to  Ali Risciro Banqui, a teacher at Chingondole Primary School, the community’s involvement has had many positive effects on the school and they have overcome an important barrier to children’s attendance, as well as the prevention of many infections and infestations:  

“The number of pupils is growing, there are more girls now and the drop-out rate is falling. The management of the school is much better with the participation of the community”, he said.

At the household level, a total of 201 household toilets were constructed in Quembo and Nhamissundo areas. Of the 201 structures, 192 were completed in Quembo and 8 in Nhamissundo

There has been a great change in the mindset of the target communities with regards to practicing safe sanitation. This has been achieved through advocacy and awareness through the use of local leadership and trained Peer educators.

Adoption of the use of latrines was an uphill task that was beyond the original project design. Communities in the target areas used to grow little bushes around their households and beyond in order for them to relieve themselves. Communities did not have knowledge of diseases vectors such as flies, domestic livestock such as chickens and dogs. They had little knowledge on the effects of practicing Open defecation.

To improve the water supply situation in the two Districts, three boreholes were drilled in the three target communities and 1345 children of school going age and 1750 community members are currently using the three drilled boreholes. Previously, these communities were being serviced by 2 boreholes and unprotected water sources. Women and girls were forced to travel up to 3km to obtain water, a chore that often occupies several hours of the day.

Lucia Jose Nsunza (38), is a mother of four children and a resident of Nsunza in Quembo. Before a borehole was drilled and installed in Nsunza, she faced the daunting task of making up to three trips a day to fetch water for domestic use.
“Before the project provided the Nsunza community with a borehole, we were forced to fetch water at a water point in Quembo, about 2 kilometres from here. We would spend more time fetching water and leaving very little time to do anything else” she narrated.

Several other women and girls were gathered at the Nsunza water point, and as they prepared to fill their 25 litre containers and some already balancing these on their heads and heading for their homesteads close by, it was quite evident that their plight of walking long distances with heavy loads has been lessened. 

According to Luciano Francelino Quembo, the Quembo Village Head, the project has assisted the community particularly in providing proper sanitation in schools and homes and also improving access to safe and clean water.

"The project was accepted with open arms by the community and parents have also been participating fully in the project, mobilising resources such as building materials to build the pit latrines for the pupils. I foresee increased attendance at the school as a result of the increase in access to safe water and sanitation facilities”.

One of the key project components focused on the capacity building of communities on aspects such as enhancing building skills to community based builders, training of water point committees, training of pump mechanics and general community participation in development projects.

Carlito Timotio Nsunza is a 29 year old married man living with his wife Gloria and three children aged twelve, eight and three in the village of Nsunza in Quembo. His only form of livelihood was from selling fish caught on the perennial Shire River, which passes through the district as it head to Zambezi River. He had been practicing fishing since his early years but the returns had been dwindling over the years due to the increasing number of fishers and the decreasing fish population in the river.  

Carlito was selected among other villagers and was trained in the construction of latrines. He also received training in Participatory Health and Hygiene Promotion (PHHE)..

“Things had become difficult and I could no longer fend for my family. When I got the opportunity to participate in this project, I gave it my best because I had to find an alternative way to earn a living”, narrated Carlito.

With the experience that he got from the project, he is now being contracted by other organisations and companies who are involved in construction projects in Quembo. Currently he is the chief builder with a contractor involved in the construction of toilets in Pinda area.

“With the skills I acquired from the project, I now earn a living through construction jobs here in Quembo and I am now able to take care of my family”, he added.

Mussa Armando (27) is another community member who received training to be a Pump Mechanic and on the construction of latrines. He is a strong willed individual with a desire to see his community transformed.

“This project has helped me acquire basic life skills in water point repairs and construction. To date, l have constructed two huts within the local community” says the ever smiling Mussa.
However, despite the successes that have been scored, the project also faced a number of challenges that provided important lessons when implementing such projects.

  • The communities did not perceive themselves as development partners instead they view organisations as donors and display high levels of donor dependency syndrome generally in Mozambique.
  • In addition to this the communities that the project has been working with did not have a sense of belonging to the areas that they stay as they live in a flood plain and they have been moved several times.

The initial project approach was more or less a prescribed solution to the poor in Morrumballa and Mopeia   who had no access to sanitation and the project had a solution to their plight. There were no considerations to their basic knowledge on sanitation issues. As a result the project suffered a low uptake of sanitation facilities in the initial stages. Future projects of this nature targeting communities in Zambezia Province should begin by employing some of the community-based approaches Practical Action Southern Africa has successfully implemented. A minimum six months will be required to facilitate the communities’ mindset shift. The program would encompass training for transformation and, transformational leadership; community based planning, and   Participatory health and hygiene. The participatory health and hygiene would need a seeding finance support to ensure its effectiveness.

Whilst the project may have made inroads in addressing the plight faced by communities in Morrumbala district, a more concerted effort involving development players to reach a wider target needs further exploration. Finally, participatory approaches must be prioritized to motivate and empower communities to take action to improve their own sanitation. 

Archive content: This project has been completed, and the information is retained here for archive purposes. Current project work in Southern Africa can be found here.

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