“The most important thing about a project is the villagers’ participation. If they can be involved in all steps from raising ideas about specific needs, designing the project model to address the problem and monitoring and evaluating the implementation of activities, they will be more responsible to protect it and use the water more effectively,” said Quang, a village leader and a member of the water supply system operation group.
Quang has been a member of the operation group for the water supply system in Ngoc Dong commune since 2017. The group was selected by the villagers and has self-operated regularly to support the villagers in using water effectively.
The commune is one of the remote mountainous areas in Quang Uyen district, Cao Bang province. The population is about 2,700 people with 700 households. In 2015, only 41% of households had access to clean water. Normally, families would collect water from natural sources or wells at their homes which is often not clean and therefore unsafe.
ChildFund has been implementing a project designed to improve the water and sanitation conditions in Quang Uyen district since 2015. The project aims to helps people have better access to water and sanitation and supports the community to self-manage the operation system. Between 2015 and 2018, five water supply systems were constructed, helping nearly 500 households to access clean water. Building upon lessons learnt from other projects where water supply systems were implemented with a lack of the self-management element, which led to the degradation quickly, ChildFund focuses on empowering the communities to be involved in the whole construction process and helps to create operation groups to maintain and manage the systems.
Water running from the upper source is collected at a station (left) located in the middle of land, is filtered and stored in tanks at a master treatment station (right) and then is led in pipes into the community.
In Ngoc Dong commune, ChildFund facilitated the local authorities to organize meetings with local families to discuss the lack of water, their needs and solutions. They decided to design a gravity water supply system that takes advantage of their natural environment in the area. With a height of 81 meters between the highest and lowest points of the water source, the water is able to run strongly from the upper source, creating high pressure through a gravity water supply system and reaching all of the local households. Over 450 households, three schools and one government office now have access to clean water every day thanks to the system.
In December 2017, the construction of the water system was complete and the villagers were very happy about this event.
“The water is so clean. Now I can use water daily at home.” said Chien, a villager.
Chien (in the middle) and his family members using water calculated by a counter
In addition to having better access to clean and safe water, the villagers also understand more about the value of water and the importance of maintaining the system. They established a system operation group that includes three village leaders and a commune leader. The group is in charge of maintaining the system, checking system operation regularly and visiting each household to support their usage of water. Every household installed a counter at home to calculate their water consumption and pay the cost of about US$0.1 per cubic meters. The villagers also contributed their working days and materials during the construction process.
“The awareness and behavior of each people contributed to the sustainability of the system and to the sustainable development of their lives as well. By being involved in the construction of the water supply system, the villagers now understand more about the availability of our own natural resources, the value of it and they are aware of how to keep it sustainable,” said Quang.