James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.
The partnerships and cooperative spirit of the Water for People Everyone Forever model was on full display today in the Rulindo District. The day started with a meeting at the District Mayor’s office where the Water for People Rwanda staff led a conversation with the Mayor and Vice Mayors.
Rulindo District was the birthplace of the Everyone Forever approach. The community and institution milestones have been met, and Water for People projects that the household milestone will be met in early 2020. The Mayor and his staff were proud supporters of the program and demonstrated a strong commitment to the work being completed as well as sustaining the systems in the future. Most of all, they were proud of what has already been accomplished and how the work in Rulindo now serves as proof that the Everyone Forever model is truly effective.
Prior to the trip, I already had an understanding of the world’s water crisis and I had a high level of confidence in Water for People. My biggest question was regarding the sustainability of solutions and the long-term success of the communities when Water for People’s work was done. Hearing the District staff’s commitment to the Everyone Forever model, and seeing the long-term plans they’ve laid out was exciting. The District has initiated financial strategies to fund O&M of the infrastructure and have prioritized community outreach and education. Leaving the Mayor’s offices, I was impressed and excited to see the Rulindo District system in action.
Our field visits today included a pump station, a water storage tank, a school, and a private home — all of which provided a great cross section of the impacts that water and sanitation projects are having throughout the community. The pump station had the best view of any pump station I’ve been to — sitting atop a hill, overlooking countless acres of farmland.
The Pump Station with a View
The pump station conveys water collected from springs to storage tanks in the distribution system. There was also a water point just outside the pump station fence that provides free water to the station’s neighbors in recognition that the spring water, which traditionally served them, is now shared with the community.
Another highlight of the day was our visit to a local school. We didn’t meet with any students as we did not want to to disrupt the learning, but we could hear them reciting lessons and hear their singing ring throughout the school campus. I couldn’t help but smile hearing it. We got a tour of the school campus and met several teachers, including the hygiene teacher. The Everyone Forever model includes providing water and sanitation to all schools. This school had potable drinking water, rainwater collection, and composting sanitation facilities.
The availability of water at the school alleviates the need for students to fetch water to bring to school each day, thus improving attendance. Attendance is especially improved for female students. The school features a room for young girls stocked with feminine hygiene products and a resting area to use as needed.
The addition of rainwater collection and composting toilets has allowed the school to increase harvesting of onsite crops from one harvest to three harvests per year.
Finally, the hygiene education is teaching students proper hygiene practices which they bring back to their families to implement in their own homes. One of my favorite statistics is that 20% of home sanitation improvements are credited as being student driven.
Last, but not least, we were graciously welcomed into the private home of a woman who lives in a village that recently experienced access to safe water. Access to water nearby has allowed her to focus on raising chickens and making linens for sale. She was also able to get a loan from the local hygiene committee to install improved sanitation at her home. It is common practice for members of the community to pool money each month to help fund improvements for a community member. The money is paid back with a small amount of interest. It’s a great example of the local community coming together to improve the quality of life for its members.
High Point: The entire day felt like one giant high point, but if I had to choose, I’d say visiting the school topped the list. It was so encouraging to see education and improved water/sanitation come together to provide opportunities for the next generation. These students are growing up with an understanding of the importance of water and sanitation, providing hope for continued success and improvement of life in Rwanda.
Low Point: I tried to come up with a low point for today, but it all felt like nit-picking. What a great day!
Click here to see some of the differences between the Rulindo ‘Pump Station with a view’ and ones we have designed here in New England!