Water at Mti Mmoja

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
The challenges faced in sourcing water in a rural village

Submitted: July 08, 2016

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Submitted: July 08, 2016



Mti Mmoja is a Maasai village situated on the main Arusha-Dodoma road and the primary school is just off the main road at the end of a 200 metre track. Mti Mmoja Primary School was part of the environmental project we were running and also a participant in the Primary Schools Assistance Project.

Whenever we discussed tree planting in any of our project areas, one of the first concerns that was mentioned was water and the associated problems of tree survival and water availability.The only water source at Mti Mmoja was from the water holes created when the nearby main road was being built. These were holes that had been excavated to obtain hard fill in the roading process and it was a matter of luck rather than design that the holes actually held water after the rains.

These water holes also serve as livestock watering holes, cattle, goats and donkeys wade into the water to drink, of course defecating and urinating at the same time. The animals stir up the bottom of the waterhole as well, which makes the base a porridge of stinking liquid especially when the ponds begin to dry out! They are not so bad immediately after the rains, but as the drought sets in, the water becomes a toxic broth. It was also a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitoes!

The village people, including the school children have no choice but to use this water for all their domestic uses - yes drinking and cooking, as well as bathing and washing clothes! There is just no other water source other than carting in from some distance at a cost that is unaffordable for most of the village people.

It is not surprising therefore, that it is difficult to attract school teachers to the area (this is a problem throughout rural Tanzania) so teachers tended to be either born in the village, are very dedicated, or perhaps the other extreme! But the situation is a major constraint to the kids' overall education and health.

The Head Teacher at Mti Mmoja was a dedicated woman who had the welfare of her students at heart and plainly pointed out the water problems to us. We were promoting tree planting but a lack of water was a further constraint on tree survival.

It had become a habit of mine to always carry two twenty litre containers of water in my vehicle and each time I passed Mti Mmoja, or other areas for that matter, I would give the water to the teachers to make palatable chai (tea). This was always greatly appreciated and we built a bond of friendship there.

Behind the school were some concrete 'domes' and one day the Head Teacher took us there. They were actually huge underground water tanks! Apparently some forty years ago, Canadians were growing large areas wheat in the district.

This was before the Maasai had settled there and Julius Nyerere’s villagisation programme (Ujamaa). The Canadians had recognised the water shortage and had solved the problem for themselves by building the tanks (4 million litres each) with a large concrete pad as a catchment area to collect and channel rainwater into the tanks.

Of course we were asked if we could help to refurbish the tanks, and after a thorough inspection, I agreed to write up a proposal to apply for funds. The tanks were in remarkably good condition and the village chairman had the hand pump stored away safely. The channelling was in good order, but the concrete catchment area was in poor condition because cattle had camped on it for many years and had broken it up. But to refurbish it would not be too costly. I obtained a good price for crushed concreting gravel from a nearby quarry. The area would need to be fenced to keep livestock out, which was an easy fix.

NZHC approved the proposal and we were ready to start operations when, as I drove down the Sanawari road, I was flagged down by a man driving a vehicle with a well-known international aid organisation's logo on the door. He asked me about Mti Mmoja water tanks and told me that his organisation were prepared to become involved.

At a later meeting this man told me that the organisation had the funds and the ability to carry out the whole project, but I knew that NZHC policy was not to be involved in joint projects.  I was busy enough in our own projects, so after informing the village authorities at Mti Mmoja, I advised NZHC that because of the circumstances, we no longer required the funds. I felt confident the people of Mti Mmoja would get their water.

Repairs on the catchment area began with the delivery of a load of crushed rock and four bags of cement - only four bags! Nothing else happened! I continued to visit there regularly, and one day the Head Teacher sadly told me that she thought someone within the organisation had 'eaten' the money for the refurbishment. [The eaten term is the colloquial way of indicating corruption or waste].

To my knowledge, and sadly, the tanks remain disused and the Mti Mmoja people continue to suffer from a polluted water source.

Perhaps one day, I will find some funds and return there to fix those tanks!


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