By Jeanne d’Arc Munezero
Residents of Kayonza District in Murundi sector, Buhabwa cell, located in the former area of Akagera Park, are proud that a local project has helped them get access to clean water reducing health risks of fetching in the same ponds where their cattle drink from.
The residents say Kayonza Irrigation and Integrated Watershed Management Project (KIIWP) reduced the time they used to walk (six kilometers) to get drinking.
Kayonza District is usually affected by drought where more than 47 thousand families have been seriously affected and animals have died especially during the famine of 2016, which necessitated for the government to intervene.
KIIWP is a government project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which was initiated as a result of the drought that hit Kayonza District in 2016.
Residents say that the project, which was implemented in 2018 with the first phase of this project expected to be completed in September 2023, has been able to provide them with clean water.
Joseph Sali, a resident of Buhabwa Cell says that they used to live like animals in the forest and access to water was a problem and during the rainy season, they used to drink water in the trenches.
Otherwise, we would fetch water in the swamp where we used to spend four hours to get there and returning from there would make it eight hours,” Sali said.
“As dirty as the water would be, we would drink as it is, even when it was infested with insects and snails,”.
Sali explains that bathing would be a problem for him as a cattle herder, but all this has changed and now they drink clean water and no longer frequent the health facilities due to waterborne diseases.
Hakorimana Virginia, who also lives in Buhabwa Cell said she is happy that they have clean water because this gave them a break from fetching dirty water and consistent sickness.
“We used to get treated for chronic diseases because we shared drinking water with cows. We had to race with the animals to fetch first before the water was muddy,” she said.
“Sometimes when we found animals drinking, we were forced to fetch them because of no other options, and sometimes we would spend a day without cooking when we cannot find water in the dry seasons,”
Hakorimana says that today they don’t have any such problems and they fetch clean water anytime throughout and no longer have to go see the doctor.
The Acting Director of KIIWP project, Madeleine Usabyimbabazi says that before they initiated the project, there was a request from citizens and the government of Rwanda and this came with an agreement to implement the project in two phases.
The first one started in 2019 but due to the impact of COVID-19, they extended the deadline.
Usabyimbabazi says that the work that was scheduled to be done included creating water points for communities and animals and this has been achieved considering that residents have access and no longer have to make long distances to fetch as a result of using solar-powered water pumps that bring water to door steps of communities.
Usabyimbabazi said that looking at the statistics, there is no data on residents using a vehicle to fetch water and this has been because of the water dams for animals and 20 water pumps constructed.
The Executive Secretary of Murundi Sector, Gashayija Benon, says that they are proud that the KIIWP project brought them clean water and the project is different from any other because it helped address a health issue in the community.
He says that in 2016, 362 cows died in the sector in just four months due to lack of water.
He says, “You could see cows walking fifteen kilometers to get water and so were people. From May to October vehicles were used for fetching, but the cows died in large numbers.
It was so severe that the cattle were infected with diseases, and there was no other way to solve the problem, but now water is available everywhere there is a well; animal deaths have decreased dramatically, they no longer die from dehydration or dehydration-related diseases;” he says.
He continued to say that these activities are ready to be maintained so that this problem will not happen again because they have prepared those who must follow them to be started.
For instance, he said, there has been community mobilization and awareness in case if something goes wrong, they can handle the problems.
He also stated that they have an account in the Community Savings Scheme (Umurenge SACCO) where the citizen makes their monthly contribution so that if there is a problem they can fix it; they also pay the security guard to prevent it from being buried.
He says that the bigger goal is to extend the water to all so that no resident has to make more than a kilometer to get water.
“Today, we have a starting point because the wells we built, we take them as a starting point and continue to reach more people,” he says.
A big sum of money was spent on providing water for animals and people, according to the statistics of Kayonza District, and about fifteen ponds were built in different sectors, and 20 solar-powered water pumps were constructed, and 98% of community committees were trained in management.
The KIIWP project will be completed in the first phase at a cost of more than $24 million equivalent to 24 billion Rwandan francs with the aim of reaching 40 thousand households working in nine sectors that make up Kayonza District.