SEED Madagascar Tackles Clean Water Access in Rural Madagascar Through Rainwater Harvesting and Well Management

by | Jun 1, 2018 | Blogs

SEED Madagascar’s WASH team focus their rural efforts at two ends of the spectrum: introducing a new approach to a country steeped in strict traditional and cultural norms through the promotion of rainwater harvesting (RWH); and improving on established routes to clean water through community management and repair of wells.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world with a population of over 24 million. According to the World Bank, whilst the country is rich in biodiversity and minerals, 77.8% of the population (18.6 million) live on less than $1.90 USD. In terms of WASH, the country ranks fifth lowest in the world for access to an improved water supply among rural communities with over 10 million people lacking access.

The situation in the rural southeast is exacerbated by terrible transport links, non-existent infrastructure and very low levels of education. SEED is a regional specialist that works directly with communities and local authorities to overcome these barriers in order to provide sustainable solutions.

Project Tatirano, meaning “to collect water” in Malagasy, aims to demonstrate and promote the simple, affordable and effective method of providing clean drinking water through RWH. Consistently high annual rainfall in the east makes RWH an intuitive solution. The first phase of the project (2015-2016) saw the installation of a 20,000-litre capacity system at a rural primary school to promote RWH. This system provides safe water for over 140 school children every day and 750 people in the local community up to four times a week.

SEED Madagascar Member Spotlight 2
Credit: @SEED Madagascar

Whilst the system is managed by a trained committee, some internal disagreements, specifically between the teachers and community members, has often led to inefficient management and maintenance of the system. SEED continues to work with the committee remotely to encourage independent problem solving so that they can be better at finding solutions in the future without mediation from SEED.

From a strategic viewpoint, problems surrounding responsibility and ownership can be overcome by individualising systems and requesting investment, both monetary and in-kind. For this reason, and the technicality of surface area per capita being considerably larger on household systems, the second phase (2016 – present) of Project Tatirano brings RWH to the home.

SEED Madagascar Member Spotlight 3
Credit: @SEED Madagascar

“Before the Tatirano system was installed, I barely had enough time to finish my work in the kitchen and the main house. But during this past week of rain, I’ve been able to spend more time weaving mahampy mats [sold for little over a pound each] and I have managed to weave three in the past week instead of two.” – Prosperine, responsible for two RWH systems

In addition to our RWH project, SEED is currently delivering an 18-month well maintenance and management programme called Fatsaka. Whilst having a well is a great first step to help communities gain access to an improved water source, infrastructure provision alone is not sufficient for sustainable and long-term access to safe water. Too often, the focus of water provision projects is concentrated on building well infrastructure, without planning for long-term operation and maintenance.

Project Fatsaka is currently in its second phase following a successful 12-month pilot that ended in June 2016. To date, Fatsaka has trained 26 rural communities across the Mahatalaky Rural Commune in well management and maintenance. It focuses on creating and implementing rotas for well cleaning and maintenance, mobilising communities to be involved by collecting, safeguarding and using shared funds to repair and improve their wells.

Over the last six months of the project, Fatsaka has worked with local authorities to build their capacity in rural water infrastructure management, focusing on technical and managerial training. In addition, WASH in Schools (WinS) activities are being completed, with teachers and students alike trained in key WASH messages and spreading good hygiene practices.

Due to the abundance of surface water sources, it has been extremely challenging to motivate rural communities to use their wells. Through the delivery of community-led total sanitation (CLTS)-inspired triggering sessions, followed by educational workshops and capacity building of community leaders, SEED is shocking households into choosing to use protected dug wells rather than closer contaminated surface water sources. As such, by the sixth month of the project a 17% increase in well users was observed when compared to baseline, meaning that an additional 850 people are now using an improved water source.

SEED’s current rural WASH approach is based in one commune in the southeast. The projects complement each other by working towards a common goal of improved water infrastructure services and improved knowledge and practices. Through targeting over 32,000 people with increased access to improved drinking water, SEED aligns its aims with Goal 6 and is playing its part in the global efforts to achieve clean water for everyone, everywhere.

To find out more about SEED’s WASH work, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Click here to see how the organisation celebrated World Water Day 2018!