15 Mar 2011

How to keep the water flowing? Tufanyeje ili maji yaendelea kutiririka vijijini?

As published in Mwananchi Newspaper (Kauli Mbadala column) on March 15th, 2011
An English translation is below.
Wananchi wanaoishi vijijini wakihojiwa juu ya matatizo yanayokumba maeneo yao, wengi wanajibu kuwa shida kubwa ni usambazaji wa maji. Katika utafiti wa Afrobarometer juu ya mitazamo ya jamii ya mwaka 2005 na 2008, kwa mfano, huduma za maji zilitajwa kuwa shida kubwa kuliko elimu, kilimo, umaskini, afya, UKIMWI na hata rushwa.

Habari hizi si za kushangaza, kwani upatikanaji wa maji safi na salama vijijini Tanzania ulipungua kutoka asilimia 46% mwaka 2000 hadi 40% mwaka 2007, kwa mujibu wa Taasisi ya Takwimu za Taifa. Tangu hapo, fedha nyingi za serikali na wafadhili zimewekezwa katika sekta ya maji vijijini, hasa kupitia Programu ya Maendeleo ya Sekta ya Maji. Ila, kama changamoto zilizopo katika sekta ya maji vijijini hazitatatuliwa mapema, fedha hizi hazitaleta mabadiliko. Na kwa kuwa Machi 16 hadi 22 ni Wiki ya Maji, hivyo ni wakati mzuri wa kuzungumzia mambo hayo.
Utafiti uliofanywa na shirika  la WaterAid, pamoja na mashirika mengine, imebaini kwamba asilimia 54% tu ya vituo vya maji vijijini vinafanya kazi. Kwa maneno mengine, karibia nusu ya mabomba, pampu, visima vilivyoboreshwa n.k. havitoi maji. Endapo nusu ya vituo vya maji visivyofanya kazi kwa sasa vingetengenezwa, zaidi ya watu milioni 3.5 wangepata maji safi na salama.
Kufanya vituo vya maji viendelee kufanya kazi na maji yaendelea kutiririka ni changamoto kubwa sana. Je, tunaweza kufanya nini kupambana na tatizo hili?
Kwanza, hatua nyingine hufanywa hata kabla ya kituo cha maji kuharibika. Je, wanaosimamia vituo vya maji – kama ni kamati ya maji ya kijiji, kundi la watumiaji maji, au chombo kingine – wanakusanya pesa kutoka kwa wananchi ipasavyo? Wanatunza pesa hizo ipasavyo? Kama vitu hivi vinafanywa vizuri, mara nyingi fedha za kugharamia matengenezo zitakuwepo pale zinapohitajika, na matengenezo yatatekelezwa mapema.
Lakini mara nyingine haitokei hivyo. Sisi tulitembelea kijiji kimoja mkoani Mbeya hivi karibuni na kukuta pampu ya maji ya mkono ilikuwa imeharibika muda mrefu bila kutengenezwa. Kamati ya maji ilikwenda mjini kutafuta spea zilizohitajika lakini hazikupatikana. Jambo hili si la kushangaza sana, kwani kuna aina nyingi za pampu za mikono, na aina yao haikuwa ya kisasa.
Hapo, hadithi ilianza kuyumba. Tulienda Idara ya Maji ya Wilaya na kuwauliza watumishi wametoa msaada gani kusaidia kijiji kile kutafutu vipuri. Jibu tulilolipata lilitushangaza – hawakuwa na taarifa kama pampu imeharibika. Tuliuliza kamati ya maji ya kijiji kama walitoa taarifa kwa Idara ya Maji ya wilaya, na kamati ilikiri kutowapatia taarifa yoyote.
Kwa nini? Mwenyekiti wa kamati hiyo alieleza kwamba jukumu la kutunza vituo vya maji vijijini ni jukuma la jamii na si la Idara ya Maji. Maelezo ya Mhandisi wa Maji wa Wilaya hayakuwa tofauti. Na hawajakosea sana, kwani Sera ya Maji ya Taifa ya 2002 pamoja na Sheria za Maji za 2009 zinasema hivyo.
Lakini kuna haja kwa Idara za Maji kutoa msaada wakati tatizo ni kubwa kuliko uwezo wa kijiji. Hata Sera na Sheria za Maji zinakubali kuwa halmashauri zinatakiwa kutoa msaada kwa jamii ikiwa tatizo ni kubwa na chombo chenye wajibu wa kusimamia kituo cha maji hakiwezi kutekeleza matengenezo.
Tulipata pia kukitembelea kijiji kingine katika wilaya ya Morogoro hivi karibuni, tulikuta kwamba kituo cha maji hakijawahi kufanya kazi kwa sababu pampu yake ilihitaji umeme mwingi kuliko uliounganshwa na Tanesco.  Idara ya Maji ya Wilaya ilifahamu tatizo hili na Mhandisi alishaanza kusaidia kijiji katika kuwasiliana na Tanesco kulitatua.
Kwa mazoea yetu, mfano huu wa Idara ya Maji kutoa msaada kwa kijiji kusaidia matengenezo si kitu cha kawaida. Katika idara nyingi za maji watumishi wanafuatilia zaidi matengenezo ya miradi mipya kuliko maendelezo ya miradi iliyopo.
Na si katika ngazi ya halmashauri tu, hata katika Wizara ya Maji miradi mipya hupewa kipaumbele. Lakini kama changamoto ya kufanya miradi iliyopo iendelee kutoa maji haitatatuliwa, hata miradi mipya haitaendelea kutoa maji kwa muda mrefu na upatikanaji wa maji safi na salama hautaongezeka. 
Kuipatia jamii jukumu la kusimamia na kutengeneza vituo vyao vya maji ni kitu kizuri. Lakini haina maana kuwa Idara za Maji za Wilaya zinaweza kunawa tu mikono na kuiachia jamii kubeba mzigo mzima wa mabomba yaliyoharibika.
Matatizo mengine yatakuwa makubwa kuliko uwezo wa wanakijiji. Idara za Maji ziwe tayari kutoa msaada pale zinapohitajika. Na muhimu zaidi, wananchi walio vijijini wanatakiwa kuwa na udhubutu wa kudai msaada wanapouhitaji.

How can we keep rural water supplies flowing?
When people living in rural areas of Tanzania are asked about the problems facing their community, the majority say the biggest problem is water supply. In the Afrobarometer surveys from 2005 and 2008, for example, rural water supply ranked as a bigger problem than education, agriculture, incomes, health, roads, HIV/AIDS and corruption. And there are plenty of other surveys reporting the same thing.
This is hardly surprising, as access to clean and safe water in rural Tanzania actually dropped between 2000 and 2007 – from 46% to 40% – according to the National Bureau of Statistics. A lot of government and donor money has been put into rural water supply since then, through the Water Sector Development Programme. But unless the biggest challenge of rural water supply is addressed, this money is not going to solve the problem. And March 16th-22nd is Maji Week, so what better time to talk about it.
According to comprehensive surveys of rural water supply by WaterAid and other organisations, only 54% of waterpoints in rural Tanzania are working. In other words, nearly half of all waterpoints are broken down or dried up. If even half the waterpoints that aren’t working were fixed, an extra 3.5 million people would have access to clean and safe water.
Keeping waterpoints functioning so that water keeps on flowing is a major challenge in rural Tanzania, so how can we address it?
Well, there are some things that can be done even before a breakdown occurs. Are the people who are responsible for managing a waterpoint – whether it’s a village water committee or a water user group or something else entirely – collecting money from villagers? And are they managing that money properly? If these things are being done well, in most cases there should be enough money available when a breakdown occurs (as it will) for a repair to be carried out quickly.
But that’s not always possible. We visited a community in Mbeya region recently where a handpump broke down several years ago and still hasn’t been repaired. The water committee had gone into town to find the spare parts they needed but they were not available. That’s not very surprising, as there are lots of different handpump designs and this was an old model.
Then the story started to get more complicated. We went to the District Water Department to ask what they had done to help the community find the spare parts they needed, and the officials in the department claimed that they didn’t even know the waterpoint had broken down. We asked the village’s water committee if they had informed the water department, and they said they had not.
Why not? They said that responsibility for managing waterpoints belongs to the community, not to the District Water Department. The Water Engineer said something similar. And they are partly right – that’s what the National Water Policy of 2002 and the 2009 Water Acts say.
Surely it also makes sense for the Water Department to help out when a problem is too complicated for the community to deal with. In fact, even the National Water Policy and the Water Acts agree that the District Water Department should help out when a problem is too big for the community to solve by itself.
Our colleagues also recently visited a village in Morogoro region, where a waterpoint had never worked because the pump needed a more powerful electricity supply than had been fitted by Tanesco. The District Water Department knew about the problem and was helping the community to talk with Tanesco to find a way of solve the problem.
In our experience, this example of a District Water Department giving active support to a community to keep their waterpoints functioning is rare. Most water departments give much more attention to the sexier work of spending money on new waterpoints than to the less exciting challenge of keeping older waterpoints functioning.
The same is true of the Ministry of Water work on rural water supply – priority is given to new waterpoints over old. But unless the problem of keeping water flowing from older waterpoints is addressed, even the new points will stop working pretty quickly and access to clean and safe water will not improve.
Giving village communities responsibility for managing their waterpoints makes sense. But this doesn’t mean District Water Departments should simply ignore broken down rural waterpoints.
There will always be some problems that are too big for the community to solve by itself. District Water Departments should be ready to step in when their help is needed. And just as important, rural citizens should be ready to go to the water department to ask for help when they come across a problem they can’t solve.