By Florence Hinder
On 29 May this year, I traveled to Manantenina, Madagascar with the intention of working with a community of 1300 people to develop a water source for their village. I am a graduate water engineer from the University of Canterbury and I was working alongside others from Duke University.
Madagascar is a beautiful place at first glance—it’s full of lush rainforests, rivers, and many scattered rice fields. But there is far more to Madagascar than these beautiful vistas. I stayed in the SAVA region, which is a relatively wealthy area of the country. However, the people there still lack basic necessities. You would think such a tropical climate would produce an abundance of clean water, but because of intensive rice farming and free roaming zebu (cows), it’s hard to find clean water sources.
Manantenina gets all its water from a heavily polluted river, which is also used by Mandena, a village situated 2km upstream, for drinking, cooking, washing, grazing cattle and as the village toilet. Clean drinking water taps had been installed in neighbouring villages, which encouraged the people of Manantenina to reach out for help in installing a clean water source of their own.
Above Rice fields surrounding Manantenina village.
Above Manantenina village.
All in all the project was a success, and my Cactus gear really held its own. We ended up working very closely with the peoples of Manantenina as well as Mandena, so instead of just working with a population of 1300 people, we ended up working with 4300 people, who we helped in establishing a board of elders tasked with overseeing the upkeep of the project.
It was great to listen to, and work with, both communities to better understand their lives and cultures. We listened to all their suggestions for a good water source and explored options for each suggestion. We picked the most appropriate solution with the help of the village water boards. We also designed an internal tap layout with the water boards in both communities, with particular input from the women’s groups. The women are the ones who fetch the water, so they were the ones we listened to most carefully.
In addition, we have organised for educational training in water, sanitation and hygiene for all water board members from both villages, through the local NGO ‘Save the Children.’ We have also been creating plans and contingency plans for each situation, and students involved in our project will be going back again next year to solely work on more community consultation and further development of the water board.
Above In the Manantenina river.