Friday, December 16, 2011

Powerful Partnerships in East Africa

Rosemary and Jacqueline building a Ferro Cement Tank during the 2011 East Africa Women and Water Training in Uganda
When Rosemary and Joy met Jackie and Dorothy, it wasn’t in Kisumu where they all live and work--- It was  in Uganda at the 2011 East Africa Women and Water Training coordinated by Global Women’s Water Initiave (GWWI). Joy and Rosemary were selected because of their work with Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET), an organization that promotes development of under-served communities through innovative health and education programs. KMET was connected to GWWI through American Jewish World Service (AJWS). KMET did not have a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) program as part of their health initiative, but they discovered through surveys that their communities’ identified ‘access to clean water’ as a priority need.  And thus the collaboration between GWWI and KMET began.

Jackie and Dorothy are two professionals who are part of a volunteer youth group and had the vision to provide clean water technologies in their home villages. At the training Jackie was also representing the Kisumu based organization Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, and she had the goal to learn how to build and manage a rainwater harvesting system using a new tank technology so that she could feel confident bringing the technology to LVSWSB to replicate.

Both teams learned how to build the interlocking stabilized soil bricks (ISSB) tank for rain water harvesting. The bricks are made out of marram (clay), sand, a little cement and water, and they are shaped such that they can lock together which makes them much more stable.Using the ISSB supports the intention to use local resources that are also economically attainable, as ISSB technology requires considerably less cement to make. The ISSB tanks are nearly half the price to build a ferro-cement or plastic tank  which are the most common technologies implemented around the region. Furthermore, the special machine used to compress the bricks is a simple technology that could be easily learned and used by anyone.

Before the Kisumu teams left the training in Uganda, they had already begun collaborating, and knew that having the interlocking machine was key to introducing and building the rain water harvesting tanks. When KMET implemented its technology, Dorothy and Jackie came by the site frequently to support, further helping them them to solidify what they had previously learned at the training. This also means that in the following week when Dorothy and Jackie implemented, they had a much easier time constructing their tank thanks to the learnings from Joyce and Rosemary. Both teams have plans to possibly purchase an interlocking machine together (about $1300US) so they can share it  and use it to make and sell bricks for income-generation.

We envision  many more of such collaborations and partnerships to emerge as we undertake subsequent trainings uniting women for a thriving planet. We know that these trainings are the first point of contact for such powerful networking  and connections to be created, and we want to build on these opportunities to maintain connections and linkages that emerge. This, combined with the vision of engaging to build a strong movement of women championing environmental causes, makes  a compelling case for staying aligned and connected. We hope that the East Africa Network for Women and the Environment that WEA’s Africa Program is debuting, will be the platform for this vision to materialize and for many more partnerships and collaborations to blossom.

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