Testimonies on the difference safe water supply is making - in the lives of people in a rural area in Mauritania
“Before, we were suffering not only from the lack of water, but also the poor quality of water that was available and its effects on our health and that of our children. The project allowed us to access safe drinking water, as well as increased revenues, thanks to vegetable gardening that we practice now using the time saved on fetching water. Our health and that of our children has improved. The waterborne diseases we knew are in significant decline. Moreover, new hygiene practices are starting to develop like hygiene around water points, common practices linked with domestic water use, hand-washing with soap, latrines construction and sensitization against open defecation,” says Ms. Fatma Mohamed, woman head of household (36 years old)
In order to realize poverty reduction and better livelihoods for rural populations, ACORD in Mauritania, was able to take forward a water infrastructures project to enhance access to water in the zone of Sleilihiya.
The project was located in the municipality of Beneamane, Moughataa department of Aïoun, in the Wilaya region of Hodh El Gharbi in Southeast Mauritania, a zone considered amongst the most populated and poorest where underground water through traditional wells was previously the only accessible resource for water.
The project was comprised of different interventions aimed at improving access to drinkable water of the rural populations of the target zone (5,000 beneficiaries); ensuring livestock watering (30,000 head of cattle); and creating a secured vegetable garden of 5 hectares for the benefit of the women organised into an agricultural cooperative.
The drinkable water supply was realized through the installation of a pumping station with borehole, equipped with a mechanized pumping system connected to a storage tank and a water supply system. The water is for domestic, pastoral and agricultural use.
The now successfully concluded project has contributed to better living conditions, easing the chore of fetching water for women and especially girls to allow them to attend school, as well as reducing water-related diseases (such as diarrhea). It also contributed to better livestock watering for Sleilihiya, located on an important axis of transhumance linking the northern areas of grazing and southern areas where pastoralists return.
There was an increase in income generating activities linked to the reduced amount of time women spent fetching water. Women’s incomes have increased through vegetable gardening activities. With readily available vegetables, enhanced nutrition and health levels were noted.
School attendance and performance, particularly for girls, increased due to less time spent fetching water and better hygiene conditions. Also, conflict within the communities has decreased since water is more accessible and communities do not have to fight over scarce water supplies.
ACORD made sure that the community was involved at all levels during the project to ensure that the water project will be sustainable after the project funded by Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission (GOAC), ended. This gave the community ownership of the project.
In order to ensure the sustainability of the projects results, local communities were associated at all stages of the project and mechanisms such as management committees were established. Through the selection of a dedicated paid manager, the management committee supervises the daily management of the water supply system. The modalities of the project, in particular the pricing of water, are determined through a consultation process between the management committee and the community. The management committee saves the revenues from the sales and these directly support the salary of the water point manager.
Testimony from Mr. Bohdel O Natah, livestock farmer (55 years old) :
“This project allowed me to save a lot of time taken up by fetching water for my livestock, which now only takes an hour at most. Before the drilling, we pastoralists were often having problems and disputes around the wells. Now, that is a thing of the past, thanks to abundant and easy access to water. The health and milk production of our cows has improved as well as my income and now, I think that next year I will let my son Ahmed attend school because I don’t need him any more to herd the livestock.”