Water gave us an equal voice with the rich in our community
Legga Kebele, Ethiopia
Enaniye Awoke (35) is a single mom who lives in Legga Kebele. She lives with her 7 years old son and 65-year-old mother. Enaniye is the only person in the household who has the responsibility of making money for their livelihood. She leads her family by making tea, tella, and areki (local drinks).
“I used to queue at 3:00 am at night. If it goes fast, I may fetch one jar of water at 7:00 AM. Otherwise, usually, my turn reaches at 9:00 am. This was after the hand-dug well was constructed, and it was worse before that.”
“When I walk at night to fetch spring water, even my shadows become scary in the dark. When I reach there, 150 jars are ahead of me which made me lose hope. My turn will not reach until midday. Some of us leave our jars in the queue and return back to our homes and get back again to check the queue. Sometimes, we find the jars broken by shepherds and we live without water in the household for three days.”
Enaniye has been facing difficulties due to the shortage of water. She said she has been carrying water till her back skin peeled off. “If it was not a water issue, and my life didn’t depend on it, I wouldn’t want to suffer that much and carry all that burden. I don’t think I am able to carry all that if it is now.”
Enaniye reiterates that shortage of water affects many things in their communities.
“I used to wear my clothes again and again though it was dirty. We didn’t use soap to wash our hands because it takes a large amount of water to remove the soap. We didn’t bathe even once a month. We didn’t wash the utensils we eat with. My son is lucky. He always goes to school clean. When I was a student, teachers were punishing us since we were not clean due to water shortage. We used to be attacked by jigger due to lack of cleanliness. We used to step on water sources with our legs attacked by jiggers and drink that water. I feel disgusted remembering the past.”
In Legga Kebele Diarrheal diseases was also very common.
Thanks to the Legga multi-village rural drinking water system, Enaniye and her household have now a waterpoint in their compound. This helped her to focus on other productive activities and care for her son and her old mother. Alike Enaniye and her household, the project has solved the issue of getting enough clean water in the community.
Comparing her present situation with the past Enaniye said; “Water makes me happy. I managed to get some rest since there is water in my compound. Now, I can clean all the glasses, jars, buckets, and jerricans I use for my work for the next day and rest overnight with a peace of mind. I can give water to strangers or guests when they ask for water to drink as per our culture. I can clean my and my son’s clothes regularly. I can keep my cleanliness without fear of shortage of water. I am equal to the rich. No one belittles me seeing me unclean.”
Yitayal Dagne, chair of the water committee that has been managing the water source before the board took the role, says that the water scheme solved the burden that seems unthinkable now. “Women and children have been traveling long distance even during the night to fetch water. That problem is now resolved”
Alebachew Aguate is the manager of Legga multi-village water system. According to Alebachew, this water scheme resolved a lot of social, economic, and health problems that prevailed in the community for a longer time. Due to this, the community cares for the water like their children. Since the community developed ownership, nobody passes silently if he/she sees the water line is broken somewhere. “Since the community sees the water as their own property, they are willing to pay 200 ETB (US$4) membership fee/annually in addition to the monthly tariff.
Recognizing the strong need by the community and the burden it imposed on the public in general and on women and children in particular, UNICEF, with the generous contribution received from the New Zealand National Committee, worked hard with Amhara Regional Water Bureau, East Gojjam zone Water department, Awabel Water office and with the community to construct a new water scheme called Legga multi-village Rural drinking water supply system. Currently, Legga multi-village rural drinking water supply system is serving an estimated 21,200 population through 66 communal water points and 540 household water points. The water also serves twelve government institutions, two trade institutions, and ten religious institutions.
The water scheme is managed through a WASH board and managing the water scheme provides employment to 33 workforces. The board is strong, and they have saved more than 540,000 ETB (US$10,000) till September 2022 which empowers them to cover the costs of rehabilitation or other expenses when needed.
Currently, the system is working through a diesel generator. The cost of diesel makes the cost of water higher as diesel is more costly than other energy sources in the area and it also must be transported from urban areas.