FRC group brings water to an African village
Most of us don’t think twice about getting up in the morning, using the bathroom, making a pot of coffee, getting milk and juice from the fridge, eating breakfast, washing dishes in the sink, taking a shower, then heading out for work.
We take electricity, indoor plumbing and clean running water for granted. But Feather River College Enactus students, their faculty advisor Amy Schulz and her daughter Alicia Bagley learned otherwise when they traveled to Mabare, Uganda, in January.
“Uganda 2013, an Enactus endeavor” actually began back in 2003, when FRC SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) students were inspired to raise money to drill a well in Uganda.
Ten years later, SIFE rebranded itself as Enactus, to better represent a change in focus to social entrepeneurship.
After a decade of raising money, building connections and partnering directly with Ugandans involved in hands-on projects such as building wells and schools and empowering villagers to become self-sustaining, the dream of providing water to villagers in Uganda was fulfilled.
Not only was the project a success, the students actually got their hands dirty in Ugandan soil, digging trenches for a pipeline extension two kilometers long into the village of Mabare.
The group of five students, Schulz and her daughter began their trip with an 11-hour flight to Amsterdam. They took advantage of an eight-hour layover and spent the day exploring the city. The next leg of their trip was a flight to Entebbe, Uganda’s capital, and then on to Kampala.
After a night spent at the home of project partner Gerald Mbabazi’s uncle, the group drove for 11 hours on rugged dirt roads to the Kanungu district in the southwestern part of Uganda. (Schulz said it would have taken about three hours had the roads been maintained to American standards.)
The Kanungu region is a thriving jungle environment with rich soil, lush foliage and an abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables.
With very limited electricity, storing perishable food is not a possibility for most families, who don’t have electricity in their homes.
Even businesses and schools that do have electricity have very unreliable service. Although vegetables and fruits are abundant, everything must be eaten soon after it is harvested, before it rots.
The water project
A gravity well was built last year in Mabare by a group founded by Mbabazi called H2O, Helping to Overcome. The artesian well, high on the hillside, has a constant stream of water that filters through a natural sand and gravel filtration system.
The clean water pours out of taps for the people to fill their containers and carry back to their homes.
Carrying water is the job of the children, and must be done on a daily basis to meet each family’s needs. This arduous task takes up to a couple hours or more, depending on where the family lives in relation to the well.
Before the pipeline was brought into the village proper, students had difficulty getting to school on time with the energy to learn.
Before the project could begin, the group needed permission. Enactus students were surprised when a grandmother showed up to chant, dance and bless the project, giving it the green light.
Now they could start digging. Using maps drawn by RUMISO (a rural multisectoral initiatives support organization), another partner in the project, the team, armed with machetes, hoes, pickaxes and shovels, began work.
Thanks to the funds and hard work of Enactus and its partners, and aided by up to 40 villagers each day, students dug trenches from the well down to the village.
The pipeline brings water two kilometers closer to village residents, so Ugandan students can now walk just a short distance to one of six new taps that they helped make a reality. Children can complete their water chores and get to school on time with more energy to learn.
Each water tap has a tap committee that has agreed to monitor and maintain the valuable tap. Studies have shown that when villagers are empowered with such responsibility, the project is more likely to be successful and sustainable.
Uganda has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world: over 10 percent for children from birth to age 5 (Unicef 2010).
The combination of unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene and limited or no access to health care leaves many children susceptible to diarrhea and other dangerous diseases, which are often fatal.
Clean drinking water and good hygiene dramatically lower the health risks to children and adults.
The Enactus group installed 20 low-tech hand washing stations, called tip taps, throughout the village. A tip tap is a simple lever system whereby a water-filled jug is suspended on a simple frame and attached to a foot lever.
The hand washer steps on the lever, which tips the jug so that a stream of water pours out. A container of soap is attached to the frame, allowing easy access and a hands-free operation.
Enactus supplied the funds for 80 additional tip taps. The local girls’ school took on the project and will install the tip taps near families’ latrines. Enactus also provided education to students and parents on the importance of sanitary hygiene practices.
Kanungu business summit
Enactus hosted an impromptu business summit that involved about 40 local business owners and future entrepreneurs.
After a brainstorming session, three revenue-generating businesses were chosen and the group developed business plans. The ideas include a women’s soap-making cooperative, a piggery and poultry farm and a money-lending business.
One Enactus student, Kelsey Summers, procured a $1,000 grant from Quincy’s Bread for the Journey nonprofit organization that funded a revolving livestock loan project in Mabare. The funds were used to purchase pigs, goats and rabbits.
In an effort to bridge the culture gap between visiting students and villagers, organizer Mbabazi arranged for each student to spend a day and night at a local villager’s home.
He tapped into RUMISO, a group of local college graduates who volunteer their time and expertise to help villagers learn valuable computer skills in the year between high school and college.
RUMISO surveyed families and created a pool of willing hosts. The families did not learn until the day of the visit that they would be hosting a student.
Enactus member Kambel Kenaston said it was sprung on the villagers because if they had known in advance, they would have killed a pig or goat just for them. This way the students had a more authentic experience.
Student Brad Marquette said his favorite part of the trip was the home stay. He was served a bowl of grasshoppers for dinner that he proclaimed quite tasty. No one in the home spoke English, so it was a challenge to communicate.
With no electricity, once the sun went down, it was pitch dark, alleviated only by a single oil lamp, Schulz said.
Kenaston talked about the local myths that the Enactus group were able to dispel, such as that white people’s skin is mushy like bananas, and that if children were bad, white people would come and eat them.
Each host family received an animal from the livestock project. The animals’ offspring will be distributed amongst other villagers.
Mbabazi proclaimed that the home stays were as important as the pipeline, for bridging the gap and exposing villagers to a broader perspective.
The Enactus group is already beginning to plan for its return trip to Mabare next January. Schulz is opening the trip up to community members interested in social entrepeneurship.
Enactus will continue working with the businesses they helped inspire, and begin selling Gorilla Summit Coffee, a business venture that Mbabazi and his father started.
Enactus will raise funds to finance more pipeline extensions and taps, as the well was deemed productive enough to expand water distribution.
On the next trip, Enactus will host a coffee summit, and teach growers about growing and producing coffee. It is estimated that there are 10,000 growers in the Kanungu region.
Most residents do not drink coffee — instead they drink tea, a leftover British tradition acquired under colonialism.
Enactus will work in the States to find coffee roasters who agree to roast the green beans from Kanungu.
For more information on the Uganda projects, contact Schulz at email@example.com or 283-0202, ext. 358.