New video shows how UWE helps African communities access safe water supplies

(This news story was originally issued by the University of the West of England on 19 June 2015)

Conducting water-borne disease interviews in Kanungu Town 2Academics and students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have been contributing to a research programme that helps to provide African communities with access to safer water supplies as part of the UWE Global Water Security Project now in its third year and operating in a number of African countries.

The team has recently participated in the creation of a video that gives insight into the work of the programme and how the students who go to Africa on placement are enriched as they see how their work is making a real difference.

Professor Chad Staddon said, “Geography and Environmental Management staff and students have worked on this programme in Uganda since 2011. We are able to provide students with the opportunity to get involved in a live project that enhances their learning and in many cases forms an integral part of their own honours research projects.

“There is plenty of groundwater in many parts of Africa but not the proper infrastructure to get it out cleanly and safely to communities.

“The programme is co-funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the UWE-Hewlett Packard Community Fund and puts UWE students at the centre of a range of water services projects, spending between one and six months working with villages and communities.

“The students work with African partner organisations to assist with water infrastructure developments that provide life-changing results for both the communities and for the students. It is truly a win-win situation.”

Molly Byrne is a current second year BSc Geography and Environmental Management student who will be visiting an area on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya.

Molly said, “I am going to be using the opportunity to help with my dissertation project. I plan to measure the coliform bacteria levels in rainwater storage tanks. Recent studies that I have been reading point to significant levels of bacteria above those recommended by the World Health Organisation. I will work alongside environmental experts and this networking will be great as I establish contacts that will help me in the future in my ambition to work in water security.

“It is my first trip to Africa and the three month stint is a good length of time to get to grips with my project work and to experience a rich and diverse culture. I’m really looking forward to it.”

InterviewCharlotte Whitmarsh, a third year BA (Hons) Geography UWE alumni visited the Kanungu district with Volunteer Uganda last year, explains her experience in a blogpost:

“When conducting one household survey in Rugyeyo, I was surprised by an answer to one of the questions: “What is the main source of water for your crops in the a) wet season and b) dry season?” As expected, rainfall was their main source in the wet season. However, they mentioned using taps in the dry season, which is unusual in Kanungu – many don’t farm in the dry season because of the lack of rain, irrigation systems and the means to water their crops.

“I asked to see this tap however when we turned the tap, however, no water came out. They explained that the community currently didn’t have enough money to pay for water, so they can’t use the tap until they can afford to pay the water bill.

“This shows that systems have been put in place in this area for easy access to clean water, but if the community does not have the means to pay for the water, then this defeats the object. New schemes need to be put in place in order for communities to have working taps that don’t stop working when the funds run out, as ‘Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy in human dignity’ (UN, 2002).”

Professor Staddon concludes, “According to UNICEF more than 1 billion people do not have access to safe water supplies and, shockingly, one person dies every 20 seconds as a direct result.

“The desire to improve these mortality rates and alleviate poverty was the primary driver behind the project. We hope to expand the opportunities for our talented students to participate in this critical programme three fold in coming years.”