There is a shortage of safe drinking water in the villages. Women and children are responsible for water provision for the family and travel to the main river for two hours each way in order to collect water using a donkey. The river waters are muddy and sometimes they have to wait for at least 6 hours for the river water to flow in so that they can collect less muddy water.
“The only source of water for us was a distant river that consumed two hours every day to fetch water. Villagers who mostly relied on agriculture were very poor and couldn’t afford to install a water pump,” said Zakia Bamyani, a REFLECT circle member describing the suffering of the villagers.
The river water is not safe to drink because the villagers that live in the valley upstream use the same river water to wash their clothes and for their livestock’s own needs, severely polluting the river for downstream users. The villagers consume this water downstream and it causes diseases, severe diarrhea and vomiting, especially in children.
The village also suffers from a shortage of irrigation water. Twenty-one hectares of cultivable land around the area does not have access to proper irrigation. In addition to women and children wasting their time in water collection, the path to the river is through a forest which is unsafe for people.
Vulnerable people’s coping mechanisms
As the villagers require water to drink, their only solution was to travel this long distance with donkeys, through the forest, to the river to fetch diseased water. So, their need was desperate and they took the risk of falling ill.
With no water to irrigate their crops, the men migrated to the nearby towns and provinces in search of work. The womenfolk were left behind and struggled to manage without a household income. They relied strongly on the men to return with money so that they could buy food, clothing and take care of their daily needs.
Ready for Anything (RFA) project intervention
Since January 2014n AA Afghanistan has been implementing the ‘Ready for Anything’ project with funding from DFID and in close collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) in building resilience in Afghanistan.
People in the community in Namadak village, especially the women, were already mobilised through long-term engagement with ActionAid Afghanistan. The village had REFLECT circles consisting of 30 to 35 women members from each community, promoting adult literacy and working on community development issues. Though this wasn’t created through the RFA project, there was an existing body of support that ActionAid Afghanistan could work with to further develop a DRR plan where they identified their most urgent needs.
Through participatory processes, the village realised that their lack of safe water was making them intensely vulnerable so they requested ActionAid Afghanistan to provide them with safe storage of water for drinking and irrigation.
Through intensive community need assessment that included Zakia and other women as well as men from the village, ActionAid helped the communities to create a DRR plan to better address the problem. Together with contributions from the community and a pre-agreed work plan, the villagers installed a new water storage tank.
Building a water storage tank to improve food security and community health
ActionAid Afghanistan provided the materials and the community contributed their labour to build the water storage tank, which has a holding volume capacity of 10,000 litres when full. It is nearer to the mountain than the community and collects rainwater and melted snow which is filtered through a small mechanism to clean the water and make it suitable for drinking and cooking.
According to the community, when they consumed the river water, 70% of the children were affected by diarrhea and vomiting but now this figure is down to 15%. The villagers can now cultivate on all 21 hectares of land and earn a decent household income to take care of their families needs. They produce high yielding crops such as wheat and vegetables and can now enjoy safe drinking water too. Their household income has increased by 20% since they are now able to cultivate and sell crops on land that was usable but lacked irrigation before. They use the money earned from selling their crops to pay for their basic needs, including children’s education.
The community members are responsible for keeping their tank clean. There is a Community Development committee member, a Disaster risk reduction committee member and a Food Security Network member in the area who are responsible for monitoring the cleanliness of the water and who advise the community when the tank needs to be cleaned.
When she was asked what impact the water storage tank had on their lives, Zakia Bamyani said, “We now have water to cultivate our land and that gives us food grains, ensuring our food security and livelihood. We have access to safe drinking water as well. We don’t waste our time anymore in collecting water. Instead we use our free time to do something else more productive.”
In their DRR plan, the villagers included other things like construction of a canal for flood protection and livestock improvement.
The water tank is nearer the mountains than the community so the women walk about 300 to 500 metres to get drinking water, depending on the distance of the tank from their houses. To reduce this time walking back and forth to the tank, the community are planning to buy a pipeline to connect the water tank to a tap in the village.