Sao Tome and Principe – The Directorate General of Natural Resources and Energy (DGRNE) recently embarked on a national touring exhibition on the topic of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The aim of this activity was to raise awareness about specific water related problems affecting 10 communities around the island and show how IWRM can help solve these problems. A photo exhibition based on the entries submitted to the water4islands photo contest served to illustrate the sessions.
The following communities were targeted: Ponta figo and Santa Catarina in Lembá district, Agostinho Neto and Micolo in Lobata district, Monte Café and Roça Abade in Mé-Zochi district, Água Izé and Roça Uba Budo in Cantagalo district, and finally Praia Yo Grande and Porta Alegre in Caué ditrict.
In order to carry out these activities, DGRNE technicians first gave two presentations to introduce the concepts of IWRM and Water Use Efficiency (WUE). The photo exhibition was then used to illustrate the two concepts and how it applies to their life in Sao Tome and Principe. Finally, the technicians started a discussion on specific issues and how communities could manage the water in a more sustainable way through water committees for instance.
The initiative was received very positively and with a great deal of ownership. Some communities had no prior knowledge on water management and realised for the first time how their behaviour has an impact on water management. One of the key conclusion was that local associations and water committees can play a key role in efficient water management. Targeted capacity building activities could be organised through this type of local structure and could assist in tackling targeted issues such as inappropriate basic hygiene and sanitation practices, vandalism at public laundries and fountains etc.
A key recommendation was that door-to-door awareness-raising program on water management and water savings should be developed at the household level in the 10 communities.
Here is a summary of what was discussed in each village:
Community of Ponta Figo
Following the event residents became aware that they are wasting allot of water and some of their behaviour impacts their health and the water quality.They agreed to close taps and were sensitised to the impacts of bathing themselves and washing their dishes, cars and motorcycles in the fountains. Finally, technicians explained to them how to treat water at home (boiling, dropping leach pads or tablets) to prevent waterborne diseases.
Community of Santa Catarina
In this community, faucets and fountains are constantly vandalised, people bathe in public fountains. Residents mentioned that the water distribution system is open and there was instances where someone used to wash their hogs in the fountain, causing illness and disruption in the lives of the residents. Therefore, they were very interested in listening to concrete solutions to water problems affecting them.
Community of Agostinho Neto
In this community the rate of urinary tract infections has been increasing over the years due to poor hygiene. Farmers have also been diverting the treated water from public distribution point to irrigate their crops.
Public bathrooms and latrines are left uncleaned due to lack of water. Residents welcomed the initiative and solutions proposed.
Community of Micolo
This community has recently benefited from treated clean water supply installed by the national Water and Energy Company (EMAE). After interacting with the community, the villagers began to talk to each other about the wrong water practices they had seen each other do: i. e. vandalism in the public fountains and thus, water wastage etc.
Monte Café Community
In this community, residents indicated that the main issue is that the local farmers withdraw the water directly from the reservoir that distributes water to the community, this means that water often does not flow into the public fountains and thus residents have no water to consume. Women walk kilometres to collect water. After visiting the reservoir with the DGRNE technicians, the community decided to create a water commission, which will be responsible for the good management of water and the education of the local farmers.
Community of Roça Abade
In the community of Roça Abade, the prevalence of water-borne diseases such as Typhoid is high and residents are now aware of the need to treat water before consuming it. Like in other communities of Sao Tome and Principe vandalism of public fountains and laundries is recurrent and has been increasing due to the recent rise in water demand. This area has witnessed an important population growth in the recent years.
Community of Água Izé
Similarly to Roça Abade, in the last few years the population rate has exploded in the community of Agua Izé. This is partly due to the recent policies implemented by the government to improve living conditions in the area. For instance, investments to increase the water availability were made in the past. The problem is that the community water supply system has not been expanded to cater for the influx of new residents, making water a scarce resource for everybody. To make it worse, the network lacks maintenance and water losses from the reservoir and the piping are high. This is compounded by the fact that farmers deviate the little runs through the pipes for irrigation. The unique technician from the District Chamber claims that he is unable to do anything due to the lack of funds for maintenance.
Community of Roça Uba Budo
During the meeting with the community, after the residents take the coincidence that they must change their behavior against the rationalization of water, it has been conveyed to us that rationalization and saving of water are not taken into account by the residents of the community.
Some residents suffer from typhoid and urinary infections by consuming untreated water. And with our coming to the community, they learned how to treat water for consumption and make efficient use of it.
The issue of integrated water resources management was a new theme for them and they liked to have acquired knowledge in this matter (See figure).
Community of Praia Grande
The residents of the community of Praia Grandeza consume dirty water. Faced with this situation, the population of this community suffer from waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever and urinary infections. They also reported that it is not advisable to consume the water from the Yo Grande River because of the animals that bathe in the area and because of the pollution caused by the community located upstream.
Community of Porto Alegre
In the community of Porto Alegre, the awareness raising event was attended by many representatives from the hotel sector. The issue of rational and efficient use of water is not a priority in the community, and more sadly in hotels. The hotels are drawing water directly from the water intake point, significantly reducing the water pressure in the distribution system supplying the community. After the event, the hoteliers expressed their willingness to work with the community to improve the situation and to implement a sustainable water management policy with the water committee and the community association.