Combating Poverty Through the Use of Treated Wastewater
An initiative to provide household sanitation for 500 low-income families living on the island of Santiago has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life of residents.
Information from the National Statistics Institute of Cabo Verde reveals that a significant percentage of Cabo Verdeans do not have access to clean water and poor households are especially vulnerable: about 9% of these households have access to the public water network. More than half of poor households receive water from community fountains and the rest from expensive private tankers, meaning that the poorest people often pay the highest prices for water. Poor people, and especially women, still spend hours each week collecting and transporting water, limiting the household’s earning potential.
Sanitation is another problem among poor households. Only 40% of the country has access to sewage networks or septic tanks; in rural areas, the number drops to fewer than 16%. The picturesque fishing town of Tarrafal, situated on the northwest coast of the island of Santiago, is currently the site of an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) demonstration project that aims to address the twin problems of water and sanitation, for the benefit of the town’s residents and the environment.
The project is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), in partnership with the government of Cabo Verde, through the Ministry of Environment, Rural Development and Marine Resources and the Municipality of Tarrafal. Tarrafal was selected because it is becoming a popular tourist destination, but still faces serious
challenges with respect to the provision of clean drinking water and sanitation services to its residents.
Although the Municipality of Tarrafal has established a sanitation infrastructure, many households are yet to be connected to the system; instead they utilise septic tanks for the disposal of sewage.
Moreover, as the town grows, so the adjacent agricultural area is shrinking owing to a lack of water for irrigation and the intrusion of salt water to coastal aquifers caused in part by the extraction of sand from beaches.
Improving infrastructure and farmers’ livelihoods
The demonstration project has begun to tackle some of these issues. A comprehensive survey of Tarrafal’s households has been conducted to identify 500 beneficiaries with inefficient septic tanks or water connection problems. Subsequently construction to link these homes to the town’s sanitation infrastructure has begun. Once the work is complete, the 500 households will receive formal sanitation services improving their living conditions. Considerably more wastewater will also flow into Tarrafal’s wastewater treatment plant which has been upgraded and equipped to cope with the additional flow.
The treated wastewater will be channeled to the Colonato agricultural area on the outskirts of the town. This area sustains a number of underprivileged families who, with the treated wastewater, will be able to expand the cultivation surface and improve their livelihoods. The project team has worked extensively with the farmers, with a special focus on women farmers, supporting them to change their farming practices and diversify their crops. Drip irrigation kits, adapted for wastewater reuse and tailored to save water and fertiliser, have been distributed. Farmers have also been trained to plant salt tolerant and salt absorbing tree species along the coast to protect the cultivation area. The trees are expected to form a living barrier, reduce salt water intrusion and improve the quality of soils in Colonato.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the project was to convince farmers that it is safe to use treated wastewater in agriculture. Fortunately, this method of farming has been successful in other parts of Cabo Verde. A learning and exchange programme was organised to provide the farmers of Colonato with an opportunity to visit farms that are successfully irrigating crops with treated wastewater in the neigbhouring town of Santa Cruz.
The refurbishment and equipping of the laboratory of the Tarrafal wastewater treatment plant will ensure that water is regularly and systematically sampled and tested for safety. The government is currently looking at upgrading the status of the water quality testing laboratory so that it can serve three additional municipalities. A public awareness campaign is planned to educate consumers about the safety of eating crops that have been irrigated with treated wastewater.
Watch the videos produced about the demo project:
Everything Drop Counts
With a brightly coloured mascot called “Gothina” (Droplet), the demonstration project team took the message of efficient water use to every corner of Tarrafal. With an economy that is growing at 5% per annum, population growth of 2.5% and an expanding tourism industry, demand for water resources is rising, but drought and desertification are taking their toll on the environment and limiting their growth potential. Cabo Verde is part of the Sahel – the narrow strip of semi-arid land that stretches across North Africa – and the islands share many of the difficulties faced by Sahelian nations, including serious water shortages caused by periods of prolonged drought.
A comprehensive communications strategy was prepared and implemented to guide the public outreach component of the IWRM demonstration project. The strategy included a wide range of activities − from performances by local theatre groups, photo competitions, exhibitions at local fairs and visits to schools. Together, these activities carry home the message that in drought-prone Cabo Verde, water resources are finite and need careful management and protection. The campaing also targeted the hotels in Tarrafal in order to promote best practices and optimise water consumption.
Working Together for Greater Action
The Ministry of Environment, Rural Development and Marine Resources was nomited to start the implementation of the IWRM demonstration project in Tarrafal. In order to make it a truly participative approach and insure buy-in from the beneficiaries, a national multistakeholder steering committee was put in place to steer the initiative. The municipality of Tarrafal played a key role in supporting the project and assigned a team to insure the delivery of each component of the project.
Thanks to the participatory appraach at national level, the project attracted the attention of the Food and Agriculture Organisation who formally requested support to replicate lessons learned and awareness raising successes in two other municipalities under the framework of their upcoming new “fertigation” project in Cabo Verde.
The governement, through the National Agency for Water and Sanitation, is now exploring opportunities to develop a Green Climate Fund funding proposal to replicate and upscale the demonstration project activities on other islands of Cabo Verde.
This demonstration project is part of a broader regional United Nations Environment Programme and UNDP implemented initiative, financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), aiming at promoting a more coordinated and participatory approach to water management in six small island states from the Indian and Atlantic Ocean: Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe and Seychelles.
The so-called “Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Integrated Water Resources Management Project” addresses the paragraph 64 of the SAMOA Pathway on water and sanitation and directly feeds into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, it will help ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (Goal 6), paying special attention to women participation in the process (Goal 5). It also responds to the need to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact particularly in Small Island Developing States (Goal 13). Thanks to its ecosystem based philosophy the project will feed into Goal 14 on life below water and Goal 15 on life on land. Finally, it will build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries (Goal 17).