Improving access to water for local communities
In Somalia, less than 30% of the population has access to clean water. In the worst conflict affected areas, that figure drops to 20% . This reduces access to adequate sanitation and hygeine facilities, and increases the risks of waterborne diseases. The town of Qarxis in Somalia’s arid Puntland region is among those rural communities without access to sufficient water supplies. Water shortages and extreme lack of access were creating tensions in the community as people struggled to find clean water.
Private companies used to control the sale of water in Qarxis, monopolizing the market and selling at costs too high for many in the community – restricting access to clean water for many families. Those who couldn’t afford the high prices had to find other (often dangerous) means to fetch water – such as travelling long and unsafe distances. UNDP worked with the community and local authorities to come up with a comprehensive plan to address these urgent needs.
Based on their recommendations, UNDP helped the community build six new water catchments (called berkades). These tightly-sealed catchments can store up to 1680 cubic meters of water, which is harvested from underground rainfall water. The berkades provide a clean, safe, and sustainable supply for the people of Qarxis. Community-based water management committees control the sale of the water – at a reduced rate as little as $2 for 200 barrels. And, for those who still cannot afford it, the water management committee provides water for free.
Musa Osman Yussof, the mayor of Qarxis, sees the impact that the water berkades have made. “The town has changed so much. Although this area is big, and there was no permanent water source for the people. The water was privately owned, and the price was too high for most people. Now, thanks to the berkades from UNDP, the quality of the water has improved and families can have clean water.”
Building water catchments in rural areas like Qarxis helps ensure that Somali men and women benefit from improved natural resource management. Local authorities and communities own and manage their own water resources, and the berkades enable local communities to access clean, safe water at an affordable price. In addition, the income earned off the sale of water to the community will be used by local authorities on other development projects in the village. In the long term, the project builds the capacity of the community and local authorities to identify and manage local economic development needs and priorities and create sustainable projects – like water more berkades, rehabilitated schools, and health facilities.
Maimun Hassan, 33, has felt the change first hand. Before the berkades, she had trouble affording clean and safe water her 5 children. Her family uses 120 liters of water a day for daily use. Before the berkades were built, she couldn’t afford the high costs of the private water companies. The berkades project has lowered the price of water, and Maimun can now afford to buy locally. “I had to get water through unreliable and unsafe means. Now, I can afford clean water from a safe source!”
Now, with more access to fresh and clean water, Maimun’s children and her community are healthy and safe. And, with the money raised from the sale of the water the community was able to fund the salaries of police officers and a small police station to help increase the security in the area.