RFSP Improves access to clean water in Jongei

By John Alier

June, 2017(RFSP)- South Sudan does not have large scale water purification plant and reticulation system that provides its residents with clean and safe water. The situation is the same from the capital city, Juba to the most remote areas. The affluent rely on commercial plants that purify water from the River Nile and sell it as bottled water.

The rest of the population rely on borehole water and the less unfortunate, unclean water direct from the river or open wells. The situation gets worse as one moves further away from the capital city. Vulnerable population rely on boreholes mostly drilled and rehabilitated by aid agencies. One such agency that has drilled and rehabilitated a lot of boreholes is Catholic Relief Services (CRS), through its Resilience and Food Security Program (RFSP). 

At least ten boreholes have been drilled and more rehabilitated to increase access to clean drinking water in the remote villages by RFSP in the former Jonglei state, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Hundreds of women who bear the brunt of fetching water from sources kilometers away now have water available close to their homesteads, freeing up more time food security and livelihood activities, and looking after the welfare of their families.  

The RFSP team met with several women who shared their stories on how this initiative has helped them across the field locations. Rebeca Aluel Chuol, A 36-year-old mother of five from at Kuei village in Dorok payam of Duk County, also shared her relief along with other woman, from a burden they never thought would end. 


Children collect water from one of the ten boreholes RFSP drilled across Jonglei State to improve communities access to clean drinking water: Photo by John Alier (May 2017 in Dorok of Duk) 

We used to fetch water from places that are far like Dorok Center, two hours walk from here. If you have five jerry cans, they will take more than 10 hours to bring home. When you start in the morning, you will finish in the night.  During rainy season, we drink rain from the pools, which caused a lot of diarrhea in children.   This made life difficult for women, and even worse for lactating mothers, walking long hours, under the hot sun”, explains Aluel, who experienced it all.  

Multiple uses of water  

The RFSP approach to water provision has been multi-pronged. From field experience, the program knows that the scarcity of water affects the different facets of communities’ lives, from health to livelihoods. RFSP prioritizes access to water where it will have far reaching and multiple uses, such as water for domestic use, livestock production and vegetable irrigation. The program promotes a borehole structure that includes an apron and water trough for watering cattle and small ruminants. The boreholes are also sited where communities grow vegetables for consumption and trade, thereby improving their nutrition and income generating activities.  

Bringing water closer to the communities has several benefits because of the multiple uses of water. The relieved women had a lot of reasons for appreciating the project. When the borehole was brought to our village, we are no longer moving that far in search of water. We have time to sit and cultivate in our farms, and do other things which we couldn’t do before, thanks to CRS for this wonderful support.  

Keeping livestock is now possible in this part of the country, especially small ruminants which is a source of meat and milk for many children, and usually kept by women. RFSP also supports vulnerable women with livestock restocking and providing water is crucial for the success of this activity. With water availability for human consumption being a problem, no one would think of keeping livestock with no water.  

A standard RFSP rehabilitated or new water source includes an apron leading to a water trough where communities can water their small and large ruminants. 

We did not keep cattle. It is difficult to get them water. Small ruminants like goats used to be taken to Dorok for drinking by women and children, which was also a hard task. Today, we have our cattle at home, because we have enough water for them to drink here in the village from this pump. Each the borehole has an animal trough where the animals drink from. Every family now has a cow, can now keep it at home even during the dry season for children to drink milk. This has brought us a lot of freedom”, Aluel says. 

Women who once walked long distances to fetch water are now able to access clean drinking water atheir door steps: photo by John Alier (May 2017 in Dorok village of Duk County). 

The integrated approach RFSP has taken has brought multiple benefits to communities. The water points have created a lifeline for communities who now use them to water their livestock and engage in vegetable farming, whilst having a clean source of water that reduces the risks of waterborne diseases. Trained water pump mechanics are also expected to reap benefits of stipends once they start fixing boreholes that have broken down for a nominal fee. Rebecca Yar Gai in Bor, one of the beneficiaries of a new borehole in Payueny village in Bor was also happy the community could now access clean water.  

Drinking dirty water caused a lot of problems, like diarrhea, and other diseases. Cholera was common in this area, but this is not the case today”, Yar says. 

Having boreholes rehabilitated or drilled by RFSP in the villages is the first concern, maintaining them is another. The communities have stated that they are committed to repairing and maintaining them. Kueithoi Tutdel, the chief of Kuei village in Duk, has been mobilizing his community to collect money to be used to repair boreholes in case of a breakdown. To add on to the sustainability of these water points, RFSP trained community based pump mechanics. These pump mechanics have proven to be very helpful in conducting small maintenance and repair issues, especially women mechanics. RFSP prioritizes women pump mechanics to repair and maintain water sources because they are culturally, the main users of water. The program has built the capacity of women to rehabilitate water sources and empowering them to decision making power in water point management. Since WASH activities started in 2014, the program has trained 95 pump mechanics (45 men and 45 women) on borehole maintenance and water point management. 

Women have empowered to maintain and repair water sources as they are culturally, the main users of water points. photo by RFSP. 

This water pump has been repaired twice by the community. The first time it broke last year, we paid SSP1,500 ($10.00) to get it repaired, money gathered by the community. It broke again this year, and we collected SSP3,000 ($20.00) for repairsIt did not break down again after that”.  

The borehole serves a nearby school with hundreds of children in this village. It also serves 360 households scattered across the village bringing about the much-needed relief for families who now use this water point for multiple purposes.  

Water sources as connectors to communities 

An additional benefit of the water sources is how they have acted as connectors to feuding communities in Duk County. Duk County has been the hotbed of ethnic conflict between the Nuer and Dinka communities since the 2013 conflict as the border county between Greater Bor and Western Bieh. With the continuing vulnerability and common needs however, RFSP water sources have served as a common ground for communities to come together, coupled with interventions from RFSP social cohesion activities. Nuer communities have now settled in Dinka dominated Duk County where they access many humanitarian services, such as food for asset interventions, WASH, nutrition, social cohesion and trauma awareness activities.  

Since the intervention, JFSP and RFSP rehabilitated 129 boreholes for rehabilitation, thereby improving access to safe water for 108,131 (50,260 men and 57,871 women) community members. Furthermore, the program drilled five new boreholes in Duk (1), Uror (2) and Nyirol (2) using the CRS drilling rig, compressor and other borehole components provided from CRS private funds, improving the access to safe drinking water for 6,588 (3,449 men and 3,139 women) in locations prioritized by local officials and communities to reduce pressure, and prevent conflict, around existing water sources amongst host communities and IDPs.