Fontes’ water systems in Western Uganda continue to provide safe drinking water to approximately 15,000 people in five different villages. On top of that, we are very proud that both of our field staff members in Western Uganda, Pascal and Cleophas, are former Fontes scholarship students. Having been provided with the opportunity to go through secondary education by one of Fontes’ donors, they are now able to give back to their communities. They follow up the water systems on a regular basis, encourage and train the water committees and report on technical challenges.
Once a water system is up and running, Fontes mainly focuses on training and follow up. In 2019, Fontes was able to carry out two main training seminars. During these events, we gather water committees and technicians from the villages and go through material such as how to ensure good maintenance, how to do basic accounting and how to sensitise the community on the importance of safe drinking water. Since all the committee members are working on a voluntary basis, they tend to rotate. It is therefore extremely important that these trainings take place on a regular basis. The technicians trained all come from the villages, and most of them have not had any schooling beyond primary education. Still, they are eager to learn and they enjoy the trainings very much!
In October we unfortunately experienced multiple pump failures. Most of the water systems were installed in 2007-2010, and pumps tend to have a 10 year lifespan. Since the villages in Queen Elizabeth National Park are very poor, the price for the water has to be very low for the residents to afford it. After paying the necessary inputs such as chemicals, fuel for generators and a small allowance for the technicians, there is almost nothing left to save for a large breakdown.
With help from our local field staff, the communities were able to request the local District government to include pumps in their budget. After a lot of hard lobbying work and follow up, two pumps were delivered in November. Fontes is very proud of this effort, since it is part of our mission to support the communities in taking advantage of local resources.
Nevertheless, two more new pumps were still needed to have all systems up and running. After a brief campaign on social media we were very grateful to receive donations for the purchase and installation of the remaining two pumps. One of the donors who funded an entire pump, had visited the villages in 2014 and still remembered the massive contrast between the poor fishing villages and the luxury safari lodges very closeby. Another donor promptly agreed to fund the water projects with a generous amount on an annual basis going forward. We are extremely grateful to these and other donors, who acknowledge the importance of our ongoing work in these villages.