“When I am brewing beer I have to go to the well about five times, I also ask my children to come along so that we fetch enough for the activity,” says Ruth Kiyonga, a resident of Longelep village in Kotido district.
On a normal day, Kiyonga and the family only fetch water once, enough for only cooking and washing hands before meals. Other activities like washing clothes and bathing are considered a luxury. Here in Kotido, just like in the entire Karamoja region, water is not readily available. People have to walk for over three kilometers to a water source and when they get there the queues are unbearable. According to Kiyonga, one spends a minimum of three hours just to get one jerry can of water from the source to the house.
“You can walk for about 30 – 45 minutes to the well then when you get there the line is very long and you have to wait for about two hours, and then you start walking back,” says Kiyonga.
It is against this backdrop that World Vision has started a number of activities to improve access to water, and offer people alternative livelihoods that will better people’s living conditions. In the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund II (Nusaf II phase III) project, World Vision is implementing 92 projects in two sub countries in Kotido district, reaching out to about 6,736 households. These include; water ponds, wood lots, farm managed natural regeneration, check damns, rock catchments, apiary farming and distribution of fruit trees and vegetable seeds.
Through what is termed as ‘Food for Work’ people work to construct the public projects whereas the seeds and fruit trees are distributed and people trained to look after them.
In Longelep, a charcoal dam is currently under construction. Members dig three days in a week in which soil is excavated and poured onto the sides to act as buffers. This damn in particular has been under construction since July last year and is nearly complete waiting for the April rains. After the rains, the damn is expected to serve the people an extra two and a half months. After a cycle of six weeks work, each participatory member is given 40.5 kg of maize as a reward.
“At least I have some food for my children after working, this place is very dry, the last season I planted but the crops did not sprout,” she says adding: “We want by the end of February to have completed the dam. The water will feed our animals and we shall spend less time looking for water. I would then concentrate on brewing more beer so that I get money to buy scholastic materials for my children and also pay school fees.”
Francis Opira, the Project Coordinator Nusaf II says that Food for work project is to improve livelihood and food security for families in the area.
“The family comes up with the projects they would like to engage in, World Vision gives inputs and capacity building. It is all about tapping labour and doing projects that benefit entire communities,” explains Mr Opira.
The project is funded by the World Food Programme at a tune of $501,871 from the World Food Programme while World Vision has injected in$175,924.
These projects come as a huge relief to the communities who have, until recently, been pastoralists who had to move from one place to another to look for pasture and water for their cattle. This over the years led to conflicts with neighboring communities and increased insecurity in the area. Also because the area is very dry with several episodes of drought, it has been hard to grow food all year round unless supported through irrigation for instance in addition to environment degradation.
Mr Opira says that through these projects they hope that people’s lives will improve as they will be able to live more settled lives and concentrate on developing their families.
“I expect to see a reverse in environment degradation which will improve on the patterns of rainfall for the better as well as the volume. In bridging the gap for water availability, we also want to see people live more settled and meaningful lives as they have more time to engage in income generating activities,” says Mr Opira.