1Water is a vital resource that constitutes a new strategic issue that mobilizes the entire international community in facilitating its access as well as ensuring its rational management. The attention paid to the water issue, as seen in the successive summits held in Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg, is an indication of the crucial importance of this precious liquid, which is so great as to be included among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations Development Programme. Thus, access to safe drinking water remains a government priority, particularly in Africa, where this resource continues to be in extremely short supply (United Nations System: MDG, target 7c).
2Aware of the limitations of the efforts of the various Sub-Saharan African countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly rallying to contribute to provide drinking water to the working class populations of the cities and the outlying regions.
3RACINES, a Beninese non-governmental organization, did not sit on the sidelines of this concern. By taking the position of a community development player, and with the financial support of Oxfam Québec, it initiated a manual water pump installation project in the villages of Galata and Agbon in the commune of Bantè. The following sections define the context for the implementation of the project, the activities organized and the results obtained from social mobilization and community participation.
4The Republic of Benin, located in West Africa, covers an area of 114 789 km2 and has a total population of 6 769 914 inhabitants, 51.5% of whom are women (RGPH3, 2002). The average population density of the country is 59 inhabitants per km2, with a demographic growth rate of 3.2%. The majority of the population (61.1%) lives in rural areas and has a predominantly polygamist regime, involving 45% of women aged from 15 to 49 years and 29% of men from 15 to 64 years (INSAE, 2001-EDSB2). The administrative organization of the country is divided into 12 departements, 77 communes, 568 districts and 3378 villages and city burroughs.
Figure 1. The two hand-operated water pump in the villages of Galata.
5Bantè, one of the 77 communes of Benin, is located in the North-West part of the Déepartement des Collines, 292 km from Cotonou. It covers an area of 2695 km2 and 19.44% of the Collines territory and includes 9 districts with 34 villages. In 2002, the population of the commune of Bantè was estimated at 82 129 inhabitants, 51% of whom were women (Atlas monographique du Bénin, 2001).
6The water system network of the Commune of Bant`e is essentially made up of rivers, backwaters and a small number of streams that dry up during the dry season. The populations of this commune, mainly from the villages of Galata and Ag-bon, get their water supplies from rivers and backwaters. Indeed, Galata, which is one of the 34 villages of the Commune of Bantè and has a population of about 2417 inhabitants, had only two functional water pumps before the implementation of the project, representing a ratio of 1 pump per 1209 inhabitants. The shortage of drinking water in Galata forced the population – in order to avoid long line-ups at existing water pumps – to walk long distances to get water supplies, which they would obtain from backwater and rivers.
7The reality faced by the village of Agbon is very similar to that in Galata. Prior to the implementation of the project, Agbon, with a population of about 3515 inhabitants, had only 3 functional water pumps, or a ratio of 1 water pump per 1172 inhabitants. The consequences of such a situation are identical to those observed in Galata. The inability of the two villages to obtain adequate supplies of drinking water accounts for the high prevalence of diseases related to the fecal contamination of water such as cholera, parasitosis and gastroenteritis.
8Faced with the grim circumstances described above, RACINES, with the ﬁnancial support of Oxfam Québec, contributed to the reduction of various waterborne diseases by implementing a project that involved the installation of two hand-operated water pumps in the villages of Galata and Agbon (Fig. 1).
Figure 2. Poster used to raise population awareness for water issue.
9The overall objective of the project was to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of the inhabitants of the two villages, mainly of youth and children, by decreasing the occurrence of waterborne diseases through access to a new system of manual water pumps. This overall objective was subdivided into several speciﬁc objectives, which involved activities, results and steps to be taken, as summarized in Table 1.
10During the preparatory phase of the project, educational material was developed, consisting in a policy document for the implementation of the project, speciﬁcation sheets for training, public-awareness posters (Fig. 2) and image boxes (Fig. 3). Through exchange and discussion meetings with the local elected representatives and opinion leaders and the establishment of management committees for the water pumps in the two villages, an organizational context conducive to the successful implementation of the project was created.
Table 1. Areas of intervention.
Figure 3. Image boxes used to public education; (a) recommended behavior for water transport, (b) sources for water contamination, (c) public health actions, (d) state of village without water, (e) consequence of contaminated consumption (f) recommended behavior for water consumption, (g) disease related to contaminated water.
11The installation of the pumps took place in three steps: the donation of a parcel of land by each village, the execution of geotechnical studies and the drilling. Since the installation of the pumps, public-awareness sessions on themes related to water sanitation, water use and health have been organized biweekly and are led by management committees.
12A ﬁrst assessment of the project saw an improvement of the initial situation.
13As expected, the pumps installed in the two villages considerably lessened the distances covered by most of the members of the villages to obtain a supply of water. The use of the
14water pumps is an indication that populations are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers involved in drinking dirty or contaminated water; consequently, a decrease can be seen in the number of diseases related to the fecal contamination of water. Tables 2 and 3 shows the changes in the prevalence of these different diseases prior to the implementation of the project, from March 2007 up to October 2008.
15Although all cases are not taken into account in the present data, as the rate of visits to health centres establishes itself around 34% in Benin, and particularly in the two villages, they nevertheless represent the regressive evolution of the diseases identiﬁed.
Table 2. Changes in waterborne disease trends from 2005 to 2008 in the village of Galata.
Health care centre records from UVS Galata and from the health centre in the Gouka district.
Table 3. Statistics showing changes in waterborne disease trends from 2005 to 2008 in the village of Atokokolibé.
Source: Health care centre records in the Gouka district.
16In Galata, the number of waterborne diseases recorded, which was 40 in 2005 and 2006 decreased from 28 to 25 in 2007 and 2008 respectively. In Agbon, a regressive trend is also recorded. According to the available data, the number of sick people decreased from 35 in 2007 to 25 in 2008.
17The manual water pump installation project in the villages of Galata and Agbon is a fairly novel approach, both in its conception and in its implementation. In fact, most of the water pumps drilled in Benin are never accompanied by a concerted eﬀort or by socio-sanitary education sessions, which remain one of the factors of its success.
18Successful social mobilization around this project is responsible for its durability and its reproducibility. People from every social class in the two villages were affected and their support enlisted. Therefore, the entire population feels that it has a stake in the systems installed.
19The decrease in the prevalence rate of waterborne illnesses during the implementation phase of the project is proof of the positive impact it has had on the beneﬁciary populations. However, the great challenge still posed is to continue organizing health and public-awareness sessions when the project comes to term in March 2009. The management and sanitation committees are sometimes hard pressed to maintain the scheduled activities they themselves have organized, as most of the various members are farmers and therefore tied to their agricultural work. Therefore, the project facilitator must emphasize the operational reinforcement of the committees to ensure that they can manage their time and consequently organize their activities.
20However, in the African context, a decrease in waterborne diseases can not only result from the drilling of water pumps. It must be accompanied by public awareness, as populations are still linked to the social constraints that establish and maintain cultural ties with other water sources such as rivers, backwaters and rain.
21One of the major accomplishments of this project worth emphasizing is the introduction of a new type of leadership in the governance of beneﬁciary populations. Young and old must now work together to manage a community project, a responsibility that was once the exclusive domain of the Elders, as determined by a social hierarchy based on age.
22The results obtained from this project conﬁrm the importance of having it duplicated in other villages of the commune of Bantè, where the need for safe drinking water is still deeply felt.
23The implementation methodology of this project, initiated by the ﬁnancial partner, could be reproduced for future similar projects and yield the same results, in Benin as well as in other African countries. As a corollary, exchanges between the Jeunes acteurs du changement (JAC) partners, ﬁnanced by Oxfam Québec, allow for the exchange of valu-able experience within the context of the development of such an initiative. The common goal shared by all these partners remains the mobilization of local populations in support of environmental issues, as it is in Benin, with the association RACINES and other organizations and in Togo with ADETOP.
Figure 4.Wild dumps close to homes in Galata.
24During the ﬁrst year of the project’s implementation, no major challenges were encountered. Rather, a keen interest was shown by populations rallying in great numbers to attend sessions. It is important to note, however, that because of the ﬁeld work that must be done, large gatherings can only take place on Sundays, a schedule to which the facilitator must adapt.
25Also of note is that the people of Galata – one of the two villages where the intervention took place – are living in an extremely unhealthy environment. A study showed that thirty eight (38) wild dumps are scattered throughout the village and close to homes in Galata (Fig. 4). To make matters worse, more than 1000 pigs run free in the village, leaving fecal matter behind wherever they go (Fig. 4). A prospective analysis of the situation in Galata makes it possible to foresee any risk of compromise of project objectives presently being carried out because of the unhealthy village environment. We therefore had to promote a more extensive sanitation process by strengthening committees previously established and by having them take on greater responsibility towards issues such as health, garbage collection, domestic animal control and the construction of enclosures for animals. Moreover, in accordance with the project’s funding partner, funds were allocated to ensure that committees were equipped with the proper tools needed to build a healthy environment, such as hoes, coupe-coupes, brooms, rakes, shovels, gangs, muﬄers and trash cans. Consequently, the initial public-awareness activities on water-related themes are now paired with environmental education sessions.
Figure 5. Pigs in Galata.
26One can conclude from the aforementioned that the project for the installation of manual water pumps in the villages of Galata and Agbon responds to an identiﬁed need in these populations in terms of its establishment. Many other villages in the commune of Bantè are experiencing the same extreme water shortages faced by Galata and Agbon. The need these communities have for this equipment is so great that they are willing to make many sacriﬁces to beneﬁt from the same type of project. The approach taken in this project, which promotes the empowerment of populations through comprehensive education about issues concerning water-management, the populations themselves and the establishment of a new type of leadership, will allow the next project of this type in this area to be based on expertise and acquired tools.