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WATCH: How one woman changed a village – and how WRC helped

Published Jul 29, 2022

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Water is life. Not only is it crucial for personal use, but people also need water for their gardens, crops and livestock. The Water Research Commission (WRC) helps meet this fundamental need by empowering communities to develop sustainable and innovative water solutions.

Since 2012 there had been a general water shortage in the village of Tshakuma in the Limpopo Province of SA. The municipal water scheme was unreliable and the community often had to go days and sometimes weeks without water. The situation in this village was mirrored by countless other villages in the area, leaving people increasingly vulnerable. Not only is water crucial for personal use, but people also need it for their gardens, crops and livestock. For any business to be sustainable, a reliable, good source of water is needed.

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Surveying the situation and feeling compelled to step in, one particular Tshakuma resident, Florence Negondeni decided to act. She recounts how the crisis made her think about “ancient areas in the mountains where our people used to get water from”. After surveying the mountains, MaFlorence and other community members discovered a number of springs - and proceeded with their own water supply scheme. Two weeks later, more than 4 000 people had access to water.

SAINC visited Limpopo to see the expansion of this initiative, in partnership with the WRC, and how its “Operationalising Community Driven Multiple Use Water Services” has assisted to bridge the gap between informal, self-supply solutions and formal council and government-led led solutions in a cost effective and sustainable way.

THE STORIES

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Florence Negondeni, affectionately known as MamaFlo or MaFlorence, recalls how, for many years, people in rural areas would walk many kilometres to collect and carry water in calabashes and buckets from nearby rivers. After scouting the Murangaphuma mountains, MaFlorence and other community members discovered a number of natural springs and eventually settled on one that had the quickest flow. Through her personal campaigning and reaching out to everyone in the community, R113 000 was raised from 113 households.

With this money, they were able to construct a pipe down from the mountain and 13 days later, more than 4 000 people had access to water. The scheme is now part of the greater Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) Project, of which MaFlorence is the chairperson. She continues to work closely with communities and municipalities, and in particular with the WRC.

Virginia Molose is the Research Manager at the Water Research Commission. She is an advocate for Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) and is a founding member of the MUS Project, a four-year plan supported by the African Development Bank. With her involvement on the ground, she has found that there is higher community participation in water management because there is a greater determination among such communities to find solutions to water problems.

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Working alongside MaFlorence, she has gained invaluable insight into water supply and demand within the greater South African rural context. The WRC’s aim is not to stop what communities are doing, but rather to enable their work to become streamlined and sustainable.

Alfred Ntshauba has lived in rural South Africa his whole life. At his ripe old age, he still works as a farmer. He grows fruit such as naartjies, avocados, litchis and oranges, right in his backyard. Apart from fertile soil, which is abundant in the area, his crops need plenty of water to grow. Until MaFlorence initiated the water supply project to bring fresh, mountain spring water right to the community’s doorstep, Alfred had to trek to the nearest water source to keep his crops quenched.

Now, with a regular and local water supply, his fruit trees have flourished and he is able to sell his fruit at daily markets nearby. This is Ntshauba’s only source of income and he is grateful for the assistance of the WRC in maintaining the water supply in this remote area.

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