When our team arrived in Manantenina, we thought that we would be working on the construction of a pipeline and tap system for the entirety of our 8 weeks in Madagascar. At the time, the most critical risk on our risk register was that we did not bring enough air valves for the pipeline. Never could I have anticipated that a series of complications with the original source would lead to us starting the project from scratch.
Starting from Scratch
As frustrating as it was to realize that we had to abandon the original project, I could not be more proud of our team for how well we bounced back from this situation. Since then, the DEID Madagascar project has expanded significantly both in scope and in complexity. A week-long effort to identify a new water source led to the discovery of a groundwater spring that has much greater capacity, elevation change, and potential for growth than the original source. After deciding to switch to this source, we completely redesigned the pipeline and tap system with the help of two professional water engineers from New Zealand. Because the new water source is located in the neighboring village of Mandena, the pipeline and tap system will now serve both Mandena and Manantenina, providing clean water for four times the number of people originally planned. After completing the design, we negotiated with a variety of contracting firms to acquire quotes for the new design. We have since decided to work with a contractor named Boba Be, who has worked on several clean water projects funded by USAID.
In addition to redesigning the pipeline, our team has catalyzed the process of establishing water committees in both villages. Throughout this process, our team acted as catalysts rather than facilitators; allowing the communities to drive this process ensured that these associations will work optimally within the unique social, cultural, and political dynamics of both communities. These committees will ensure the system’s long-term sustainability by enforcing rules established to protect the taps and pipeline, collecting taxes for maintenance expenses, and financing repairs. Both Manantenina and Mandena have established water committees complete with bank accounts and official certifications from the regional government. Following the opening of the vanilla market in mid-July, both committees began collecting a small tax that will go towards maintenance expenses. Additionally, the committees wrote, signed, and stamped several legal agreements concerning the villages’ collaboration to construct the water distribution system. These agreements represent a plan to construct the system, a commitment to maintaining the system, and a promise to work together.
Education & Community Consultation
In the final weeks of the trip, our team focused on community consultation, clean water education, and knowledge transfer. From late May to the end of our trip, a few members of our team spoke with villagers from Manantenina and Mandena to learn more about villagers’ water use habits and the culture of each village, raise awareness about the importance of clean water, and keep villagers updated about the project. Our extensive community consultation in Mandena and Manantenina have illustrated the community’s need for greater education about clean water; the vast majority of residents judge the cleanliness of water based on its clarity, which is dependent solely upon the concentration of sediment and visible pollutants in the water rather than the presence of waterborne pathogens. Because of this, we have worked with Save the Children to set up a custom training session on water, sanitation, and hygiene for members of both water committees. The training took place on July 27th from 8am-12pm. From what one of our contacts in the village has told us, the training was well-attended and very successful!
Our consultation also included conversations with residents of Ambohimanarina and Maroambihy, neighboring villages with fully functioning tap systems and water committees that were established over 10 years ago. Several water committee representatives and technicians from these villages have agreed to act as advisers for the Manantenina and Mandena water committees! These advisors gave presentations at a joint meeting between the water committees during the final week of our trip, offering guidance on effective tax collection and governance models. Our team also gave presentations at this meeting, in which we showed the committees the new design and explained specific features of the system. Additionally, our team has provided both committees with construction manuals, which contain comprehensive information about the design and how to repair the pipeline should maintenance be necessary.
Given the distribution system’s expanded scope and complexity, the cost of constructing the system has grown exponentially. Because of this, collecting documentation to use in grant applications became a top priority for our team. Twenty women from Mandena and Manantenina eagerly wrote letters describing how their dependence on local rivers to meet their families’ water needs affects their daily lives. Official representatives of Mandena and Manantenina also wrote formal requests for aid addressed to non-governmental organizations. These letters, in addition to the aforementioned legal agreements and other documents, have been compiled in a digital archive that may be reached through the following link: http://bit.ly/mada2018docs.
Everyone on our team is incredibly excited about everything that we have been able to accomplish in collaboration with our community partners and the communities of Mandena and Manantenina, but our work is far from over. Everyone on this year’s DEID Madagascar team is committed to seeing this project through to its completion, and we have all been busy writing grant applications and our post-implementation report. Another team will be returning to these communities to oversee the system’s construction. Whether or not I personally return to Madagascar next summer, I cannot wait until this system is finally constructed!