Providing drinking water is not enough to end poverty

by Francis Mujuni, World Vision Uganda

Francis Mujuni, World Vision, Uganda
Francis Mujuni, World Vision, Uganda

In his blog post, Henk Holtslag highlighted that muitple use of water is very critical in ending poverty. I have already shown in my earlier discussions that provision of safe drinking water is not enough. In the developing countries where agriculture employs the bulk of the poor people, availability of water for families, their animals and crops is very essential. When we talk of “provision” the quick question is by who? Self supply then becomes the ideal solution. But how many of our governments, Communities and development agencies are promoting this concept? Do they know much about it? Do they know it exist and it is very feasible?

Even me, I did not know that the simple practice of harvesting rain water from my house roof is self supply and can have a far reaching effect on my health and wealth. When I decided to construct an underground tank that has taken me almost one and a half years to put up was purely out of two reasons; 1) to avoid the nuisance of pools of water around my house whenever it rained 2) adding aesthetic value to my house using the white plastic gutters around the roof of my house, which could have made the concept a little too expensive.

However, after having read much about the concept I now want to become one of the champions in my organization, my community and possibly my country. For example I will start with my dad who lives in one of the rural districts in Uganda. The old man has owned a 6,000 liters’ tank that harvests water on every rainy season. However, he has never sold any water to any one because culturally water is given freely by God and never sold. The community would look at him as a pure capitalist who cannot share freely with others when God has blessed him with the money to construct a tank and also makes sure that He (God) provides him the rain without pay.

A roof as a resource Adding guttering putting rainwater to use

However, when I return to the village I will try to show my dad that this has to change. He should ask people who beg him for the water to instead pay for it; even if it is as little as 50 Uganda shillings which can only buy a match-box. But one by one, one makes a bundle.   This is because whenever the tank is functioning well it is “ours” when the wind blows off the gutters or it requires minor repairs then it belongs to “him” alone. Therefore, reminding him that if he started charging he would have enough money for its repairs or even expanding it to become his retirement income will become very essential.

The more we who have been blessed with this kind of knowledge share it widely, then our communities and governments will probably make it a priority and then we shall realize the importance of water in ending the disease- poverty syndrome.

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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