By Noluvo Mandukwini
The Equality Collective is based in the deep rural Eastern Cape, along the Wild Coast, in Nqileni village. The area is known for its beautiful rolling hills, right next to the Indian Ocean coastline, and the deeply entrenched culture and tradition of the AmaMpondo.
The Equality Collective lives and works in this community and are therefore not far removed from the struggles our community face–one of them being the lack of reliable and consistent water to our reservoirs and taps.
We get our water from the Mncwasa Water Scheme which was built by Amathole District Municipality (ADM) in 2010 and became operational in 2015. The scheme is supposed to feed water to approximately 6000 households (over 30 000 people) across 40 villages.
The scheme has not been providing a consistent water supply to date, sometimes leaving us without water for months on end.
A survey - which was conducted in April 2021 by the Equality Collective and Viva con Agua, in collaboration with the Bulungula Incubator, the Jalamba Traditional Council, the Amathole District Municipality, and various community stakeholders was initiated in response to the persistent water challenges faced by villagers. It aimed to provide a comprehensive diagnosis of the technical and systemic issues affecting the water scheme.
The survey of 32 areas supplied by reservoirs and 297 interviews revealed that 82% of taps lacked daily water availability and 41% of people interviewed had no water since the previous year (2020).
After the results of the survey, it was clear that the lack of water was a serious issue. In response, the Equality Collective initiated the community water-monitoring system of the water scheme called Amanzi Kumntu Wonke (AKW).
The monitoring initially started with seven villages across the scheme, and then extended to other villages serviced by the scheme, reaching 100% monitoring of the scheme in August 2022.
The objective of the AKW project is to implement a community water-monitoring system that will increase water reliability in the supply area of the Mncwasa Water Scheme.
This is done through working with 32 Water Ambassadors from communities who monitor availability of water in their reservoirs and report any leaking taps, BP tanks or broken infrastructure along the scheme.
The Equality Collective then collates this data in daily, weekly and monthly reports which we share with our communities via WhatsApp groups and on the Bulungula Community Radio. We also send these reports to ADM and their role is to respond to and fix the issues identified by the Water Ambassadors across the scheme.
Through these data reports, we found that in the first half of 2023, the average Water Reliability Index (WRI) of the Mncwasa Water Scheme was 14%. WRI is an indication of water availability at a reservoir level. It is expressed as the percentage of reservoirs out of the total reservoirs that have water on a particular day. During this time, the whole scheme was not functional and there was no water for about 3 months. Overall, June was the best-performing month this year. The scheme had the highest WRI this year at 46% in June.
Attending community meetings and sharing AKW’s vision has been a crucial step to securing the support of our communities. In 2023, we will be conducting ADM feedback community meetings in which we update the communities on the progress and challenges of the project, and how ADM addresses the issues affecting the Mncwasa Water Scheme. These partnerships enable us to receive support and ensure we collaborate effectively with ADM to enhance the water supply.
This project is important for our communities, as we rely on the Mncwasa Water Scheme for our water supply. We value this project as a way of staying informed about the issues we face, especially since our municipality does not communicate with us regularly or clearly.
With this project, we can access up-to-date information about water distribution and management. We didn't know that we can report water issues, and we didn’t know where we report these issues but through the Amanzi Kumntu Wonke project, we know we can report to the Equality Collective who will report to ADM.
Noluvo Mandukwini is the Right to Water Coordinator at the Equality Collective.