New project to improve schools’ water and energy access

2014-08 KZN site visit 1

Water access can be challenging in rural South Africa

Project 90 is about to launch two new projects which will combine the work of our Community Partnership Programme with our Leadership Clubs Programme. We have selected two of our Leadership Cubs schools to work with them to improve their electricity and water access. The Project 90 team set out to rural Kwa-Zulu Natal to assess the energy and water situation of the two schools.

The first school visited was Ginyani, located in Ingwe municipality. Ingwe suffers from severe water shortage, as three of their potential sources of water – a municipal pump, a play pump, and a tap in the school yard – all suffered from inadequate maintenance or inadequate supply. A lot of the maintenance of the water supply that has already been done was actually undertaken by the local community. For instance, the water well originally constructed to supply the tap in the school yard was a project executed by the women in the community in the eighties. However, the well as it currently stands needs to be both wider and deeper. And the pipes connecting the well to the tap on the school compound need to be changed out and protected against external elements; cattle in the area tend to chew on and tread on the piping. The degradation of this water source has also created a scenario where the water supply is left exposed for cattle to also consume from it. As a result, the children from the school essentially share the same water source with the local cattle. This makes for unsanitary conditions, where the toxins associated with raising cattle become a health risk to which learners become exposed. Some of the potential project work here includes digging a dam to increase water supply to the community project, replacing of pipes would also be a part of the improvement project, with emphasis given on leaving pipes unexposed to external elements, having them being laid deeper into the ground than they currently are. Play-pump repairs is also a task that needs to be done, as well as the repair of rainwater collecting drums by the classroom buildings. Additionally, the team is also seeking to develop a PV solution to help reduce the current energy draw which has increased to roughly R1000 per month due to night classes being given on the premises. This will allow for greater energy efficiency, to complement the adaptation ambitions of the water supply project.

2014-08 KZN site visit 2

KwaThunzi School learners

The second school we visited was KwaThunzi, located near Mkomazi river. This school is in a much better situation all-round as they only have four classrooms, no night classes and several regular supply points for both drinking and agricultural water. Water access, as opposed to supply, seemed to be the key issue at KwaThunzi. Fortunately, with the Mkomazi River close by, a simpler project can be done with this school which would chiefly comprise the installation of a pump and the necessary piping that would give the school ready access to water from the river. Collecting water from the river proved a challenge to learners in the past, as the Mkomazi river is farther than the tap from which they currently collect water. But with a pump and piping installed, a more reliable water source than the tap should become more readily available for the school’s cooking and sanitation needs, as well as for their agricultural ambitions.

2014-08 KZN site visit 3

Rain water tanks are a good way to collect water

As beneficial as these projects are to these schools and their respective communities, with regards to community partnership, it is always of utmost importance to Project 90 by 2030 to have local stakeholders and anticipated beneficiaries directly engaged in the sustainable development process. With the exception of funding, majority of the onus is left on the schools to incorporate climate change adaptation response strategies into their local practices. Thus, at the same time as these projects are being undertaken, school officials were encouraged and better instructed on how to protect assets from the climate induced risks associated with expected droughts and seasonal shifts. Such assets, for example, include water-collecting drums installed alongside classroom buildings that tended to be left uncovered and unmaintained. Additionally, with regards to the water supply projects, information on how pipes should be laid are within the hands of the community who originally built the well or who are more familiar with the water source. Thus, it should be up to communities to instruct diggers on how best to lay pipes and improve the water well system. Community partnership, in the context of climate change response, is about providing energy and water solutions to communities who do not have security of access to water and energy. But it is also about making such solutions sustainable for the communities in which they are implemented.

Mikhail Grant, Project 90 volunteer

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