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The NIHERST environmental solutions for sustainable communities programme for rainwater harvesting systems in rural communities

Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

With the Dublin Principles and need for a united approach towards the management of water globally, NIHERST developed the Environmental Solutions for Sustainable Communities (ESSC) Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) programme. Water availability, based on the island’s demand and conservation practices is a concern. One of the challenges being faced by Water Authorities WASA, is that the demand for water was more than the output by some 25 million gallons daily, Taitt, R. (2020, February). According to the National Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Policy March 2017, RWH is designated as a disaster risk reduction tool, particularly where the effects of a human-induced climate change are seen. As climate change exacerbates the intensity of natural disasters such as drought and flooding, these RWH systems represent cost-effective practical steps that small island nations can take towards adaptation and building resilience. The introduction of safe and modern rainwater harvesting practices to eighteen (18) schools and four (4) community centres in water scarce communities was seen as a viable solution. The selected sites are also disaster shelters and will be especially useful to communities after disasters. These residents are also equipped to build and maintain their own Rain Water Harvesting Systems (RWHS). Reference Taitt, R. (2020, February).

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

Additional supply of rain harvested water using the GWP-C, CEHI RWHS model in water scarce communities was installed under the ESSC programme. Trainees utilised this RWH model to advance their businesses e.g. ice production business, an elderly home in their community and pastry making business. It is very beneficial to the schools which have experienced water shortages. The additional water supply has helped to reduce the amount of down-time created by the closure of school due to the lack of water. The projects that followed provided education on water conservation for children, using visual science communication tools such as storytelling, videos and puppetry. It was found that dialogue to stimulate the students’ attention was most effective in building awareness in children. Adults, however, were trained in an entrepreneurial activity; over 15 persons were trained in each community to install RWHS and to sell this new service in and beyond their communities. Stakeholder consultations were held in each community where residents expressed interest in installing systems. The programme built public-private partnerships (PPP) with local and regional grant funding organisations, met with community leaders, and members, and utilised local consultants to perform necessary roles during the projects. Some consultancy was based on gathering of baseline data, training, and leading community groups, and provision of educational services. Furthermore, in its latest project, training was provided on agriculture and water management by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

These RWH systems represent cost-effective practical steps towards adaptation and building resilience. The selected sites have been included and updated on the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management ODPMs list and are especially useful to communities after disasters. In the circumstances where harsh weather patterns persist, pipe-borne surface water supplies are lost due to debris at the plant, or low reservoir levels, therefore, earmarked disaster shelters have been equipped. Fortunately, it is a plan for disaster risk reduction. More so, some RWHS have solar-powered water pumps, this is certainly an advantage. In recent projects, Badger meters - model 25 were added to the community centre tanks to measure the volume of water. Further, the phase 4 monitoring and evaluation cycle of the project allowed for the team to gather quantitative and qualitative data from the residents to ascertain how much the project benefited residents and in what way. This data has been analysed and visualized for reporting purposes.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

The NIHERST ESSC Programme was the first programme from which RWHS systems were implemented on the island. It gained the attention of other water resource management organisations, and hence this started some traction with the implementation of RWHS elsewhere. RWH is included in the local IWRM Policy. Additionally, the National Climate Change Policy, 2011 addresses how climate change can impact water resources, the policy mentions temperature increases leading to the loss of surface water; decreased precipitation resulting in reduced groundwater reserves; and saltwater intrusion in well water, in instances of overdrawn wells. NIHERST continues to invite the media to related events; it also takes the opportunity to share data-backed information at national and regional symposiums wherever it presents itself. Within each project, the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) phased is duly implemented and hence data is collected and utilized, especially for tailoring future proposals for grant funds. Gender equality is also measured as part of the M&E activities. Pre-project, a report was done to determine the baseline conditions in rural, water scarce communities with the necessary infrastructure to install a harvester, so that a pool was created to choose from.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

Challenges emerged in the risk management area of the projects, because as the projects evolved lessons were being learnt. In the latter projects, a lesson learnt database was created where opportunities and risks could be identified and an appropriate response formulated. In this way, NIHERST can gain from opportunities, and safeguard itself from risks using planned strategies. Furthermore, plans to improve the projects by utilizing contingency and management reserves within the project’s budget planning can support the planned strategies. There is need to ensure that the residents receiving materials are bound to a contractual agreement to ensure implementation of their systems, and a follow up is required. This has been one of the greater challenges of the latter two projects implemented, and can be countered by a planned strategy in upcoming projects.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

NIHERST continues to seek grant funding for its ESSC programme, given that there are many more communities in the pool which can benefit. The training component for the project allowed for members of the community to install and repair RWHS, this NIHERST sees as a business opportunity should the need arise. NIHERST can liaise closely with the Managers of the community centres and Principles of schools, integrate them into any trainings or events, and allow open dialogue, so that RWHS can be maintained well after closure of the project. And then funds can be budgeted as part of the community centre or school for maintenance of RWHS. Another effective advancement will be factoring in a training session for budgeting and post project maintenance, supported by stakeholder management, and influence, as mentioned. This can uplift the project, and reduce project failure, and stakeholder enthusiasm.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

NIHERST gained from the experience of its ESSC programme through dealing with its stakeholders – those members we trained, students, and the PPP, and from these emerged a number of lessons learnt. A few recommendations NIHERST will like to share are the utilisation of a quick M&E exercise, by raise of hands during project execution. NIHERST was obliged to perform this role and found that trainees and students were willing to respond. Another area is the use of project management tools and techniques, NIHERST found that this practice was in its best interest, and hence it took this is an opportunity to upskill staff and expand their capabilities, in that staff was trained to use Microsoft Project. To add, improved budget management will aid future projects, especially considering responses for risks and opportunities. On another dynamic, the social aspect was considered for students and therefore visual science communication tools were used.