water woman spring tanzania msanga africa

The voice of the wanjamii. Reportage from rural Tanzania, where water is unsafe

This is the third article of the project on water scarcity in Tanzania. In the first part it emerged that a large part of the population lacks clean water. The cause is climate change leading to drought, combined with poor water management. In the second part we showed how drought is related to the spread of diseases in relation to water insecurity. The problem is particularly striking for rural communities, the subjects of this on-the-ground reportage.
Here you can find the Italian version of the project.

MSANGA, Tanzania – The village of Msanga is located in the Kisarawe district, just over a 3-hour drive from Dar es Salaam. It can be reached along a short stretch of paved road, then, the road continues for about 75 km on the red-soiled routes. Msanga is on top of a little hill, and it’s hot there, torrid.

msanga tanzania view
The view from Msanga (Lucrezia Ducci/The Bottom Up)

Mjangi is the Village Chief, democratically elected by the Wanjamii – the members of the community – who are about 720. Each family has between 8 and 16 members and, according to Mjangi, needs 60 liters of water per day. To put that in perspective, in the United States the average consumption of water per family is about 300 gallons per day (approximately 1135 liters).

In Msanga the water that is used for drinking is also used for cooking, showering, washing clothes, building mud houses, and watering chickens, while fruit trees (mangoes, oranges, bananas, and jack fruits) are fed by the rain. “In Tanzania, we have two rainy seasons. The first is between April and May, the second is between October and November. But this year the latter has not yet arrived, we are waiting for the rain, we hope it will arrive soon, Inshallah“. The plants are grieving, and the soil is very arid, although this area of the African continent is characterized by a flourishing nature.

Nowadays, rainwater is a precious commodity because it no longer hydrates only trees, but also the wanjamii. Water is collected in buckets by the families, “but when it doesn’t rain, like now, we walk to the two closest sources to get it”. The inhabitants of Msanga are lucky in comparison to those of other villages where children have to walk up to 8/10 km before reaching the water. Women and children are in charge of fetching water, the latter are advantaged when the source is in the same direction of their school, otherwise, they would have to choose water over education. The practice is not only time-consuming but also unsafe. The Little Source, the closest, is only 20 minutes away, even if to reach it by foot the road is very steep.

water woman spring tanzania msanga africa
Afyia fetches water from the Small Source (Lucrezia Ducci/The Bottom Up)

When it doesn’t rain for long, the Little Source dries up, while the Great Source, the main one, which is 3 km ahead, has water all year round. While the Little Source, when it doesn’t rain for long, dries up. In both sources, the water is stagnant, in the Great even more. But before drinking it is neither boiled nor filtered, it is just put in a cool place. When I ask if they are aware that this water transmits diseases, Mjangi smiles: “Well, this is the only water we have, and it feeds the entire village. This source is a blessing! ”.

water man spring tanzania msanga africa
Mjangi, the Villa Chief at the Great Source. (Lucrezia Ducci/The Bottom Up)

In the village, the wanjamii know that this water is unsafe and that it is affecting their well-being. Even if there is a lack of data to perceive the extent of the issue, the difficulties are evident: “I can’t tell you how many malaria cases we have precisely, but I can tell that they increase every year. There are always people who are sick, we never counted how many. However, if I had to male an estimate, I would say that about 2 out of 20 people who take it die.” 10%. The fault lies in stagnant water, which creates a favorable environment for the proliferation of mosquitoes, the main vector of the disease.

The second major evil caused by unsafe water is UTI: Urinary Tract Infection.
“We often suffer from it, women are particularly affected. We know how to recognize the symptoms: it starts with stomach pains and fever, then there are difficulties in urinating, there is often blood in the urine, and we know that if we don’t treat it in time, it can damage our organs”. This infection is due to bacteria, in particular Escherichia coli, which are found in unclean water.

Broken promises: the community’s disappointment:

Tanzania is 132nd out of 165 in the SDGs Index, measuring the progress of each country towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Water management represents a major limitation to the development of the country. Many villages, and villagers, are affected by this problem. Mjangi, as Village Chief, reports to the head of the province, who is a member of the Parliament. “The head of the province has come to our village twice, he is aware of this problem, but we do not know when measures will be taken”. The householders are gathered with us. One of them affirms, sharply: “People from the government always come to visit when the elections are close, most measures are taken at that point. The next elections will be in 2025, in 2024 they will come and tell us ‘vote for us, we will let you have clean water!’ We will vote and they will disappear “.

Near the school, there is a 1000 liter container, which was donated to the village by two benefactors 1 year and a half ago. Even though the funding was private, “the head of the province came with reporters, to show that he had brought clean water to Msanga, but after 6 months the pump broke, we took the water with buckets from the well for a while and then it dried up.”

A solution exists, Mjangi and the householders who are members of the village council have identified it: there is an underground spring a few kilometers from Msanga, where the water is clean, or at least not stagnant. It is too far to be reached on foot, but the greatest desire of the wanjamii is to find money to be able to bring that water to the village. The plant would cost around € 600, but the village does not have the money: “We have already sold the common land to build houses for the teachers of the school, attended by more than 220 children, who otherwise would not have been able to reach Msanga on a daily basis. Now our priority is water. “

Lucrezia Ducci

All the pictures ©Lucrezia Ducci

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