Community Water Projects and the Sustainability Puzzle
In the face of water scarcity and dwindling water sources, a good number of communities in Cameroon are embarking on community water projects. Members of these communities finance their water schemes through monthly dues. In some cases, foreign and local partners come in to assist technically and financially. However, the major worry remains that of sustainability of the water catchments.
The BONAVADA water scheme is a 29-year-old community project that serves over ten thousand inhabitants in thirteen villages of the Buea Sub Division. The scheme is tended by the Bokova-Bonakanda-Bova Area Development Association (BONAVADA)
Over the years, BONAVADA and her partners have cautiously managed water from three main catchments; The ‘Sambe’ ‘koke’ and ‘Ikotote’ streams located in Bwitingi and Bwiteva. Water from these sources serves some ten thousand inhabitants, a figure that is on a steady rise.
The period 1982 till present has witnessed massive population growth thanks to the socio economic development recorded by these villages. Some settlers from towns and cities have fully engaged themselves in the construction of houses with provision for reservoirs. At the time of the inception of the Water Project, only one thinly populated primary school existed in the area. Today the same water sources which are gradually drying up serve an increasing number of inhabitants, staff and pupils of four more primary schools, two kindergartens, two secondary schools as well as personnel and patients of three health centers. Moreover, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) branch in Bokova taps water from these same sources for the irrigation of hundreds of hectares of its banana plantation.
These shortcomings leave the community in dire need of more water catchments to meet the water needs of the ever growing population. More powerful water pumps are equally needed to overcome the difficulty of distributing water to homes and institutions situated mostly in hilly areas. Besides, the water catchments are situated some 4km from the residential areas.
Some short term measures are already in place to overcome these problems. According to the BONAVADA Chairman Mr. Lyonga Martin Mumbe, a monthly levy of 100FCFA is expected from every adult with the exception of students. Meanwhile those with private connections pay a yearly contribution of 6.000FCFA. This money is put at the disposal of the Water Management Committee made up of water collectors and water operators for the smooth running of the project.
Once in a while human, material and financial assistance comes in from the Ministry of Water and Mines. So far, the Buea Council has taken the responsibility of footing the high electricity bills incurred in the process of pumping out water.
The vision of the BONAVADA Chairman and co is to rehabilitate the water scheme by constructing more tanks, acquiring more pumps and extending water supply to surrounding villages, schools and health facilities. Furthermore, there are plans to embark on tree planting around the catchment area. Thanks to concerted efforts, the Australian High Commissioner to Cameroon His Excellency Ian Mcconville started the rehabilitation works by commissioning a water storage tank at Bonakanda on February 22, 2011. The Australian Government sponsored the project through a local NGO Forestry, Agriculture, Animal and Fishery Network (FAAFNET).
Recently, the beneficiary community raised 2.7millionFCFA to acquire new pumps to reinstate water supply that was interrupted for a period of seven months.
The BONAVADA water scheme saw the light of day on the 6th February 1982, when the then Senior Divisional Officer for Fako Mr. Ntuba laid the foundation stone of the project at a ceremony during which the sum of close to 800.000FCFA for the project.
This measure greatly relieved the population of the health problems stemming from the absence of potable water. Besides it marked the end of the usual 8 km walk from Bonakanda village to neighboring villages to fetch water, a journey that involved the climbing of steep slopes and a general waste of time and energy.
Today the BONAVADA water scheme benefits villages like Bova I, Bova II, Bonakanda, Boteva, Bonganjo, Upper Bokova, part of Bwiteva, Bokulu and Bokwai.