In 2010, the government of Uganda launched a 5 years National Development Plan (NDP) where primary education was a central component of the strategies to eliminate poverty by 2015. To emphasize the role of primary education in poverty eradication, the government identified UPE as one of the key sectors to benefit from the NDP. However, the UPE enrolment has miss-matched the school development infrastructure and the related services affecting the quality of primary education. It was noted that poor planning by the actors in primary education has contributed to low and lack of investment in school WASH interventions. The limited investments that have been registered lack clear data on progress (achievements) and statistical analytical reports. Due to the UPE policy, schools are characterized by high enrolment that is un proportionate to the available class room space and stances of latrine; the pupil stance ratio in most schools ranges from 1:66 to 1:212 as compared to the national average of 1:45. The high latrine stance ratio in primary schools is majorly associated with inadequate budget allocation to school sanitation by local authorities, collapsing latrines due to poor workmanship by the private sector and unstable soil structure. This has led to open defecation inside and outside the latrines. In addition, poor garbage management is characterized by littering of rubbish such as polythene, papers and sugar cane molasses in school compound were observably common practices in primary schools. Still the high enrolment and the few existing structures without separate stances has contributed to the sharing of sanitation facilities between pupils and teachers, increased lining up to access facilities by the pupils leading to boys resorting to urinating under trees and the absenteeism of the gird child during the menstruation periods. The problem of poor sanitation facilities is further escalated by shortage and inadequacy of safe clean water within the school campuses; some of the existing water facilities in schools are not functional due to poor operation and maintenance, vandalism by the neighbouring community and drying of water sources during prolonged dry seasons. In situations when the nearby protected sources gets dry, children walk long distances of about 2 km to fetch water from traditional unprotected sources which are also shared with the neighbouring community and their livestock. The community open water sources are often liable to faecal contamination by surface run off during the rainy season and open defecation rendering children vulnerable to water bone disease. As a result of the noted problems, 90% of the target schools visited during our preliminary assessment, as well as the discussions with the head teachers and members of school management committees emphasized the occasional occurrences of diarrheal diseases amongst the pupils and this explains the reported high rates of absenteeism in schools.
Rwenzori region like many other regions in the country face a number of challenges in improving peoples living standards through provision of appropriate WASH services. Though progress has been made in improving the status in the region, challenges in developing technologies for water stressed areas, financing and capacity for providing water for production and poor community management of the existing facilities are limiting this progress. The national statistics put the region at an average of 65% access to safe water, this is not a representation of the actual situation on ground as many people still fetch water from traditional un protected water sources. The terrain of the region has not favoured other community water technologies save for Gravity flow schemes, which are expensive to establish and manage.
Access to appropriate sanitation services still remains below the national average. Limited access to water and sanitation for both domestic use and animals has increased the vulnerability of the region to incidences of water borne related diseases especially cholera and diarrhoea. Uncertainty in income levels also affects their overall social and economic productivity and ability to improve their livelihoods. Despite an increment in household latrine coverage, there are still many communities in the Rwenzori region that still defecate in the open. The practice of hand washing with soap after latrine usage in the rural areas is as low as 27%.
JESE in partnership with PROTOS, a Belgium based Non Governmental Organisation, has been implementing Natural Resources Management/ Water Hygiene and Sanitation project since 2006. This has contributed tremendously to the improvement of the community’s access to drinking water, hygiene and sanitation services and the management of natural resources for agriculture in a sustainable way through IWRM and Action Research approaches. The interventions continue to benefit the communities within the River Mpanga Catchment and specifically in the sub-counties of Mahyoro, Kahunge, Kanara and Nyabani in Kamwenge District with the purpose of contributing to better health and food security of the beneficiaries.
The communities have been supported with over 76 shallow water, 06 protected springs, 52 Rainwater harvesting tanks, as some of the most cost-efficient interventions. As a way to sustainably manage the infrastructures constructed, JESE used co-funding approach for community ownership and supported the establishment of community based institutional structures (Water User Committees) based on the principle of local client-contractorship to collect user fees at each water point so as to facilitate the Operations and maintenance of the infrastructures. After realizing these Water Users Committees were not strong enough to guarantee long-term management thus requiring a support organization, Water Users Associations were set up, and strengthened in the social and technical fields to oversee the operations of the separate committees and bridge the gap between water users and the responsible districts.
At household level, JESE continues to promote cheap and user friendly Hygiene and sanitation technologies and has constructed 208 ecological Sanitation Latrines commonly known as “Eco-sans”. JESE has gained quite some experience in the field of public and domestic Ecosan and gained Knowledge in the field of the management and optimal use of waste products to boost agriculture, such as urine and faeces, which are better utilized at schools and in households than in public spaces like marketplaces and at landing sites. The success of Ecosan majorly depends on the supporting and training in the use of the Ecosan, a process that is much longer then actually constructing the infrastructure
JESE is promoting the approach of IWRM to reduce the degradation of natural resources by local communities in search for agriculture land resulting to encroachment on wetlands, forest and river banks. Over 81% of agriculture practiced is subsistence farming which is rain-dependent and not very productive due variable and unpredictable rains, poor agronomic practices, and insufficient access to sowing-seed, fertilisers and knowledge. The biggest challenge in promoting conservation has been the lack of alternatives for the communities to engage in thus JESE embarked on supporting communities with “Kitchen gardening” to plant vegetables near households to reduce encroachment on wetlands during dry seasons and indigenous tree seedlings to plant along river banks, degraded hot spots and steep slopes with economic, conservation and medicinal values as an alternative to tree species like eucalyptus that are degrading.
JESE’s Key implementing partners under this project include the District local government of Kamwenge, Lake George Integrated Beach Management Organisation (LAGIBMO), Uganda Water and Sanitation Network, Directorate of Water Resources Management(DWRM) and the local Communities as the beneficiaries.