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Turning on taps

Last fall, the Gay Lea Foundation approved a $15,000 grant for the Africa Community Technical Service Society (ACTS), or Acts for Water, as it is commonly known, to upgrade and expand its 14-year-old water supply system in Nyakigyera, Uganda, as well as to provide hygiene and sanitation training in all catchment areas.

For more than 30 years, ACTS, a Richmond, B.C.-based charity, has partnered with communities in Uganda to deliver the life-giving benefits of clean water using the water delivery technology called Gravity Flow Systems (GFS). The GFS builds a network of pipes and reservoirs to carry water from a mountain spring to communities in need at lower elevations. As the name suggests, gravity does all the work; no pumps are needed to transport the water. The Gay Lea Foundation helped to support ACTS’ Kyenyoni Water and Sanitation Hygiene Project in 2020.

In recent years, however, ACTS has shifted some of its efforts to return to previously built systems to extend their lifespan and expand their original capacity to serve new users and existing communities for future generations. ACTS has also focussed on enabling the next generation of water users to take control of their health and hygiene.

The Nyakigyera Project

In May 2007, ACTS constructed a GFS with 38 taps that served more than 6,000 people in 13 villages in Nyakigyera. The aging system is now serving 10,000 people, and in an attempt to create more access points, people have hacked into the pipelines. Along with regular environmental and human wear and tear, ACTS saw a need to focus its efforts on bringing the infrastructure and community governance up to a place where it is sustainable for generations to come.

Further, the GFS wasn’t efficiently serving school hygiene, with a latrine-to-student ratio of over 200 to 1. These “latrines” are holes in the ground with little to no privacy or personal security.

Over the past year, the Gay Lea Foundation grant supported upgrades to the existing GFS in Nyakigyera and provided Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation training to the community. As a result, the Nyakigyera Project accomplished the following:

  • A total of 97 tap stands now provide clean water to the community. Fifty-one taps were retrofitted on the original pipeline, and 46 new taps were added through the extension.
  • Two GFS mechanics were trained and equipped with the tools necessary for daily maintenance and repairs.
  • Forty-six new tap stand committees have been formed and trained in hygiene and structure maintenance of the taps.
  • Eight new latrines were installed at schools, and one was installed at the Katanoga Health Clinic III, which serves more than 900 clients.
  • More than 550 handwashing stations were sold to community members, with 17 hand-washing demonstrations conducted.
  • More than 50 workshops were conducted on soap making, how to make reusable sanitary towels and how to construct handwashing facilities.

Imelda lives in a village in the Nyakugyera region of Uganda. She no longer has to walk long hours to access clean water thanks to Acts of Water.

Imelda’s Story

Before the Nyakigyera Project, Imelda was struggling to provide for her family, walking long hours to get clean water. When the project came to her community, she gladly gave her time to dig, haul and carry pipes alongside her community to build the new GFS.

Imelda no longer has to walk long hours to collect water and she uses her extra time to cultivate her garden.

“We are so happy for ACTS’ help giving us access to clean water,” says Imelda. “You also helped us get involved in community development activities, such as teaching us how to make bar and liquid soaps for us to sell. We now have a surplus for our family from the new skills you have taught us!”

“While you may never meet the men, women and children in this community, the impact of your generosity will be known by them forever,” said Jeffrey Golby, CEO of ACTS. “The clean water, hygiene training, and safe latrines you’ve helped to provide are the best defence against hundreds of diseases, making you a key part of this community thriving for generations to come.

Thank you, Gay Lea Foundation, for your bold action to join Imelda and all the families of Nyakigyera to overcome water poverty together.”

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