Sunday, December 17, 2006

Water Sector Support Program

Drought has thrown Tanzania into crisis. While the country has one of the highest levels of natural water storage capacity per capita in Africa, more than 15 million people out of a population of 35 million are without a safe water supply. Moreover, the country relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture as a major contributor to its economy, with limited headwater storage for irrigated agriculture or for the hydro-electricity schemes. The current drought has reduced farm production and caused 18-hour per day electricity blackouts.

25m dam for hydro-electricity on the Kihansi River

The $900m Water Sector Support Program aims to build governance capacity in the Tanzanian water ministry, the National Urban Water Authority (NUWA), and prepare medium and long term plans that will improve the use of Tanzania’s water resources and set up a permanent supply of clean water.

Key activities of the Water Sector Support Program are
  • river and lake basin management and development plans for five major rivers and four lakes
  • management information system for the NUWA
  • procedures and guidelines for environmental monitoring
  • policy making

This program will give NUWA better skills and tools for effective long-term management of water which will help improve the water supply, hydropower, irrigation, and flood control.
The patchwork of international aid is evident in the list of donors who will contribute to this $900million program – the World Bank; the African Development Bank; the US Millennium Challenge Account; the governments of Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany; and the NGOs WaterAid and UN Habitat.

It seems to me that this hodgepodge of aid organisations much be very inefficient! Imagine all the resources that get chewed up in coordination and accounting. I guess that this is probably inevitable where large scale projects address systemic issues.

I like the directness of a simple project like the School of St Jude because you give directly to the school and they spend the money directly on the kids.

The scarcity of water in Tanzania, is one reason why Mary-Elaine, a volunteer at St Judes, commented that buckets seem to be the very foundation upon which the country is built!

While individuals can make a big difference at the personal level, we really need to see assistance in capacity-building at the national level, if the country is to grow beyond the grinding cycle of perpetuating poverty. In Tanzania, we have reason for hope, because we see assistance given at both levels.

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