Supplying safe drinking water is seen as a favour by legitimate utility water companies and personnel who are yet to accept and understand that it is man’s fundamental right to have access to clean water. From our baseline studies of 2011 and 2012 in the municipality of Limbe and its neighbourhoods, we concluded that the scarcity of potable water is caused by a number of human inefficiencies including inappropriate, dilapidated and doubtful technologies and equipment (poor governance, ecosystem degradation, obsolete infrastructures, etc) as well as climate change. Thus inadequate supply of potable water has a serious negative impact on the local economy with a significant impact on youth unemployment. On World Water Day, we took advantage of the opportunity to raise awareness of the issues, challenges and opportunities around safe water availability, accessibility, affordability and economic implications and not leaving out the yet to be accepted principle that water remains the fundamental right to all
Understanding World Water Day:
World Water Day (WWD) is not just a celebration but also a day of intense reflection on the challenges and anticipated actions. It is an annual event celebrated on 22nd of March every year. WWD focuses on the importance of fresh, clean water and advocates for its sustainable management. The day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1993, the first WWD was designated by the UN General Assembly. Since then, each year focuses on a different theme. For example in 2015, the theme was “Water and Sustainable Development”. WWD is open to stakeholders to highlight required improvements for access to WASH facilities in developing countries in which Cameroon is a signatory or member . This year’s theme is “Water and jobs”.
EPDA’s support to community water schemes
Since 2012, The Environmental Protection and Development Association (EPDA0 has been supporting local communities to capture and run their own community water supply schemes with technical support from the Ministry of Water Resources and Energy, South West Regional Delegation. In 2012 and 2013 we trained the Bonadikombo community water management committee, and the Mughie village water project on governance, watershed management and water metering concept. In 2014, we supported the Bonadikombo, Wotutu, and Ewongo villages with 2,800 water friendly trees for the protection and rehabilitation of the heavily degraded two-hectare catchment, using funds donated by the Australian Government through the Australian High commissions in Abuja, Nigeria. In 2013 still we trained the Ewongo water committee on the maintenance of water pipes. Since 2014, we have been mobilizing over 14 villages with approximately 55,000 inhabitants to work on a gigantic water scheme titled “Bosumbu-Limbe II integrated Community Water Supply Project”. Since 2012 we have organized World Water Day celebration in collaboration with the Regional Delegation of Water Resources and Energy (MINEE), and other stakeholders during which we took several days to visit and educate schools on the rights to have and demand clean water, hygiene and sanitation. In most of our intervention we stressed on the need for gender equality and youth inclusion for improved decision making and participatory development.
Policies to support grassroots actions
The water sector is highly regulated and monitored for its role to fundamental or basic necessity to life and living, by a set of national policies and international conventions, with the premise that life is meaningful to all and no one is suppose or allowed to deprive or take away another person’s right to live. The Gross Employment Strategy Paper (GESP) is a policy document that guides development interventions in Cameroon. The GESP is supported by the Cameroon vision 2035 “an emerging, industrialized and democratic Cameroon by 2035”. Internationally, access to potable water is regulated and supported by the Africa’s Vision 2025 for Water “an Africa where there is an equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for poverty alleviation, socio-economic development, regional cooperation, and the environment”, and finally the post 2015 agenda 2030 or Sustainable Development Goal number 6 “Access to safe drinking water by all”.
Economic aspects of water:
The water sector in Cameroon and elsewhere is known to be the greatest job offering sector either directly or indirectly. The global objective of water supply is to improve accessibility and affordability which translates to poverty reduction. However, water in general provides jobs and better water management will therefore results in decent or better jobs. The fact, water covers almost all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is a clear indication of the economic implication of water. Water brings life and without the availability of water, life in its entirety is dead. A glaring example is the absence of water in deserts, where it is inhabitable thus nonexistence of economic activities and ecosystems. Without water, there is no energy as electricity is generated from water sources. With a knock-on effect, commercial activities and other development can only boom when there is power (light/electricity), else life becomes stagnant. Therefore water is fundamental in every sphere of life especially in pursuing economic prosperity. Water supply offers direct jobs for administrative, technical and delivery services. But water in its self offers a lot of indirect jobs in businesses such as restaurant, hotel, hair dressing saloons, car wash, breweries, horticulture, farming, bakeries, etc. Also no one will work in an atmosphere without water therefore, every other jobs is linked to water availability and adequate water supply translating to decent jobs and opportunities. In the world at large, factories and industries (brewery, refineries, food processing, drug production etc) operate on the basis of availability of water. Local, national and the global economy depends strongly on the availability of water. Unemployment and economic prosperity can only be addressed fundamentally by water.
Gender considerations in water management
Most local water management schemes never considered women in the management f community water. Considering that the rural women are the caregivers of all families they suffer the brunt of water carrying for the family usually from distant sources during acute water scarcity. Their time put into carrying water disfavours women into economic productivity. This inequality is a major challenge. But the prevalence of awareness on gender equality and women and youth mainstreaming into decision making processes is beginning to take shape in the water sector.
2016 World Water Day theme versus gender and future
The theme brings to the fore the importance of gender mainstreaming in water development and sustainable management as a key factor for good decision making, equality, good governance, accountability, decent jobs and economic prosperity for all. Considering the failures of the past and the challenges of the preent, it is imperative to reshape the global goal for water and to focus on how its fundamental human right to its accessibility and affordability can adequately be addressed in developing countries before rethinking sustainable management and job creation.
Presentation by Tanda Godwin Ade, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection and Development Association, EPDA, Cameron, Tel: +237677227766 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website; www.epdacameroon.org