CuveWaters is a lesson for us

A good way of developing is to learn from others. If you refuse to learn, there is nothing much you can achieve.

It is for this reason that l think the Community Water and Sanitation Agency has just been struggling to find answers to the numerous water and sanitation problems around the country.

What they should be doing is to find out what others have done faced with the problems we are facing today in providing water for deprived communities.

They may be picking a thing or two from outside but, the difficulty with which we are tackling our problems, especially in the water and sanitation sector show that we must move quickly in learning from others. If it is because we want to re-invent the wheel, let it be known that the suffering people of Ghana do not have the time to wait and are lucking for quick solutions.

In the area of water, a new project has just been completed in Namibia, the CuveWaters, and this has brought relief to the people. The Community Water and Sanitation Agency, can learn something from this project and see whether, this can be replicated in the country.

The Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) has described the CuveWaters as one that aims to further the conceptual development and practical implementation of certain aspects of integrated water resources management. Something we do not seem to be looking at critically in Ghana.

The project involved groundwater catchment, underground water storage and greenhouse with drip irrigation system constructed by the CuveWaters team and the local community in Epyeshona, central northern Namibia. In addition, it was also designed to include roof-top rainwater harvesting, water storage in ferro-cement tank, used for crop production in Epyeshona, central-northern Namibia.

In this project, the integration of science, technology and society into transdisciplinary research and development is an essential part. Research results will contribute to practical solutions of problems identified by communities in the Cuvelai-Etosha basin and to scientific processes. Stakeholders’ consultations are an integral part of the project, for identification of the most urgent problems as well as suitable and acceptable technologies.

DRFN say the project was initiated in 2006 for a two year inception period to be followed by six years of implementation based on a second proposal. “The project pilots appropriate technologies, such as rainwater harvesting, desalination and various sanitation technologies, at selected sites in the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin in northern Namibia. The project takes linkages between water use and management into consideration with the use of other resources such as land, energy and nutrients,” it added.

I have been associated with this project for some time because l was invited to its inauguration in Namibia, unfortunately, other things came up and so, l could not honour the invitation. Since then, l have followed the project from afar and can say that, it has provided answers to a great need of the people that it is supposed to serve.

CuveWaters is an international joint research project led by the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in cooperation with the Technical University Darmstadt in Germany and the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) as well as DRFN and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Melanie Neugart, of ISOE’s communication division said in an email exchange.

Neugart said, “in the water sector, innovative and adapted solutions are needed, along with a new way of thinking about water. These measures must impact decisions and actions at every level.”

She said, CuveWaters has been contributing to these ideas in central/ northern Namibia and has been able to implement an integrated water resource management in a form that was tailored to the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin. “The central goal is to strengthen the potential of the region’s resources by developing, adapting and implementing innovative technologies for water supply and sanitation as pilot plants,” Neugart added.

She said, the technology is made up of pilot plants for rain- and floodwater harvesting, groundwater desalination, as well as sanitation and water reuse. “Depending on its quality, the water is used as drinking water or to irrigate vegetable gardens,” Neugart said.

The successfully implemented pilot plants collect rain- and floodwater, desalinate groundwater and clean wastewater so that it can be used again, she said, adding that, first positive results of the integrated solutions have shown some results and this includes, food security created by the storage and reuse of water which allows fields to be cultivated even during the dry season.

In addition, nutrients of the treated wastewater are used as fertiliser, consequently, vegetables can be grown that usually don’t thrive in the arid soil, such as spinach, tomatoes and melons. This enriches the diet of the villagers and also generates an income from market sales.

Neugart said, the project has also provided facilities for the desalination of groundwater which provides access to safe drinking water in remote areas which are not connected to the pipeline system. In the area of heath, CuveWaters has helped to improve health conditions by enriching the diet and by providing drinking water. Before, in the basin, water sources (e. g. water holes) were often contaminated or strongly saline, which led to diseases and child mortality.

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