Rensselaer Research Review Fall 2010
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Water Collection in
* Olympic Seleton Sliding

One family that was interviewed used two jerrycans of water each day to cook, bathe, and wash dishes and clothes. The jerrycan holds about five gallons and weighs 44 pounds when full. Photo Credit: Michael Mascarenhas

Two Villages

The disparity of access to water is evident in the interviews in two very different villages. In the Gatobotobo Village, water is collected in jerrycans from unimproved springs or the Rwamugaza River. These people spend most of their time collecting water. Their other house chores and farming are compromised. All of this results in insufficent income.

Down the road, the village of Kabirizi received an improved gravity-fed public tap about five years ago.

With a dependable water source the villagers can plan for the future.

“Knowing that water is available, regardless of the season, to bathe and wash clothes does much to improve one’s sense of self-worth...And those villagers who could afford it were able to irrigate their crops more regularly, resulting in larger harvests, with more surplus to be sold at the local market, which further improves a household’s economic security.”
— Michael Mascarenhas, “
Scientists at Work: Notes From the Field,” New York Times

Following the two week baseline assessment, Mascanheras reflected, that "providing drinking water to subsistence communities is much more than simply providing access." The addition of a predictable public water systems can have unexpected results in this impoverished area.

“In order to purchase water, revenue has to be generated, so many households are now planting cash crops, in particular coffee, instead of cassava, beans, maize and other crops that have historically fed their family members. This has introduced much uncertainty and anxiety into the lives of subsistence farmers...Lastly, all the households... complained about the recent privatization of the improved public taps. Until three months ago, the taps were run by a local water collective, and the cost to fill each jerrycan was 5 Rwandan francs. Then the district government entered into a contract with a local entrepreneur to manage all the improved water systems. The price doubled, with, according the households I interviewed, no notable improvement in the quality or quantity of water.”
— Michael Mascarenhas Scientists at Work: Notes From the Field,” New York Times

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