Communities in Uganda to adapt to drought through a gravity flow scheme

16 April 2012 | News story

The construction of a community gravity flow scheme covering three villages of the Kapchorwa district was officially launched on 11 April 2012 by IUCN, in partnership with UNDP, UNEP and Kapchorwa District Local Government. Funded by the German Government (Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) and targeting Sanzara parish, the scheme is one of the nature based solutions being promoted by IUCN under the Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) project to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of the communities to the adverse effects of climate change - in this case drought.

According to the local government structures, a parish is the area just above a village and below a sub-county. Sanzara parish comprises three villages (Chemaare, Kasongo and Kapsinda) and is within Kawowo subcounty in Kapchorwa district. The area has farming communities that depend on rain fed agriculture. A vulnerability assessment conducted for Sanzara parish revealed drought as one of the major climate risks which makes the communities prone to water stress, hence affecting their livelihood. Through the Ecosystem Based Adaptation approach, IUCN, in partnership with the District Water Office and the communities explored possibilities of tapping water from River Sippi, which is one of the key ecosystem services of the Mt Elgon through establishing a gravity flow scheme.

The community expressed gratitude to the EBA project  for addressing the water problem which they consider a major challenge to their livelihood especially considering the effects of climate change. In his remarks, the Area Councillor for Kawowo Sub-county, Mr Towet Khalifani Muhammed said: “Once this gravity scheme is completed, Sanzara Parish will never be the same again. This is because even during the long dry spell, our crops will have water. People will no longer walk long distances in search for water and instead use the time productively and reduce on conflicts within families around access to water.”

The scheme will enhance supply of water to a population of about 1,000 people for production through irrigation and also clean water for domestic use. This will be complemented by the catchment restoration to ensure that the flow of this water is sustained.

The official launch was organized to promote awareness of the scheme, and confirm participation and ownership by both local government and the communities. The launch was attended by the district leadership, political leaders, community groups, IUCN and UNDP. This followed a number of processes IUCN had facilitated to establish community structures for the construction and management of the scheme through community groups, taskforces and committees with clear roles and responsibilities. The structures will also form the basis for IUCN and other actors to engage in restoration of the entire landscape on which this resource depends.

The District Chairperson, Mr Cheptoris Sam expressed his gratitude to IUCN for all the efforts and investments towards conserving Mt Elgon national park, most especially, for building capacity within Kapchorwa district. As a district head, he was pleased that Sanzara parish is being supported to build resilience and enhance adaptive capacity to respond to the adverse effects of climate change, given the challenges they have gone through.

According to Sam, providing reliable water supply through the gravity flow scheme in Sanzara would help address most of the challenges being faced within the parish and the lessons will spread to other parishes within the sub-county. He re-iterated the fact that this gravity water scheme which cost about US$ 120,000 is the largest single project within the entire Kawowo sub-county and the district will ensure that it is integrated within their plan and fully supported to deliver results and be replicated in other villages.

The District Chairperson committed US$ 15,000 as contribution from the district budget under the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) to initiate the process of ensuring that that water is extended to the third village within the parish. He pledged the district’s full support since the scheme is an incentive for communities to collaborate through a platform and dialogue on other strategies to address climate change impacts. He indicated that a meeting would be held at the district to secure more funds to support the expansion of the scheme.

For more information, please contact Ms Barbara Nakangu, Head IUCN Office in Uganda on barbara.nakangu@iucn.org