News: Creating a safe, sustainable environment

Domingus and Aderitu finish off the “tippy tap” handwashing station at the Community Centre.
Mim has been busy helping communities submit formal proposals for water supply and sanitation projects. This involves walking up to two hours through beautiful mountains; meeting community leaders in traditional homes; drinking coffee; and being invited to chew betelnut and talk water with village elders.

A group then gathers as she visits springs and measure dry season flow rates. This means that when budgets are available the community has data on the minimum amount of water that might be expected during the dry. There isn’t yet data to predict how water sources might be affected by climate change, El Nino droughts and the like.

The community also draws up simple maps to help us match water supply with demand. This prompts questions about where the requesting community ‘ends’ – not always an easy decision as settlement patterns in rural timor are dispersed and social groupings don’t necessarily follow catchment boundaries. So the proposals have asked for trained Timorese facilitators to help the communities come to their own agreements around what water sources they want to use and how they will contribute to the construction and maintenance of water systems.

In coming months AusAID’s water and sanitation program in Timor (“BESIK”) is focusing on rehabilitating existing systems, so Mim has worked with the local “community facilitator” to do rough condition assessments of a number of existing water supply systems. Many were built over 10 years ago, before BESIK introduced technical standards, and have had very little maintenance. For example, there are three schools in Hatobuilico but none of them have water supply connected to the toilets or handwashing facilities.

The Courema community have been progressing with their erosion control works to try and better protect their new water supply pipe bridge. Simple timber check dams keep appearing –‐ both up and down the creek – so it’s always a pleasure to revisit the site and see what new additions they have made.

Excluding cattle from the site remains an issue. Just like home, this has a social and economic dimension. After the wire from the initial trial fence was stolen our local coordinators have identified the need to formally sit with the elders to discuss the fence and grazing arrangements.

During the October Palms Encounter Barry Hinton, in-country coordinator, helped all interested test drive the new fencing pliers, donated by Rob Wesley‐Smith. (Senior Domingos is particularly excited about the wire cutting mechanism!) We feel confident that the new gear combined with this community’s proven ability to organise themselves, will help this project continue. Thanks to AusAID’s BESIK program for the small grant to buy the gear, kindly lorried up the hill by the Encounter groups!

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Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.
It is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. - Nelson Mandela