The Water Story
Background: Bardege Complex Market is located in Lacor Division in Gulu Main Market located in Northern Uganda. Northern Uganda is one of the dry lands in Uganda with most families having little or no access to safe water coupled with high poverty levels as the region battles the effects of the LRA war. Due to disparities in water access in Uganda, people living in poverty pay 22% of their income to access safe and clean water (Water Credit Solution Uganda 2013).
With millions of Ugandans still battling the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been an added challenge of living without access to safe and clean water. Now more than ever, access to clean, safe and affordable water is key to the health and livelihoods of people in Uganda.
In December 2021 at the launch of the project, IST met with Valeria Alomorach, a leader in Bardege Complex Market and here is what she had to share with the us.
“My name is Valeria Alomorach and I work in Bardege Complex Market where I sell produce. I have been working in the market for over 8 years.
“Shortly after the second lockdown in Uganda, it was a mandatory requirement for all public places to have hand-washing water points at all main entrances. According to the directive, these places included markets, malls, taxi parks, bus stops, etc. However, for Bardege Complex Market which is a private market, this was a challenging directive since we did not have either the resources or the capacity to set up the hand-washing points.
“The market is home to over 1000 vendors but we also have 600 families living around the market area. The only water point we had close by was a free-flowing well which is about 300 metres from the market. Along with the IST team, we visited the well and I am glad that IST was able to see the dire water situation we were operating in. We were then approached by IST with support from Korea Hope Foundation to set up a solar powered water system for both the market and communities living around the market.
“As a private market, we welcomed the idea to have water points around the market which was evidenced by the willingness of the market landlords and market leadership who agreed to let us construct the water system on their land.
“We had our first meeting with leaders of Gulu District who we introduced to the project and they proceeded to welcome the project but encouraged us to work with Lacor Division to acquire permission to build the solar powered water system.
“After the inception meeting and introduction with the leaders, we signed a memorandum of understanding between IST, market landlords and the market leadership. IST also linked us with the team at Davis & Shirtliff who we worked with to start constructing the water points.
“I am happy that the construction went on well, several water-flow tests were done before launching the solar powered water project. IST trained us on how to manage the water system. We formed a water management committee which has clear roles on how to manage the system. Currently, we have 6 hand-washing water points which have been constructed by IST with support from Korea Hope Foundation.
“Most importantly, the water system will help solve our scarce water problem, a challenge we have lived with since the existence of the market but has been made worse by the outbreak of the COVID-19.
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to IST and Korea Hope Foundation for the unending support and love they have showed throughout the implementation and construction of the project. As a member of the water management committee, I commit to take care of the system with utmost responsibility.”
IST did a follow up in May 2022 and we learnt that the water has improved the hygiene of the market. The vendors are able to clean their vegetables and produce there by improving food hygiene. Within the community, there is general improvement and reduction in the spread of waterborne diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea due to access to clean water.
The Chairperson of the Market also shared that having accessible water points has resolved issues of child protection where children’s lives were at risk because of moving long distances to fetch water, sometimes at night. There were cases of children being knocked by cars while trying to fetch water.
The Chairman also added that the project has strengthened the economic resilience of the community and leaders. Although the water is free for the vendors (drinking and washing hands), they sell a jerrycan of water at UGX 200. The money collected facilitates repair of the water points in the market and the leaders are able to use some of the funds collected to address any arising community challenges.