For the past ten 10 years or so, Kelda Ligoha, a resident of Mvumi Ward, in Chamwino District, Dodoma Region, had to fetch water in gullies located more than three kilometrers away. Her husband would escort her on the journey when it took place before dawn.
Traditionally men in Mvumi, as in many other parts of Tanzania, have not a big role to play when it comes to issues of water for domestic use. So it was an unusual decision for Gelda’s husband to accept the task of guiding the wife to the water source.
Before long, more men also started escorting their wives to the distant water ponds. But they were not always lucky to get the precious liquid as happened one day early this month when Kelda and her husband had to go back home without water.
As women, Kelda and colleagues have a good reason to ask for escort. They could be disappointed when they return with only little or no water at all in their buckets.
They are, however, safe at least. But the story is different with girls, instructed by parents to go to various neighborhoods to look for water. There are reports of some ten girls getting pregnant this year while on such errands, most of them after being raped.
Unscrupulous people use the few existing water facilities to “trap” women and young girls to have sex with, although the matter is treated as a secret. When pregnancies occur in such circumstances, the families of both sides meet, discuss and resolve the matter without the authorities’ knowledge.
Asked by The Guardian on Sunday what measures have been taken against the perpetrators, the Village Executive Chairman, Charles Puluchi, said he knows nothing because the cases were still being investigated by police.
“These are police cases, my task is to report them to the police “who can give you a good answer…yes I received two cases of girls being impregnated, I brought the matter to the police,” he said.
There is a borehole in the area, dug up 50 years ago but it has proved too small to cater for a village of 15,000 residents today. A bucket of water is sold at Sh250. At this rate, a family would need some Sh5,000 shillings to get enough water for shower, cleanliness, cooking, and washing, Puluchi said.
Water shortage is just one of the problems that women encounter daily at Mvumi. Poverty is another, according to Kelda, who explains that in the past she could harvest ten sacks of maize or sorghum or millet. Owing to the persistent drought and unpredictable rainfall pattern she manages to get just one these days.
The women lack income generating projects and unlike men they cannot leave their homes to go to far off places to do business to earn reasonable incomes. “So, when a man promises to give Sh500 to Sh1,000, a woman or girl accepts the offer because they want to survive, said another woman who preferred anonymity.
Shortage of water, and even food, is not a strange phenomenon at Mvumi in Tanzania’s heartland, although in good years the peasants used to have enough and sold surplus foodstuffs. But over the recent years, the situation has gone from bad to worse.
Recently, journalists touring the region noted that this is due to drought. Besides Mvumi, Mpwapwa and Chamwino districts in the region are very much under the effects of drought, mainly characterised by increased heat.
The team of six reporters found similar conditions around tea rooms and food outlets. Very little water was given to customers for washing hands and the toilets were in a pathetic condition. The team had been tasked by the Journalists’ Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) to do a fact finding mission on Climate Change and its effects in Dodoma Region
Mvumi residents depend on subsistence agriculture, livestock keeping and charcoal making – all of which involve cutting of trees. But today Mvumi residents have to “import” food. The ward’s young and energetic persons move to Dodoma municipality in search of better livelihood.
The water woes in Mvumi seemed to coincide with the closure in 2004 of Hifadhi Ardhi Dodoma (HADO) project that planted trees, checked soil erosion and preserved forests and water catchments as well as reduce livestock numbers following massive deforestation that left behind bare and unprotected areas against the ravages of nature in general.
Almost as soon as the project ended, local residents started felling trees for charcoal, opening up shamba plots and grazing domesticated animals in the reserved forests. This has occassioned to low productivity of maize, sorghum and millet due to inadequate rain.
Within six years of absence of HADO, Dodoma Region is experiencing increased heat, outbreak of diseases such as cholera and typhoid as well as floods and change in rain patterns.