Tanzania tries to break pattern of water failure

Shannon Jensen/The GroundTruth Project

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — For 50 years, foreign do-gooders who wished to improve access to water in Africa went about it basically the same way. They’d dig a well or build a water pump for free. Then they’d hand off the project to the local community — leaving the responsibility, and the financial burden, of maintaining it up to them.

And yet, for the same 50 years, that model hasn’t worked. Wells run out of water. Fuel for electrical generators to pump water becomes expensive. Pipes spring leaks. And rural communities where most people live on less than $2 a day can’t come up with the money to fix it all.

So perhaps it is no surprise that aid money has not solved Tanzania’s notorious water crisis. But even as the $1.4 billion Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) showed signs it was not working after five years, the World Bank and other organizations provided even more money without first investing in identifying new solutions to old problems.

Read Part Four of a four-part series produced by The GroundTruth Project

Tanzania’s ambitious water project undercut by dueling economics

Shannon Jensen/The GroundTruth Project GlobalPost

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — The water sector in Tanzania once resembled the Wild West. The government did little to ensure that every person had access to clean and safe water.

Donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worked to solve the problem, sometimes together and sometimes on their own. But there was a flaw, explained Amani Mafuru, an engineer for rural water supply in Tanzania.

“One development partner can go to a region and then another comes to the same place,” he said. “So there was a tendency to favor certain parts of the country.”

In 2006, the Tanzanian government launched the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) to do things differently. When it came to constructing rural water points under the WSDP, decisions were not going to be set in Washington DC, nor in the Tanzanian capital of Dodoma.

Instead, WSDP managers would let communities decide for themselves what sort of water system they wanted to build.

Read what happened next in Part 3 of a GroundTruth Project for GlobalPost.

How a $1.42 billion project failed to bring water to this Tanzanian village

Shannon Jensen/The GroundTruth Project – GlobalPost

LUPETA, Tanzania — It’s a full day’s bus ride from Dar es Salaam to the district of Mpwapwa in north-central Tanzania. It is here that the earliest signs appeared of trouble ahead for Tanzania’s ambitious water development program.

Engineers dug boreholes in 2004 and 2005 to get at water trapped deep in the ground in Mpwapwa and in 13 other places across the country in a precursory step of a failed $1.42 billion water initiative supported by the World Bank, known as the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP).

The idea was to learn how expensive it would be to create functioning water points, how long they’d take to build and how best to establish “community water councils” capable of keeping the water flowing. Leaders would learn from mistakes on a few pilot projects and work out all the kinks before the plan went national. But critics say those lessons went unlearned. Read the full story here. 

This is Part Two of a series produced by The GroundTruth Project for GlobalPost, funded by the Galloway Family Foundation.

VIDEO: A slow life working aboard Kenya’s century-old train

A slow life working aboard Kenya’s century-old train from Ground Truth on Vimeo. Produced by Jacob Kushner.
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A slow life aboard Kenya’s century-old train

The Nairobi Railway Station. /JACOB KUSHNER

For service workers at the Nairobi Railway, breakdowns and delays limit time-off, and there’s no overtime pay 

MOMBASA, Kenya – In its heyday, the Nairobi railway employed some 24,000 people. Day and night, they worked to keep freight and passenger trains running between what is now Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, and the Indian Ocean at the port of Mombasa.
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Today, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium employs only 3,000 people. The railway itself has changed little in more than a century since it was built by the British imperial power. Trains still bobble up and down, side to side as they roll along outdated, narrow tracks. Train traffic, derailment and other delays strand cars for hours in the middle of a national park.

In April, the China Road and Bridge Corporation announced plans to replace the historic railway with a new, modern line. Workers will lay a set of standard-width tracks that will allow freight trains to traverse them at much higher speeds. Most workers seem hopeful the new line will attract more tourists and other passengers, and that the influx of customers will translate into higher wages and benefits for the workers, too.

Read the full story and watch the video at GlobalPost