Supplying water to a town requires systems more complex than the hand pumps used in villages. Helvetas works closely together with local authorities and private companies to build water towers and water supply networks in northern Mozambique.
How much should a jerry can of water cost? Who procures the replacement parts for the pump? What to do about consumers who refuse to pay for water? These questions are addressed by the water management committees in charge of operating and maintaining the wells and water taps in projects supported by Helvetas.
This mix of democratic process, responsibility, rights and duties, and social control works fine in village communities. But larger settlements require more elaborate systems and rules. So Helvetas has developed a model to secure the water supply in small towns of northern Mozambique as well.
With Helvetas’ financial support, the district councils are building water towers and a supply network connecting water mains to houses and taps serving up to 10,000 people. The authorities have learned to communicate their decisions openly and to represent public interests effectively in dealing with private licensees.
Private service providers apply to the district councils for a license to operate these water supply facilities. They are in charge of maintenance, in exchange for which they are allowed to charge a modest price for the water supply service. So as not to jeopardize their own revenue streams, they have a vested interest in taking care of any necessary repairs quickly and scrupulously. They have learned to take responsibility for a functional water supply system – even for communities on which there is no direct profit to be made.
Within the catchment area of the water supply networks, some 33,000 people in four small towns know today about their rights to clean water. And they are increasingly aware that the supply of clean water comes at a price, even if it is only a few cents a can. They have learned to claim this right towards authorities and private companies.
So the water supply – along with other processes – in Mozambique’s towns, as in its villages, is becoming a training ground for democracy and responsibility that goes beyond mere necessity.
Angela João (23), Mozambique