The United Nations recognizes that sustainable improvement of living standards requires a participatory approach. In remote areas of Niger, water needs for health and agriculture are met by teaching communities to maintain water and sanitation systems on their own.
In rural areas of Niger getting enough water to drink and grow food can be a serious challenge. People live in harsh, drought-prone conditions and their history has shown that little can be expected from the outside world. Community participation and involvement are essential if there is to be any chance of lasting development. Water needs for health and agriculture can only be met by teaching communities to maintain water and sanitation systems on their own.
In Niger the choice of water point locations, water point committee members, technology for the pump and latrines, and a repairman are all in the hands of the community. The six-member committee itself must include a minimum of two women. Since monetary revenues are often non-existent, use of water for irrigation of small gardens and fruit trees around water points is critical to generate income and promote better eating habits. All of this is part of the ‘contract’ signed by communities following information and education sessions carried out by local NGOs and community members trained for the project.
While hydrologic and geologic conditions do not always allow for sufficient water resources, this technical difficulty is secondary when compared to the immense task of raising awareness and sense of ownership within these villages.
Achievements: - With UNDP funds, DESA has helped install water and sanitation systems for a number of remote, rural communities living in harsh arid and semi-arid environments. - Activities around water points and maintenance of the latrines are monitored to ensure that proper management of scarce water resources is integrated into the fabric of the community for lasting benefit. - The approach has been refined and improved thanks to considerable knowledge that has been gained on-site and from the exchange of experience with project teams undertaking similar initiatives elsewhere.
This project has an extension until February 2000 as a component within a global country programme of fight against poverty involving various UN agencies.