A Framework for Fresh Water in Vanuatu

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

When we were in Vanuatu last year, we spoke with Amon, an evacuee from Ambae. He holds a Diploma of Education, Bachelor of the Arts, and studied at Macquarie University in Sydney.

It’s been two years now, since the last devastating volcanic eruptions on Ambae in Vanuatu. People had started to build second homes on other islands like Esperitu Santo,  but Tropical Cyclone Harold has sent many communities back to step one.

We are sitting with Amon, a man from Navuti Community, in the community building they have constructed in their new home. The building isn’t complete yet, but they have plans for it. The framework of the building is also the necessary framework for clean, safe water for their community.

“When we left the island… although there was instruction that the ‘second home’ for us would be Maewo, but we disobeyed,” Amon laughs. “I think for reasons that are obvious.”

“Ambae has a population of 11,000, Maewo a population of 4,000. You put together the two statistics, 15,000, certainly the economy, infrastructure, banking facilities, education facilities…”

The numbers didn’t add up, so many of the Navuti community moved to Espiritu Santo instead. They spent some time staying with the families of some community members. But even when they got their own land, there was no access to water.

“When we came here, the first couple of weeks, of course there was no water on the site. So we had to travel about 30 minutes walk,” Amon explains. “We would have buckets, biscuit containers, water containers. So we used those, we were able to carry them with water. If people had the money, they could hire transport, to bring the water up for them.”

“Collecting water, as far as the elderly are concerned like myself, it’s not easy, to transport water from the coast up to where we are. We would depend on relatives to carry the water for us.”

“That went on for a couple of weeks, until the National Government were able to, with the assistance of a village next door, [install] two 10,000 litre water tanks. We still have to travel 5-10 minutes [to the neighbouring village] to fetch the water every day.”

But thanks to the support of people like you, Amon’s community was blessed with their own water tank.

“We’ve had this 1,100 litre water tank, sitting here, has been donated,” Amon says. “So that we really appreciate, it makes life easier. Of course, we use the water tank that has been donated for drinking, we catch the rainwater from the roof. The water pumped up from the ground to the two tanks, we use that for washing and cooking.”

“The rainwater is very safe, we drink that with no big issues. The pump tank has ground minerals, and at the bottom, sort of dust. Some of us do strain it, but some people in a hurry, they don’t bother about straining it.”

Amon looks over his shoulder, and gestures behind him.

“What you see here, this is half of the building. We want to convert this building into a multi-purpose building. We would fund the completion of this building.”

“The other half, I would like to do a proposal. This is my own personal thinking, maybe we would include a water tank, so we can collect rainwater from the roof, down the spout into the water tank. The two builders, I’ve asked them to do a quotation for the half-building, so I can have the proposal written.”

Amon’s proposal includes a larger, in ground water tank – big enough that it would fill the needs of the community. They would no longer have to travel to the nearby village for any of their water needs.

“If we have the building completed, we have the other half completed, we have the gutters on both sides, there are no problems. During the rainy season, have no problem filling in the water tank we are going to build.

Before they had this half-building, Navuti could only collect water from five sheets of iron roofing. This was much less efficient, and took a lot longer to fill their water needs. With the new framework they are building, their need for safe water will be filled.

“Having water on site will make it easy for vulnerable groups,” says Amon. “You can get it in small quantities, easy access.”

When you take part in Safe Water September this year, you are helping people like Amon build up the framework of their communities. You are giving them the resources they need to have safe water close to home.

“I would like to say thank you, to GMP, COCOA, for all the assistance that has been given."

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