Can you imagine getting a glass of water or washing dishes and not being able to simply turn on the tap in your kitchen? What if you had to walk 5-6 km or more than 3 miles to get fresh water?

That’s a reality for many living in Zambia. Access to water and the issue of sanitation are among the greatest challenges in the communities we’ve visited. The Copperbelt Rural Livelihood and Enhancement and Support Project (CRLESP) that we’re involved with is critically important because it offers an interdisciplinary approach to enhance the livelihood of the communities.

Not only, must we look at improving agriculture production through the introduction of livestock and the appropriate training, but it is critical to promote health and enterprise development to ensure the model is sustainable. Access to water and improving sanitation health and hygiene practices are critical components to the promotion of health.

Currently, the four communities in the CRLESP access water through five sources: river, boreholes, unprotected wells, protected wells and a spring source.

Many of the children are sent to fetch water (for household and human use). This could be up to 6 km each way, and often the water source is not reliable.

With this project, Heifer International Zambia has a partnership with Village Water, an NGO that focuses on not only the access of water, but proper sanitary training. This includes the construction of latrines, hand washing facilities, refuse pits, dish and pot rack construction, pestle and mortar stands and bath shelters. Prior to receiving the gifts of animals, participants must have completed 100 percent of their sanitary training.

Throughout Zambia water tables are relatively high. It’s not availability of water that’s the challenge, it’s the access to it – the cost of digging a well. A protected well with a hand pump runs around U.S. $3,000. A drilled borehole will run U.S. $10,000. Village Water is looking into training individuals in the community to manually dig wells using water pressure/jetting to access water, which would be relatively cheaper. Given most water can be reached within 4 meters, this could be a realistic alternative.

The need to address access to water is alarming. With the introduction of livestock, a new challenge arises. When individuals have to travel up to 5-6 km to access water (often contaminated), there becomes a competition for water between human and household use vs. livestock/crop use. The creation of wells is something we must investigate further.