well with pink bucket in a rope

What EWB NL discovered at PendaMboko

Around the onset of spring of 2023, volunteers of Engineers without Borders – Netherlands (EWB-NL), Eric van der Tas and David Agoungbome, traveled to Cameroon to perform a feasibility study for a potential drinking water and sanitation project in PendaMboko. Located in the southwest of Cameroon,
PendaMboko is part of the rural sector in Bona Lea municipal council of the Littoral region in Cameroon with a sizable population of approximately 30,000 people.

The village of PendaMboko faces an acute problem of lack of drinking water. What’s alarming is that the village has multiple sources from where locals source water – natural sources such as springs, swamps, rainwater, and the Mungo River, as well as borewells and dug wells. Borewells are used for fetching
water from aquifers located 60 meters below surface level while dug wells are wells dug by a shovel to reach the phreatic groundwater table.

However, these sources are not uniformly treated and hence unfit for drinking purposes. Most of the natural sources provide water fit for washing and cleaning, while the borewells and dug wells have iron and concrete depositions in the pipelines that often contaminate the water fetched. While there are
several areas where the boreholes function well, using a hand pump that has been properly sealed above surface level, it is found that the current provision of drinking water supply is inadequate.

What’s more, this has led to the prevalence of three water borne diseases – typhoid, cholera, and parasitic worms, among the locals. These diseases are exacerbated by poor sanitation – our volunteers discovered that latrines are often built very close to the dug wells and are not deep enough (less than 10
meters). This has caused the ground water to rise to surface level and mix with the wastewater from the poorly planned latrines. It has also been seen that washing hands with soap is not a habit commonly used among the locals. While the local health center regularly educates the locals on sanitation guidelines, the adoption of these guidelines is not actively observed.

The locals have a few ways in which they treat water. Most common being boiling water on wood stoves to make it drinkable. There is also chemical treatment – one dug well belonged to a household where they use Calcium Hypochlorite to disinfect the water. However, instead of sourcing the water and then adding the chemical, they add the chemical directly to the well, making it hard to determine the exact concentration due to groundwater flow, absorption, etc. Another household has resorted to physical treatment where they first treat the water with a ceramic filter along with an active carbon filter.

Kids pumping water from a well

While these methods have alluded to partial drinkability, not one of these are scaled to cover the village nor are they effective and full proof. Therefore, on analyzing the on-ground situation, our EWB-NL volunteers have proposed a comprehensive water treatment solution that uses the current resources – both natural and man-made. EWB-NL has ample experience within rural Africa in tackling water quantity and water quality problems. Our volunteers work with low, middle and high hanging fruit, which implies that most changes suggested by EWB-NL require local labor and the use of locally available materials specially in the initial phases of a project. They develop a workable approach for all stakeholders where the local communities can maintain the new situation in the long run.

Therefore, in PendaMboko as well, they will begin with a small investment of 1000 – 1500 Euros, that shall be paid in half by the local water committee and stakeholders and the other half by EWB-NL. These funds will be used to set up the new water system. Once the system has been setup, its maintenance must be carried out on a regular basis by the locals. It is also imperative that the local community contributes to the costs of construction and repairs which in turn will help in creating a feeling of ownership that will be crucial for the maintenance of the newly installed or repaired water supply system. The support of regional chiefs in the target region is also key for a successful implementation and successful sustainable and maintainable water system.

EWB-NL looks forward to implementing the solution that will involve rehabilitating existing pipeline, reinstalling the reservoir system and protecting the water sources from contamination. Once established, our volunteers will proceed to train personnel in operation and maintenance and install a sustainable ownership model.