OTU, UWEM R AND IBORO ROBERT 1
Grassroots participation in the management of rural water-related environmental problems aimed at providing sustainable and safe water for drinking, farming and other domestic and public uses is hereby discussed. The scheme integrates the rural water stakeholders comprising the association of Women, Men, Youths, Traditional rulers, Religious leaders, Peer groups and the Parliamentarians (politicians) into a neatly-woven sphere for the containment and abatement of water-related environmental problems that includes flooding of river line communities, silting of rivers and water bodies from overlying farmlands, pollution of water bodies from refuse dumps and animal grazing activities, erosional hazards, and outbreaks of diseases such as Typhoid fever, Polio, Hepatitis, Diahorrhea, Dysentery and Cholera. Interestingly, this approach had found use in the efforts to conserve our fast degrading forest reserves to prevent desertification. It x-rays the participatory approach to include sustained public awareness and education programmes hinged on a values-based approach using TV, Radio, Newsletter, Magazines, and Illustrative Drama as well as the creation of a water sanitation agency, a training scheme to develop manpower as well as a knowledge enhancement programme with detailed drafting of a curriculum for the primary and secondary schools and the setting up of water use and rights groups in these schools.
In the remote village community of Ebo ltumbonuso, lni local Government Area of Akwa lbom State, Nigeria, everything about life around here revolves round tradition and superstition- the gods must be responsible for every stroke of success while the witches and wizard are held liable for the people's imaginary or real failures.
Thus when in the rainy season (June) of 1999 the farmers hadn't noticed rain and crops were dying coupled with a stupendous outbreak of such water-related disease like typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, hepatitis, diahorrhea, polio and malaria, all these in quick succession
it wasn't far-fetched to assume that the witches and wizards were at work to upstage Ebo. Worse still, the dry season brought with it a gradual drying up of the only source of drinking water in the village - the "Ubuche Stream".
Ebo ltumbonuso is my village. It is strategically located on a hilly topography. Her people are good farmers who raise livestock to feed on her green and rich vegetation while planting paddy rice in the fields and cocoa in the big farm settlements downhill. By December when we were in the village for the annual celebrations of Christmas that is a big event here, we witnessed a harvest of sorrows as death had visited the land and sparing nothing in its trail. The NGO- the"Ikono-Ini Youth Consultative Assembly"-IIYCA and the CBO - the "Itu Mbonuso Youth Cooperative Multipurpose Society" devised a set of progarmmes and activities to rid our community off this malaise which was principally caused by ignorance, fear, anxiety and danger.
Our focus was on Women (Grand Mothers and Mothers) who play great roles in water related issues within the context of our culture and tradition (Efo, 2000). Women here are considered to be the main actors in the sustenance of family health by catering for, managing and protecting water. The complimentary role of Men, Youth, Traditional rulers, Religious leaders, Peer groups and the Parliamentarians (politician), was neatly woven into a sphere of teamwork approach integrating the focal points of a credible and sustained values-based public awareness and education campaigns using the local media- television, radio, magazines, newsletters and illustrative drama to create awareness on the dangers of water pollution and a dirty environment (Otu, 2002).
This paper is based on a real life, real-time experience gained from a totally polluted environment affecting the health, and social, economic and political status of the people of this area. Initially, the villagers were unrepentant and lackadaisical about their negative environmental attitude such as indiscriminate refuse dumping, drinking unboiled stream water, farming uphill on slopes, washing clothes, food crops and tubers, and other human discharges into the water bodies understandably due to myths, superstition and traditional injunctions. This attitude gradually changed under a coordinated program of persuasion and lectures involving the CBO's, CDA's, NGO's and GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. The medium of approach hinged on public education, information and motivation.
In fashioning an effective grassroot participatory approach in the management of our water-related environmental problems, we considered the following features as an integral component to the success of the project. These were political, technical and non-technical.
Figure 1: Features of Approach
The political aspects of the framework consider close collaboration between the peoples representatives at the village council, clubs, associations, peer groups, church hierarchy and pressure groups. They were closely made to tap from the NGO's, CDA's and CBA's. Thus, collectively the political cadre provided the legislative backup to enforce rules and regulations covering the project.
The technical includes generation, collection, transportation, local reuse/recycling, disposal and management of source pollutants. This particular framework centered basically on the ways and means of reducing and managing refuse and waste right from the source to minimize it's effects on water and the environment when disposed off carelessly.
The non-technical includes institutional and attitudinal aspects. Institutional involves institutional structure, institutional arrangement, organizational procedures and capacity of responsible institutions. Attitudinal considers changes in the people's attitude towards the environment.
This was hinged on formal and informal environmental awareness and education. The overall success of the scheme to reduce waste disposed to water bodies incidentally too reducing pollution of water bodies in "Ebo Itumbonuso" was carried along with the following conceptions.
Sustainability means ensuring that achievements of the plan last for the benefits of the present and future generations. In sustainability, we look at the technical sustainability and financial sustainability. Financial sustainability focuses on functionality and effectiveness. In other words, we looked at these questions: will the identified plan or action work? And for how long?
Equally, the following programmes and activities were focused on in the effective implementation of an action plan for management of Ebo ltumbonuso water-related environmental problems:
The only impediment in the near future will be adequate funds to ensure that these objectives are pursued to fruition namely:
Deliberate efforts were made to involve as much as possible every societal player in the water business especially to involve women in the blueprint design of activities to enhance their living conditions and to boost their self-ability through dialogue. The scheme incorporated developing literacy skills, creating lasting awareness on major issues of development activities in the fight against poverty, disease, ignorance, environmental degradation, uphill farming, promoting self image and economic development, thus enhancing the earning capabilities of the women and their active participatory role in these projects. The use of illustrative situational drama was also applied to create increased understanding and awareness of water issues and the nature and root causes of water problems. These skills gained enabled participants to apply their energies and talents to solve water problems. This conceptual framework for the empowerment process is illustrated below in figure 2.
Figure 2. Poverty Alleviation and Waste Reduction Empowerment Scheme For Ebo ItuMbonuso.
In order to sustain the empowerment process, links with outside agencies forming part of the institutional framework was designed. The approach is designed to facilitate and encourage local initiatives while maintaining common vision in line with the international strategy for an integrated water resource management (iwrm). See figure 3.
Figure 3. Institutional Framework for Dealing with Ebo ItuMbonuso Water-related Environmental Problems.
Overall, the incidence of water-related environmental problems here particularly typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery has reduced by 75% in 3 years based on data collected from the Local health center. Equally, there has been an increased awareness on the need to preserve the environment as even the Primary Schools within the village have started their Water clubs as part of efforts to protect the scare water resources of the Community. Currently, the Local Government Authority in the area has adopted our approach as a model for implementation.
My sincere thanks goes to, Obong and Mrs O. R. Akpan and Professor Egboka who paved the way for this project.
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Otu, U.R., "Grassroot Participation and Management of Environmental Problems", In: EPCOWM"2002 Proceedings, Part1 Session 1 and 2, pp 181-185, January 2002. Tunisia.
Otu, U.R., "Grassroot Management Of Water Problems", In: Proceedings of the 6th Congress on Integrated Water Resources Management, February 2002. Geneva, Switzerland
Otu, U.R., "Grassroot Participation in Water Management of Environmental Problems in Ini Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria" , In Proceedings of the International Water Forum -Hydrorama 2002, March 2002. Athens, Greece.