The Difference Water Makes

November is the hottest, driest time of the year in in the south-eastern provinces of Timor Leste and, in communities that have been affected by the recent El Niño drought, they are hoping for the wet season to begin soon. But in the village of Luca, the pump that supplies their water system has not been working for the previous two weeks and the community has had to resume the daily chore of carrying water from the nearby river.

Raul is an elected village leader in Luca. “Before we started construction, we had a meeting with our community leaders and ADRA, and we agreed to work together to build this system,” he explains.

“We had some of our men help to build the water system,” he adds. He tells us the story of one elderly man who dug more than 500 metres of trenches by himself to ensure a tap station would be built near his family’s home.

After work was completed, the pump, tanks and water system were handed over to a management committee appointed by the village. A member of the management group checks the pump twice every day, the committee has the task of arranging for repairs as needed, and they collect a small monthly fee from each household to contribute to maintenance of the system.

Raul is pleased with the difference the water system has made to the lives of people in his community. “There were some difficulties with this project at the start,” he says, “but now more than 100 households have access to this system and we are seeing the benefits of it.

“Because we have better access to water, we are healthier,” says Raul. “And we are continuing to work with ADRA on further projects to increase our health and hygiene, and to build more latrines in our community.”

While the community had been waiting on outside technical assistance, the visiting ADRA staff were able to find the problem in the system and get the water pumping again. As the water begins to flow and taps around the village return to life, it offers a glimpse of the difference the water makes.

Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing Company. He visited Timor Leste on a monitoring and evaluation trip in November.