Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

HROC-Burundi Bio-Sand Water Filter Project

This project was born out of a request to HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities) by a group of ex-combatants in Burundi’s civil war. They had participated in HROC’s workshops in Mutaho, and now wished to develop skills that would allow them to lead honest and exemplary lives in their communities.

HROC had noticed that ex-combatants were often ostracised upon returning to their communities. It saw that their reintegration, together with the development of skills to meet daily needs, were essential ingredients in the peace building process.

Having access to clean drinking water was a practical necessity that required urgent attention. So, in partnership with Friendly Water for the World (founded by Friends in Washington State) and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (British Friends), the bio-sand water filter project was brought to life in 2011.  It trains HROC’s beneficiaries to construct, use and sell bio-sand water filters.

The bio-sand filter is an affordable and yet valuable tool, which empowers communities by enabling them to access clean drinking water.  It does this through the simplicity of its technology and the fact that the materials needed to build it are readily available. It also requires little maintenance once constructed. Made of concrete, untreated water is poured into the top of the filter and percolates through a bio-layer of sand and gravel, removing up to 99% of pathogens.

Existing water systems, though useful, were efficient only to a degree.  Many people still had to travel a long way to access clean water taps, or resort to paying someone to get water for them. Many had no other choice but to keep on using water from rivers or the lake. Illnesses related to the use and consumption of such water were rife.

HROC began by arranging training for twenty of its workshop beneficiaries from Mutaho. They learned to build, install and maintain bio-sand filters.  These trained participants have since acted as co-facilitators, when new filter recipients have needed instruction on their proper use.

Though this project was prompted by ex-combatants, all its activities have always involved repatriated and internally displaced persons too, as is HROC‘s policy. Likewise, though initially set up in Mutaho, this programme has since spread to the communities of Maramvya and Rukaramu, where HROC’s work is also well established.

To date (end 2012), 105 bio-sand water filters have been made in Mutaho. 58 of those were donated to schools, hospitals and families.  39 were sold and eight are still in stock. In Rukaramu, project participants have made 17 filters thus far and donated 13, 3 of which have already been installed.  So far, 19 water filters have been made in Maramvya. Two have been donated and installed and three, though having been donated, are not yet installed.

This project strengthens friendships forged, through the emotional journey of healing from trauma. It also provides HROC beneficiaries with a boost in self esteem, as a result of the knowledge they acquire. In addition to this, participants are able to have a positive impact in their communities and thus integrate themselves. They teach their peers about the necessity and benefits, of having access to clean drinking water. By contributing to the wellbeing of their communities, they have paved the way for others, wishing to make a difference. Moreover, participants have been able to generate a form of income, which will allow them to sustain themselves financially. In its bid to heal and rebuild communities, HROC would like many other communities to experience the power of this project.

Mbuzenakamwe Pie, an ex-combatant stated that

“...I have sensitised many about the importance of filters. Before I was stigmatised but now I feel integrated in the community. People come to my house to filter water. Being an ex combatant, many get surprised and learn from that...”.

Mbonihankuye Celine is a married mother of five, who has facilitated filter construction training, in Maramvya and Rukaramu. She said :
”....I have a filter in my house and there is no more typhoid fever and diarrhoea...This project has empowered me as a woman. It is reconciling and our healing process continues as we meet together being ex combatants, Hutu and Tutsis. There is no more suspicion; there are interactions, people coming to filter water......”
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Photograph reproduced by kind permission from the copyright holder Edith Kaze