How access to clean water has changed lives in Rusizi district

On a cloudy morning on December 14 at around 10 a.m, Amos Nsengiyumva places a yellow jerrycan under a water tap. He turns the valve, and water starts pouring in – its sound depicting that the quantity being released is adequate.

This resident of Nyehonga village, Ryankana cell, and Bugarama sector in Rusizi district reveals that however, things weren't always like this before.

"We used to fetch water from Ruhwa and Rubyiro rivers," narrates Nsengiyumva. "We didn’t have clean water. Sometimes, those rivers would flood and water would carry mud and glasses, and we would just drink it, given that we didn’t have any other option. That would make us catch diseases caused by worms found in the water."

Nsengiyumva also notes that since the time they got access to clean water, the people in his village no longer suffer from waterborne diseases like before.

Preparing to fetch water next, Odile Uwimbabazi asserts that with the availability of clean water near her house, her children no longer go to fetch in either Rubyiro or Ruhwa rivers which she says is far.

“Today we wash dishes well and bathe without any worry concerning water," she says.

A few kilometres from the place in Gaterera cell, Butare Sector, Eraste Mubemaso poses in front of a restaurant that he owns.

He concedes that before his neighbourhood was supplied with clean water, he would pay Frw 200 to get a jerry can but now he pays only Frw 20.

"There is a big difference," he continues. "I used to spend Frw 2000 daily to get clean water but now, I spend between Frw 200 and Frw 250, hence I gain more profit. Moreover, I can get water anytime because it is near me. It has also increased our hygiene; it is easy to find water for cleaning and washing ustensils.”

The three residents are among 201,467 beneficiaries of a project named "Design, Rehabilitation, Upgrading, and Extension of Water Supply Network in Rusizi City and Peri-Urban Areas".

The project was financed by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and implemented by Water and Sanitation Cooperation (WASAC) from June 2019 until April 2022.

According to the body, the former Rusizi water supply network was facing enormous challenges including inefficiency, unreliability, and being prone to unsustainable water supply services, not only due to its age but also the fact that population growth was overwhelmingly huge over the years of its existence.

The other factor that triggered an immediate intervention for this network and its associated infrastructural facilities, according to WASAC, is the fact that there has been a remarkable geographical urban expansion and per-urban built-up environments.

Therefore, it was necessary to rehabilitate, upgrade and expand the water supply network in the city of Rusizi and its peri-urban areas.

In Rusizi District, the project reached Kemembe, Gihundwe, Mururu, Muganza, Rwimbogo, Bugarama, Nyakabuye, Gikundamvura, Butare and Bweyeye Sectors while in Nyamasheke district, the project reached Giheke, Kirimbi, and Gihombo sectors.

Free water connections for more than 700 poor families

Under the project, 740 vulnerable families from the first and second Ubudehe categories were connected to water free of charge.

Liberathe Mukamajoro who resides in Ngoma village, Butare Sector is one of them.

"We used to fetch water in the valley – very far – like three hours away, but we have clean water here in front of our houses," she says. "Now we are able to bathe and wash clothes for our children. We thank the government of Rwanda."

Evariste Nsengiyumva another close resident adds: "During rainy season, you would pay Frw 300 to get one jerry which was a lot given the living conditions we had. Now, we are able to fetch water right here in front of our houses.”

Mwoya Water Treatment Plant was built

Mwoya water Treatment Plant is the key component of the project. The plant installed in Butare Sector, has a production capacity of 3,000m3 per day. Butare, Gikundamvura, Nyakabuye and Bugarama sectors are amongst the areas supplied.

According to Louis Munyemanzi Ndagijimana, Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, the plant helped around 100,000 residents in the district to get access to clean water.

He said that throughout the project, different networks were either rehabilitated or extended, declaring that three are found in Bweyeye Sector and supply clean water to 5125 people.

"That helped Rusizi district to move from 68 per cent of access to water to 80 per cent," he disclosed, urging the citizens to keep preserving the established water infrastructures.

The government of Rwanda is committed itself to full coverage of water access by 2024 as per the National Strategies for Transformation I (NST I). In that spirit, various projects are currently on-going to increase production capacity in order to meet the increasing water demands across the country including the city of Rusizi and its peri-urban areas.

According to Xavier Rwibasira, WASAC’s SPIU Coordinator, in Rusizi District there was a special case where different people didn't have any access to clean water.

He said that activities to tackle the issue took around $9 million, adding that 218 kilometres of the network, 49 reservoirs, 13 water kiosks and 170 public taps and 2 pumping stations were built as part of the aforementioned project that he says successfully achieved its goals. Rwibasira urged the beneficiaries of the project to take care of its infrastructures.