“Before we used to only have one tank which was not enough for the whole village. When the tank ran out of water, it was a big problem for us,”

A small village in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can now better provide for the health of its people  after installing water tanks and toilets using a community grant.

Located in the Selau-Suir District of North Bougainville, Tsundawan village is a 20-minute drive from Kokopau. With only one water tank for 300 people,villagers used to clamber down the cliff to collect sea water called kukwei atl ow tide.

“Before we used to only have one tank which was not enough for the whole village. When the tank ran out of water, it was a big problem for us,” said 43-year-old Judith Getsi of Tsundawan village.

“We used to walk to collect water from the beach to use in cooking. It was very difficult for us to get drinking water. We would have to climb the coconut tree to get coconuts for drinking.”

In addition to limited water, there were also no toilets in the village. Judith said villagers used to “go in the bush and use a spade.” She remembers people getting sick all the time, as there was human waste and flies throughout the village.

When another villager, 52-year-old Francis Towia heard that Bougainville Community Grants were being offered by the Australian Government in partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, he wrote an application on behalf of the village for 32 water tanks and five toilets.  Four months later in April 2017, Francis was advised that his application for funding had been successful.

“After we found out that we got approval and were successful, the people in the village were very happy,” said Francis.

“I went to Arawa for the grant signing and I was quite emotional as I knew what the people back in the village were going through collecting water, and that this grant would make a big change.”

Tsundawan village was awarded one of nine Bougainville Community Grants in the first round of funding. Six of the successful applications were for water, sanitation and hygiene projects, while the remaining three focused on livelihoods and youth in sport.

Valued between 5,000 and 100,000 Kina, the grants are designed to promote peace,stability and community cohesion in Bougainville. The scheme is based on shared governance, where communities, businesses and government work in partnership to meet development challenges, with projects delivered using traditional kastom leadership with consultation and participation by all.

“We formed an executive committee in the village to manage the project and select participants,” said Judith.

“In the original project plan there were five toilets, but then the community decided to build an additional 34 toilets.”

A10 per cent contribution from the community was raised through fundraising and,in March 2018, the water tanks and materials for building toilets arrived.

Thirty-nine-year-old Stanis Kapar was nominated by the community to be project leader and to manage the construction process.

“The community chose me to be the project leader as I have experience in building toilets. In my late 20s, I had technical school training in carpentry for three years,” Stanis said.

“We organise small groups to take on certain tasks using elders and chiefs. The small groups help each other to install the water tanks and build the toilets.We used to work on our community day each week, which is Monday. The hardest part was digging the holes for all the toilets.”

Water tanks have been installed and all holes have been dug for the toilets, with theentire project expected to be finished before the end of the year.

But the community are already noticing the positive impacts of improved access to waterand sanitation.

“Small kids and adults don’t get sick. You don’t see human waste around the village.Last week I went to the local health clinic and the nurse said she doesn’t see people from my village anymore,” Judith said.

“Since we got the tank, we have not run out of water, even now in the dry season. Ourcrops are better as we use the tank water in our gardens. Education is improving, as children are able to go to school earlier.”

The project has also brought the people of Tsundawan closer, and news of their success is spreading to other villages across Bougainville.

“Other villages have come to us to seek advice on how to do what we have done in our village. And two men have helped other villages with their water and sanitation projects,” said Stanis.

“This is the first time we have done something like this in our village and it has brought the village closer together.”

November 21, 2018