Tanzanie – The story of Napandaela Nicodemu, research participant in Where the Rain Falls
“The problem of water is not my problem. It is the problem of the whole village.”
Two years ago, in February 2012, Mrs. Napandaela Nicodemu was interviewed by the Where the Rain Falls research team. At the time, she expressed the view that water scarcity is the main problem facing Bangalala and the main factor causing residents to have to leave the village to find employment elsewhere. She reported that rainfall has been less abundant since the 1980s and more erratic.
Two years later, Napandaela, now 63 years old, is no less worried. She says that the two biggest problems facing Bangalala are water scarcity and youth unemployment. As we discussed the present situation, Napandaela bent down to draw the village’s irrigation system in the dirt of her house’s compound. As she did so, she explained that there are two problems that need to be addressed: increasing the water storage capacity of the village’s traditional reservoirs (ndivas); and better maintenance of the irrigation canals. When asked why the community was not maintaining the irrigation canals properly, she described the breakdown over time of the village’s water governance system. In the face of insufficient water to serve all farmers, she described a situation in which, instead of maintaining the canals to ensure that all farmers received some irrigation water, upstream users and powerful individuals take as much water as they can and leave little for others. Those who no longer receive irrigation water from the canals, in turn, no longer have any incentive to participate in collective work to maintain the system, reinforcing the downward spiral. Napandaela, a former chairperson of the village’s irrigation committee, says that women such as herself are particularly disadvantaged in the resulting “scramble” for scarce water resources.
Napandaela, herself the mother of two and grandmother of four, also sees linkages between the village’s water scarcity and its other major problem— youth unemployment. Indeed, when we spoke, she said that she had just come from a meeting with the village youth to discuss the problem of too little water for agriculture. According to Napandaela, the youth of the village are more than willing to contribute their time and labor to help improve the village’s irrigation system, if they were asked to do so by the village leadership. This points to the need to revive the village’s participatory water governance system, which once had 120 households as members, and also points to an opportunity to engage the youth of Bangalala in a project that could provide long-term economic benefits for the next generation of smallholder farmers.
As we took our leave at the end of the interview, Napandaela extended her calloused hand and promised her support for any future initiative to mobilize the young people of Bangalala to take collective action to address the village’s chronic water shortage. I promised to keep her informed of any such plans and encouraged her to speak to the Village Chairman and Village Development Officer to take up the village’s needs with District Government officials.
By Kevin Henry