A young Tanzanian boy gets water from a well. A young Tanzanian boy gets water from a well. A young Ming'ingo villager gets fresh drinking water. (Photo: EWB Israel)

Bringing clean water to Tanzanian villages

College students plant the seeds for a water purification project in the impoverished country.

Life in Tanzania is hard. In 2013, the United Nations ranked it 153rd of 187 global countries for long life and decent living standards. 

This is what brought Tel Aviv University students to the village of Ming'ingo in 2007, to research ways to improve the lives of youngsters there. Returning to Israel, the TAU chapter of the global organization Engineers Without Borders (EWB) was born, focusing on capacity building in developing countries while educating students. From there, the seeds for a water purification project were laid.

After grants were secured and fundraising proved fruitful, TAU students revisited Ming'ingo in late 2014. Their goal, to install a rainwater harvesting system in the local high school, was tough. But today, the school enjoys approximately 12,680 gallons of clean drinking water for 400 students and staff. It's the beginning of a long journey toward better health. 

Ming'ingo villagers work with members of EWB Israel to bring water to their village. Ming'ingo villagers work with members of EWB Israel to bring water to their village. (Photo: EWB Israel)

The system uses three levels to filter the water, and the rain is collected from a roof with an area of 3,600 square feet. The team has now installed 184 feet of rain gutters, too. Through proper use, the roof space of the school can now be used to collect enough water to meet the needs of children throughout the dry season.

“We tried to make sure our solution would suit the community's needs, to raise its chances of being properly maintained. Their answers were decisive, mentioning the need for life supporting infrastructure spreading the supply of drinking water, bringing electricity to remote rural populations and ensuring food security for the community,” Mayan Raviv, the project leader at EWB, told From The Grapevine. 

Raviv believes passionately that people around the world can support this kind of development work in many ways. He said his team is currently planning an off-grid solar system for the village's health center, improving medical services, as well as expanding the existing rainwater harvesting system.

There are other, less obvious benefits. Every hour of work is done with the local community, from the youngest Ming'ingo schoolchildren to their staff. Such kindness and cooperation, across borders and generations, offer rays of hope to today's fragmented global society.

A member of EWB Israel works with a Ming'ingo villagerA member of EWB Israel works with a Ming'ingo villager. (Photo: EWB Israel)

“We wish that more large-scale companies and governments would dedicate a certain percentage of support to independent organizations, which are able to implement small-scale projects in relatively short time frames with high efficiency,” Raviv said.

Meital Shamia, a member of EWB, says the project goes beyond building infrastructure; it's also about education.

“We strongly believe the locals have to take active roles in the work, take responsibility and be the owners of the system," Shamia said. "With the right education, we can teach them how the system works and give them best practice on how to collect high-quality water.”

Villagers share this knowledge when they go back to their families at sunset. This creates the long-term support and community buy-in vital for truly sustainable development work. Today, Raviv's team continues to seek support to improve the lives of Ming'ingo's people. The team aims to provide solar power and drinking water to the medical center in Ming'ingo by October 2015, serving some 3,000 people in the village. 

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