Rosemène Pierre with her rainwater collection tank: 'I will share this good gift with my family and friends.' Photo: Angela Huddleston/Tearfund
22 October 2012
There’s a jar outside Rosemène Pierre’s no-frills home in Haiti that’s helping to save her life.
As jars go it’s big, storing up to 156 gallons of water which can be used for washing, cleaning and, once treated, safe drinking.
The jar is part of a rainwater harvesting system Rosemène has received from Tearfund and means she now has a reliable and regular source of water. The system collects water from Rosemène’s rooftop and pipes it down into the jar where she can access it.
Being deprived of such a basic necessity can have fatal consequences in Haiti. A cholera outbreak that started in October 2010 has claimed 7,500 lives and is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by drinking unclean supplies.
Two hour walk
Single mother Rosemène knows the jar is a big deal for her family: ‘Water is so important, for life, for everything, and having it close to my house will mean I can get water any time of day. I will share this good gift with my family and friends,’ she says.
For Rosemène, the jar also represents progress and hope. The 2010 Haiti earthquake destroyed her house in Tom Gato and she now lives in a small shelter with her daughter, earning money when she can find jobs in the area.
Finding water in the rural hills of Haiti has always been difficult but the quake only increased the amount of life-sapping labour needed daily as the tremors destroyed or damaged many of Haiti’s capped springs.
‘Sometimes it was very difficult for me to get water,’ said Rosemène. ‘I could walk for up to two hours each day to get it. Sometimes I'd find there’s none there. So I'd have to travel to the next place to find water.’
Rosemène’s experience is shared by many rural residents, especially women and children who spend hours each day trekking in scorching heat up steep, rocky mountain slopes in search of water.
Stonemason Limiel Innocent has received business support from Tearfund. Photo: Angela Huddleston/Tearfund
Tearfund’s rainwater harvesting system is also benefiting people like Limiel Innocent.
He’s the local mason who made the jar for Rosemène, one of 16 craftsmen who Tearfund has trained in the techniques of constructing rainwater harvesting jars, as well as bio sand filters and latrine slabs.
Tearfund also worked with a marketing consultant to help the masons develop a business selling water and sanitation products.
‘I have learnt many new skills in construction and marketing. I believe this will be very a profitable business,’ said Limiel.
‘I will make them to sell and as a part of my help for the community, I will discount them. To make them will cost a lot, but we need to make the clean water accessible for the people here.’
Building rainwater harvesting jars is just a part of Tearfund’s larger programme to increase access to clean, safe water and better sanitation to vulnerable rural communities affected by the earthquake and cholera.
- In addition to the jars, Tearfund has built rainwater harvesting systems and latrines at 39 rural schools and capped 20 community mountain springs.
- Additionally, 240 locally constructed bio sand filters are being installed in 70 rural schools to provide affordable, clean water to school children and teachers who previously had no access to water during school hours.
- More than 50,000 men, women and children have received continued education and awareness on basic hygiene and cholera prevention.