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An Assessment of Community water Challenges on the Management. Case study of Bui Division, case study of Bui division

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This studies seeks to investigate the challenges in community water supply in Bui Division and to propose mitigation strategies and /or the way forward for water resources management and against the backdrop of increasing water scarcity, expanding population growth and general environmental deterioration. Issues related to extraction or exploitation of water, treatment and distribution of water to the population, demand and supply issues related to water and the overall management of community water schemes are taken into consideration in this study. Data for this study were collected basically using primary techniques such as field observations, interviews and administration of questionnaires to various stake holders involved in water management in Bui Division. The collected data were analyzed using both quantitative (statistical) and qualitative techniques. The study concludes that there are several challenges which plague the proper functioning of community water supply in Bui Division, which affect activities ranging from catchment exploitation, harnessing and treatment of water, distribution of water to the population and paying of water as a commodity. This study provides mitigation strategies based on structural and nonstructural basis for proper community water resources management in Bui Division, based on the tenants of the concepts of Integrated Water Resources Management, the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development.



1.1 Background to Study

It is said that water is life”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of Ancient Mariner” states that, Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink. This means that there is enough water for everyone. The problem we face today is largely one of governance, equitable sharing of this water while ensuring the sustainability of natural ecosystems.  Ayoade, 1988 At this point, mankind has not yet achieved this balance. For instance, of the approximately 7.9billion people in the world today,785 million lack access to clean drinking water, over 800 children die each year from diarrhea  due to dirty water, polluted and filthy sanitation conditions(World

 Water availability and distribution has thus been a subject of the United Nations in its Millennium Development Goals. While there are huge reserves of underground and surface water resources which could be harnessed as portable water, many communities in Bui Division, Northwest Region of Cameroon in particular, and Cameroon on general (Ministry of Water and Energy Report, 2010) and the world at large (United Nation Development Program Reports, 2020) cannot boast of safe drinking water even in the second decade of the 21st century. This problem arises from lack of optimization of the various water resource opportunities, managerial problems, as well as the influence of rapidly increasing population which is pushing mankind beyond the sustainable limits of all natural resources, water inclusive.

Water is the basis of life and therefore the development of water resources is an important component in the integrated development of any society, community or nation. Economic development of necessity involves the development of water resources for the multifarious purposes to which these could be put. However, water is a unique resource, having no substitute. Its quantity and quality vary over space and time (Ayoade, 1988). For a given area and even a whole globe, the amount is finite. Against this backdrop is the continued increase, in many parts of the world, Bui Division inclusive, in the demand for water for various uses, notably domestic and industrial water supply, and irrigation agriculture. Planning and proper management are therefore necessary to achieve some convergence in both space and time in water availability, affordability and optimization both in terms of quality and quantity in any given country, society or community and at all times.

Global water consumption is doubling every 20years, more than twice the rate of population growth. According to the UNDP Reports 2009,2012 more than one billion people (about one-sixth of the world’s population) already lack access to fresh drinking water. Currently, 31 countries mostly in Africa, the Near East, the Middle East and other dry areas of the world face water stress or scarcity. This is likely to increase if current trends persist. Water scarcity describes the relationship between water demand and availability. Demand may vary between different countries, and different regions within a country depending on the uses of water. Countries with high industrial demand or large scale irrigation are more likely to experience scarcity than countries with similar climatic conditions but without these demand patterns. Rwanda for example, would be classified by most standard as suffering from water shortage but, because of low industrial and irrigation uses, would not be classified as water scarce. Water stress is the consequences of scarcity, which may be evident in many ways such as, increasing conflicts over water usage, a decline in service levels, crop failure or food insecurity. This is equivalent to the term “drought” UNDP Reports 2009,2012. The issues highlighted above are critical and relate to the situation of water supply and management in Bui Division. As such, these issues open up to the problem to be investigated in the study.

1.2 Statement of the problem

The issue of increasing water scarcity and mismanagement has been a great concern to government, private organizations, non-governmental organizations and the local communities themselves in all countries. The intensity of the problem is becoming severe as the population is increasing, resources are shrinking or being mismanaged especially against the backdrop of increasing demand in the provision of water resources. Usually in most arid and semi-arid regions, the human settlement pattern also makes it difficult for governments to provide water to everybody especially for human consumption purpose. Limited water resource availability, inappropriate actions of remedies including high cost to develop new resources makes the situation difficult in arid and semi-arid regions especially when tackled by the government. The competition among different uses and users is also increasing in these regions. The problem is further aggravated by poor implementation and maintenance of this precious resource especially when addressed by the public sector alone under conventional approaches on purely technical basis.

Water mismanagement has become a crisis of governance that has and will continue to impact heavily on public health and environment, with heightening tensions and conflicts over declining or dwindling resources WHO and UNICEF, 2010. Worldwide, the greatest impacts will be on the poor, who are the most vulnerable to water-borne illnesses which further perpetuate their poverty situation. At present, a staggering 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. In 2000, an estimated 2.2 million people, most of them infants or children under 5years, died from water related preventable diseases UN Reports, 2012

In the Northwest region of Cameroon, portable water is being supplied to the majority of the communities through community initiatives and to a lesser extent by the Cameroon Water Corporation (CAMWATER), whose coverage is limited to some major towns or urban centers. The number of rural households connected to portable water under the dispensation of CAMWATER for the entire region is estimated at 1.5% of the total population of about 1,728,953 for the North West Region( National Census of Cameroon,2005; GP-DERUDEP, 2006) and 3.6% for Bui Division(Njilla,2010).The situation of portable water connections in urban areas is also deteriorating over the years due to the increasing influx of people from the countryside(rural-exodus), the depletion of water resources and the degradation of watersheds.

  Also, according to GP-DERUDEP (2006) and Njilla201, most of the existing portable water installations have poor sanitation situations. This is because of irregular cleaning of the water tanks, little or no knowledge on water treatment methods, and ineffectiveness of water management committee in many communities. More than 90% of existing community water supply schemes do not have maintenance equipment’s and trained technicians to cater for the tanks and stand pipes. As such, there is an urgent need for more water supply schemes to be constructed and extended to the rest of the communities

Furthermore, damaged stand taps or leaking tanks and pipes are usually abandoned. The role of women and children in the sustainability of water scheme cannot be overemphasized. Women and children generally have more access to portable water than men. This is because they carry out most of the household domestic activities. Inhabitants of the Bui locality are forced to make use of the boreholes system which are built by the high class citizens though not in all quarters which exposes them to illnesses like typhoid because this water source isn’t too good for drinking. Other issues concerning water supply within the region in general include insufficient funds to extend existing schemes to areas which are not presently served and shortage of water during the dry season.

     The provision of water to the population of Bui Division in general and Kumbo in Particular has been a subject of great concern. The tussle between the government agencies and the local communities deteriorated to the point where government agency SNEC was expelled from Kumbo. Portable water supply thus shifted from being the sole prerogative of the central government to that of community involvement through the proliferation of community/village water management projects or schemes. This change has come along with numerous problems and issues. In the final analysis, it is difficult to conclude whether the changes were positive or negative, but what is clear is that water supply related problems still exist at various levels. This is because according to an inventory of water schemes conducted by the Divisional Delegation of Water and Energy for Bui Division, less than 40% of the total population is served with portable water by the government, the Kumbo Water Authority(KWA) and the various community(rural) water schemes combined. This therefore implies that the issues of community water supply and management should take a centre stage in the quest to fulfill the UNs Millennium Development Goal of providing clean and safe drinking water to the population.

1.3 Research question

  • What are the problems inherent in the exploitation of water resources at the communal level in Bui Division?

  • What is the local state officials doing to fight against scarcity of water supply

  • What is the way forward to ensure sustainable community water management in Bui Division in particular and Cameroon in general?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

  Generally, the aim of this study therefore is to investigate the challenges and prospects of community water supply in Bui Division North West Region of Cameroon in relation to the extraction or exploitation of water, treatment and distribution of water to the population, issues related to water demand and supply and the overall management of community water schemes.

Specifically, the study seeks to:

  • To identify the problems inherent in the exploitation of water resources at the communal level in Bui Division.
  • To examine how the local state officials doing to fight against scarcity of water supply
  • Make suggestions for proper community water management and recommendations, which could lead to policy formulations in the domain of community water management in Bui Division in particular and Cameroon in general.
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