Abel Odeke is the founder and managing director of Equal Aqua Uganda, a non-governmental community based organisation registered in Uganda and the United Kingdom (UK). His ambition is to help people in rural areas have easy access to and adequate water. He shared his story with Lilian Ntege.
Odeke says he founded Equal Aqua Uganda with a group of friends (from UK) who he met while volunteering at the International Citizen Service (I.C.S), a program that oversees volunteer placements for young people in different parts of the world.
While working and interacting with residents in rural communities in Uganda, they realised there was lack of enough water in villages where women and girls always walked several kilometers in search of clean water.
“We became aware of the problem of water shortage in rural areas. The water sources were very far from people’s homes and we decided to intervene,” Odeke says.
He adds that they decided as members of Equal Aqua Uganda to deeply research more about water conservation and how to improve livelihoods by lessening the burden of water shortage.
First, they decided to register Equal Aqua Uganda in early January 2020 before official operation.
The UK team agreed to mobilise for funds, while the Ugandan team would do the implementation of their goal.
Their first area of operation was Bukedea District because it was one of the districts with high water inadequacies.
They partnered with the Ichupa Upscale Project to build water tanks made of eco-bricks waste plastic bottles. Their first site was at Aligoi Secondary School.
They have built over 45 water tanks for different schools, health centers, and Churches in various districts of Sironko, Bukedea, Mbale, Tororo, Kiruhura, and many others.
Tom Mclenachan, one of the co-founders of Equal Aqua Uganda from the UK, says that it has always been a boundless journey ever since they started.
They have provided safe access to water to over 3,300 schools and trained over 1,600 people in practical school workshops and they wish to also tackle environmental conservation issues.
He says: “We have also decided to raise awareness about overlapping ecological and environmental issues like plastic pollution and climate change to different communities.”
He adds that they are running classes and workshops in schools, women groups and community centers about water reservation methods.
Moses Amodan, the head teacher of Aligoi Secondary School, says he appreciates Equal Aqua Uganda for the great work they have done for their school.
“They have given us two water tanks, and one is still under construction. So our students no longer move long distances of over 500 metres to the nearest borehole.
They could even proceed to 2km if they found the borehole so crowded,” he says.
He also says the water tank is not limited to only students, but is also available for the rest of the community to fetch water.
Odeke says he has been able to get five partnerships with different organisations like Restless Development Uganda, Getaway 2 Missions, Ichupa Upscale Project, National youth Engagement Network, and Water/Purifier Uganda sports, which have all contributed to solving water inadequacy in villages.
He adds that last year 2020, he was awarded the Commonwealth Point of the Light Award by the Queen of England because of his excellent work.
He has been able to get a grant of over Shs 20 million to support the water tank constructions.
He also says he has managed to connect Equal Aqua Uganda’s website to over 51 countries worldwide.
The organisation has trained over 600 people about water reservation-related activities and community life skills.
This training takes place online due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Odeke says the Covid-19 restrictions have affected them immensely.
The inter-district movement restrictions have led to slow engagement with their stakeholder communities. This has also slowed down their operations altogether.
In addition, he says they sometimes lack enough funding because their target population is large. He says that tanks are also expensive, a tank costing over Shs 3million.
Odeke says he wants to extend this project to Northern Uganda and the Karamoja region.
They also plan to extend their services to other countries, starting with Kenya, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
They also hope to start up a UK-Uganda scholarship exchange programme which will enable volunteers in conducting research on water and sanitation issues.
This programme is also to help them come up with other alternative water reservation methods.
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