World Water Day 2020 is highlighting water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. How we use water will help reduce floods, droughts, scarcity and pollution, and will help fight climate change itself. To celebrate World Water Day 2020 we are sharing the story of Aruligo Seventh-day Adventist Primary School in Solomon Islands.
Located in some of the driest parts of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, the school and surrounding community was dependent on rainwater alone. Improving water management practices can help increase climate resilience, improve ecosystem health, and reduce the risk of water-related disasters. Live & Learn worked with the school leadership to assess the water and sanitation services of the school against the Solomon Islands WASH National Standards. The school management used the formal report produced through the assessment to approach the Bank of South Pacific for a grant to get a borehole drilled and installation of a solar pump. The school teachers, parents and students also raised significant funds by selling food and drinks.
Between the fund-raising efforts of the school and the grant from the bank the school has now installed the borehole and solar pump – which is being used to provide water to the school and the surrounding community. The school has also been able to improve their toilets. The assessment report highlighted that the school was not meeting minimum standards for sanitation for teachers and students. The dry pit toilets were not enough for the school enrolment, and were not able to be used when the rainwater tanks were empty. The new borehole means that the students aged from four to 15 years are now able to fetch water close by to use in the toilets. They also have access to drinking water and no longer have to carry water bottles, especially benefiting children who don’t live in communities close to the school.
Many actors were involved in bringing about the change in the school. The catalyst that brought about the drive by the school administration to push to improve the WASH situation came when the school participated in the New Times New Targets project implemented by Live & Learn and Plan International in Australia through the Australian government Water for Women Fund. By providing a formal report to the school administration on the challenges faced by the school in providing adequate WASH services the school had supporting evidence and clear documentation to approach external donors.
The success of this project has had a major positive impact on the attitude of teachers and staff involved. Now they are driven to make further improvements, especially as the school will expand soon to become a high school. There is also a clearer understanding of the importance of independent assessments like the WASH report, and the importance of having an active WASH in Schools program – especially this year with the importance of access to water for cleaning schools and washing hands with soap to stop the spread of COVID19. Improved water management is an essential component of successful hygiene practice, and climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Story and photos by Kylie Tovosia and Gilbert Pai, Live & Learn Solomon Islands