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Example of Water Solidarity between France and Kyrgyzstan

Safe Drinking Water for An-Oston Village driven by a local women´s initiative

21.05.2015 |

Safe water supply for An-Oston, Kyrgyzstan, a village with 1000 inhabitants

The Water Supply project by KAWS, WECF, supported by the French municipality St Omer and the Agence de l'eau Artois Picardie in the framework of the UNDP Water Solidarity Initiative started in 2014. Thanks to great community mobilisation, a community based water union has been created that takes care of the long term sustainability of the water supply.

An-Oston is a typical Kyrgyz rural village lacking adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a lack of sufficient funding for the operation and maintenance of the water supply system lead to eight villages being disconnected from the network. The villagers have had no choice but to consume water out of irrigation channels and private wells, which has caused outbreaks of infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and diarrhea, mainly among the children. The lack of a water supply has had widespread negative effects on the livelihood of the population and the quality of life in the villages. The daily responsbility to collect water falls on the shoulders of women and children whilst the men of the village work, often in other towns and cities due to lack of economic opportunities at home. 
In An-Oston the water supply system was in awful condition, out of a total 33 taps, only 6 were functional. Drinking water from these few taps was only available for 2 hours per day, one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, creating long queues and tiresome unproductive waiting periods. During frequent power cuts the pump often became damaged or nonfunctional, and the villagers were left without water for months.

How change began
Such a dire states of affairs motivated a group of rural women to seek assistance from the authorities, however many of their appeals were not heard. In December 2011 this group of women appealed to the Kyrgyz Alliance for Water and Sanitation (KAWS) with success. Upon KAWS visiting the village and learning more about the condition of the water supply system and the impact it was having on village life, action began to take place. Meetings were arranged with various bodies and the villagers became motivated and engaged in the process.  The village became assimiliated into the Community Drinking Water Users Union (CDWUU) and elected their own board. Out of 11 members elected, 8 were women, reflecting the commitment and dedication the original group of women had to this cause. The union has been functioning efficiently and funds have been generated through household memberships. The village population has showed great willingness to autonomously organize themselves and take the upmost responsibility in solving the issues. Through using local economic opportunities, resources and experience, public methods of collective decision-making and organizational self-help productive benefits have been reaped.

Following these actions, KAWS asked WECF to include An-Oston village in their on-going capacity-building activities in Kyrgyzstan (EWA project)in order to build institutional capacity in the CDWUU and develop cooperation with all interested parties regarding improving the village water and sanitation services. The serious issues surrounding access to water in the village started to be visible and acknowledged by the local authorities. Steadily, the citizen’s mobilization grew in  the village.

In 2013, WECF together with KAWS, and with the support of the UNDP Global Water Solidarity Platform,, conducted a feasibility study on ‘Decentralized Water Solidarity Mechanism in Kyrgyz Republic’.

First Results achieved
In 2014, the Water Agency Artois-Picardie and the Municipality of St Omer decided to support the capital repairing of the An-Oston drinking water supply system with an investment of 105 000€. The local authorities (Regional Fund and Village authorities) and the inhabitants also contributed over 20 000€ . This initiative is a typical example of implementation of the water solidarity mechanism in order to provide safe and affordable water in poor rural areas.

The construction works started in autumn 2014: the water distribution system was connected to an existing water source with pump located in the neighboring village, and the water supply network was repaired by lining PP pipes inside the existing asbestos pipes.. Quality of life has already improved substantially in An-Oston village thanks to these first investments:

  • 55 households are already connected to the network and have running water in their home
  • the remaining 170 households will be connected before the winter 2015
  • the long waiting lines to get water at the tap stands have stopped, family hygiene has increased (children and family members can wash their hands more regularly) and the burden of households duties, generally carried out by women, has been enlightened.

Economic sustainability has been increased through the start-up of new generating revenue activities, which are now possible because of the direct access to clean water and because less time is spent on fetching water. A group of women have began a small business processing dairy products and fruits and a sewing workshop. Other business initatives include opening community based guest houses to create more economic stability for the village.

The CDWUU is very well structured and very activie in the village: 11 quarterleaders have been appointed: they work voluntarily to raise awaeness and collect the water fees. The villagers are very motivated to contribute financially through the payment of their water fees a one time contribution of 5000 soms for the connection to the water distributiin network and the watermeter. They are continually driven to create progressive access to water for each household.

In collaboration with KAWS and WECF, the women of An-Oston have been empowered through their own determination and proactivity. Throughout the preparation and implementaiton process the women involved in the project have proved themselves capable of initiating great change in the socioeconomic life of the village.

Thanks to the dedicated villagers of An-Oston, working with KAWS and WECF, and thanks to the important support of the french Water Agency Artois Picardie and the french Municpality of St Omer life in the village is now looking a whole lot more positive.

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Example of Water Solidarity between France and Kyrgyzstan
Safe Drinking Water for An-Oston Village driven by a local women´s initiative