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Staying Close to the People
Robert V. Lange

When development work introduces a new way to organize or a new technology, it is important for the project organizers to stay close to the people.
Some groups introduce new approaches and then leave quickly, with the assumption that sustainability and local control require separation from the people who brought the innovations.
I believe the opposite approach is much more effective. Community, individual, and social learning take time. Those introducing new ideas must join in as responsible members of the community. They are needed there and must not be above or separate from the people.
Read below for how this approach is exemplified by the ICSEE water sanitation systems, made possible by your generosity.
With gratitude,


November, 2019
The ICSEE Clean Water Project
In 2017 the ICSEE began the Water Project in Mbuyuni village. It included three systems providing a total of 10,000 liters a day of clear, chlorinated water taken from very dirty and polluted ponds. 

This meant 250 families with 1000 children had 40 liters a day of safe water. The original three are still in operation. ICSEE added three more systems here for a total of 40,000 liters a day. 

Ponds in the tough rural environment of the Maasai are not stable. Water access is a serious problem awaiting serious attention. Water levels are dropping now, but we expect rain to resume soon and refill the ponds.
Each installation unique
In Naiti village, the people have a major livestock watering operation requiring daily pumping from Naiti Lake into watering troughs. ICSEE was able to tap into their existing pumping arrangement to get the 10,000 liters a day pumped into a settling tank at the lake’s edge.

Elephants come there often, break down fences, and cause some problems. But so far, they have not interfered with the system's underground pipes, tanks, or faucets mounted in concrete that provides clean water for the people.

Lepurko's system was the first that kept costs down by using four 5000-liter tanks instead of two 10,000-liter models. It was also first to fence in the entire pond. By keeping livestock out, it reduces erosion and pollution. That location has alternative sites for livestock watering.

The ICSEE system at Oltukai village also has unique features. The people of the village raised five million shillings($2,200.) ICSEE added four million ($1,750) and installed the system. If more funds are brought to us, we will add a fence around the end of their pond near the pump intake to keep livestock away and stabilize that pond.
Water operators convene
On Monday, November 4, we held our first Water Operator's meeting. It included all Water Operators from the six water sanitation system locations.

Thirteen men and women attended. Four of the systems are close to each other but those in Lepurko and Oltukai are quite far.

Because of the distance, the Operators had never been all together. This was a very special opportunity to meet and share.
Water Operators in the new computer room at Cypress Hill

A medical doctor from the district hospital joined us to open the meeting with a review of some of the health issues present in these communities. All share the challenge of turbid, muddy water sources with dangerously high bacteria levels.

During the sessions, the Water Operators shared their worries and asked questions. They described times when they may not have followed the purification steps in sequence because of problems with a pump. They were concerned about how to operate the pump when water levels are low.
Building a new ICSEE water sanitation system
They wanted to be sure of the process for availability of alum and chlorine. Some spoke of instances when they might have added the chemicals in an order that did not guarantee their effectiveness. The discussions were serious and highly engaged.

We went over the technical design of the systems and explained how each design element reflects an essential part of the water sanitation process.

The Operators were impressed to hear that, while their water source, their dirty pond, was particularly problematic, people worldwide, including those in Europe and America, sanitize their water in similar ways. 
Getting to reliable, safe water
Chlorination keeps water safe, even when carrying containers like these may be contaminated
The goal of a Water Sanitation System is to reliably provide water of good quality and sufficient quantity.

To achieve this goal, the operators must follow multiple steps every day. These must be done with attention and care in exactly the right order. Most important, two chemicals must be introduced in the right amounts, in the right place, and in the right sequence.

As educators and organizers, we know that mastering the steps for operating a system and remembering them perfectly isn't easy. Every operator must develop an understanding of how each step plays its essential role in achieving the goal. With every action essential, there are no optional routes. When the Operators stay focused on the goal and purpose of the water systems, they appreciate the need for exact, well- timed actions.

In addition, when problems arise, it is important for Operators to engage ICSEE staff and leaders as the key resource for help. Making sure the Operators ask for help immediately when they are in difficulty is a necessary part of the process for maintaining high water safety standards.
Moving forward--no waiting

We were very happy that the Water Operators decided to form an organization and begin to solve problems as a group, communicating regularly. We will give them any assistance they request, but the organizing task is theirs. We look forward to sharing their good news with you.

We didn’t wait to move forward. Just four days after the meeting we visited four of our six systems. We measured water turbidity and chlorine content and discussed specific practical operational issues with the Operators who had just been at the meeting.

We demonstrated right away that our work together was not an abstraction, but a central part of all our lives. 

Providing clean water to families in these remote rural settings in a very serious responsibility and the collaboration can make it happen.

This Project demonstrates the central ICSEE principle and commitment:

We are with you as we all work to make life better, together.
A speck against the sun

November 11 was a very special day for astronomy, with Mercury passing in front of the sun, where we could see it.

This configuration won't happen again until 2032. We set up our telescope, with a safe solar filter, at our community center here in Monduli,

A cloudy afternoon sky had been predicted here, so we didn't organize a sky watch for school kids. But as it turned out, it was perfectly clear and even though Mercury was just a speck against the big sun, I watched it myself.. and I was moved

Since I was a kid I've loved telescopes. I have ground several mirrors myself, and designed a telescope that students built. We distributed them to many of the secondary schools in Zanzibar.

With so much happening on the ground, it feels good to remember where we are--so fortunate to be on a small planet near a magnificent star.
Thank you to Philip Lange for photography
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