Cameroon Community Gets Life-giving Water

Filed in Construction Industry, NAHB Cares by on February 22, 2017 0 Comments

Guest blogger Eric Tilden, NAHB Program Manager for Sustainability and Green Building, is back with another post about his volunteer work with Engineers without Borders.

water tank

Progress continues on the construction of an 8,000 liter water tank.

It’s the motto for the 75th anniversary of NAHB: “We build communities.” For the good part of a century, NAHB and its members have been recognized as leaders of building communities across the United States.

Your staff believes in building communities, too.

Earlier in February, I spent two weeks in Cameroon volunteering with Engineers without Borders (EWB). As a professional engineer, I serve as a Project Lead for the Cameroon Water and Health Project, which is helping ensure access to a clean and sustainable source of water for a very rural community in Northwest Cameroon called Mbokop.

Mbokop is home to roughly 2,200 people from three primary tribes speaking three main languages and following two major religions. This diverse community supports itself primarily through subsistence farming and herding livestock, but lacks basic services such as safe drinking water, proper sanitation and electricity.

During its months-long dry season, the community gets its water from a stagnant pool fed by a small spring. Waterborne illnesses are prevalent in the area.

After months of design and assessment, the EWB team broke ground in early 2015 on the installation of a spring-fed gravity water system for the residents of Mbokop. The system collects clean groundwater in a nearby hillside and transports it over 2,550 meters (8,360 feet, or over 23 football fields) to the town center and local school. Construction is ongoing and nearing the end of the project, with clean water flowing closer to the community than ever before.

During this latest trip, over 600 meters of pipeline were installed, and an 8,000-liter (over 2,000 gallon) water storage tank was constructed of concrete and stone masonry. Water samples were also tested for E. coli, sediment, pH, hardness and other qualities important to health and the life of the system.

As a policy, EWB requires that the local community buy in with all projects and contribute 5% of the total material cost. This does not include any labor, tools, or transportation but only hard costs like concrete, pipes and rebar.

While it can slow the construction process as teams wait for the community to raise its 5% contribution, this helps ensure that the project is a true

Eric Tilden (center) takes a 75th anniversary t-shirt selfie with some Mbokop children.

partnership, and that the community will be able to continue to raise funds for the maintenance and long-term sustainability of the system long after EWB has gone.

Once this project is completed, the team will work with the local communities to assess their needs, develop the next project, and continue to spread access to clean water to every man, woman, and child.

As many Cameroonians reminded the EWB team this past trip, “Water is life,” and access to clean water is the backbone of any strong community.

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