Rainwater Catchment System Implementation in Rural Madagascar

The construction of a rainwater catchment system in Madagascar provided clean water access to the approximately 1,500 community members in the rural village of Manantenina.

Responsibilities in the field included complete construction of the rainwater catchment system, educating community members about the maintenance and proper use of the system, and interviewing community members (including the village leader and organized community development groups) about the needs in their community and how we could best work tomeet them together. Activities during the academic year to prepare for summer implementation included grant writing, fundraising, research for the design of the system, cultural and language studies, and communication with our partners on the ground in Madagascar to plan for the project.

The system was constructed next to the village primary school and mainly serves the schoolchildren, and the project will be supplemented by a water line with taps throughout Manantenina that are currently being implemented by DEID. Research and location planning for the water line project were conducted while in Madagascar as well. The project was successfully completed within the 6 weeks spent in Madagascar and the community partnership with DEID remains strong as the water line is constructed.

Relation to my focus on clean water access

This experience allowed me to directly engage with a rural, low-resource community in Madagascar that had almost no access to safe drinking water. The rainwater catchment system we constructed directly addressed this need for a large portion of the community, and its location next to the village primary school ensured that children would especially benefit from the new resource. Being on site everyday, I learned a wide variety of construction methods and manual techniques that can be used in areas without electricity. I also gained a holistic understanding of the functioning of rainwater catchment systems and the various design options for each part of the system. In addition to the technical knowledge I gained, I got to witness the benefits of involving community members in the design and implementation process of an engineering project. When community members feel ownership of the system, they are more likely to keep up maintenance work and therefore extend the longevity of the system. I also experienced some of the challenges that arise with cross-cultural collaborations and worked to bring all stakeholders to mutually beneficial agreements. Overall I gained exposure to the design process, construction techniques for low-resource areas, and global barriers to water access while making lifelong friendships with the Manantenina community. This experience also made me think about other ways that water needs could be met in rural, low-resource communities, especially on a larger scale, and gave me the background knowledge to start exploring these solutions with other GCS experiences.

Supervisor: Dr. David Schaad

Start date: September 2015

End date: August 2016

Hours to complete: 240 (summer), 70 (academic year)