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Pemba ยป Water

How can a small island that can’t drill wells still access clean drinking water?

Imagine if you had no water. Each day you had to leave your home, travel two hours by boat, fill up water containers and then boat another two hours to return home. The water you collect would only last a few days and then you’d have to do the whole thing over again. Imagine if your community, a small island off of Pemba, had tried digging several wells only to find salt water. This was Kokota Islet’s reality when Community Forests International first visited in 2011.

Community Forests International first visited Kokota too see if the islet wanted to plant trees. The community was interested, but had one major challenge - they had no fresh water. Kokota Islet had truly fallen through the cracks. Kokotans had no water, no electricity and no school. The community had begun building a school but had run out of money before they could outfit the building with a roof. Community Forests International worked with Kokotans to finish the school. CFI supplied roofing, thousands of bricks, over two hundred bags of cement and three truckloads of gravel. Kokotans transported the materials to their islet and worked tirelessly to build a rainwater storage tank behind their school. Now the school’s roof feeds water into a 250,000 liter tank, which is then filtered and cleansed by a solar powered UV purification process. No well? No problem. Kokotans don’t look to the ground for their water, they get it from the sky above.

Following the rainwater project on Kokota the organization crossed over to the next islet, Uvinje, and did it all over again. CFI is now also experimenting with rainwater harvesting for food production by carefully shaping the earth to capture and infiltrate it into thirsty agricultural soil.

“In order to build the water tank Kokotans had to dig down a meter through hard coral rock. They worked from sunup to sundown with pick axes chipping away for over a month. I’ve never seen people work so hard, the need was so high. We worked hard and in the end we transformed Kokota into a model of sustainability.” — Jeff Schnurr, co-founder and executive director, Community Forests International