Wonderful water at their doorstep

Normal, Weekender

Daga villagers in Kutubu, Southern Highlands work together to complete a water supply and sanitation project in their community, write DENNIS BADI and SISA KINI

A TRADITIONAL banquet to open a water supply and sanitation project was recently held in true Kutubu style by the biggest village in that region. 
Cultural performances hosted by the Daga village were exhibited in the ahua, men’s long house and kanemoa, the women’s hamlets. Over 60 pigs were slaughtered and shared with invited guests and visitors that came from near and far  to witness the completion of the European Union (EU) funded water supply and sanitation project.
“We had enough of politicians’ empty promises. The completion of this water project goes to show our neighbouring communities that we can only develop if we help ourselves” said Kofe Ibu, a Daga village elder
“As with the tumbuna stori or legend of how our ancestors came and settled on this beautiful mountain top village and built the ahuas that still stand there today, may this dam and water project also be a tumbuna stori for our children and the generations that follow of how this community pulled together and made this happen” said a local women leader Naomi Samuel.
The project was funded by the EU under its Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (RWSSP). The Daga community contributed about
K9, 000. Other financial and in kind support was provided by Kutubu LLG Special Purpose Authority (KSPA) Oil Search HSE and Drilling Departments, and UJV, a landowner company, and CDI Foundation, an NGO that facilitated the project.
The Daga community is one of the biggest human settlements and the most densely populated in Kutubu. It consists of two villages Damayu (Daga 1) and Fiwaga (Daga 2) which includes a primary school. The Daga community is located just outside of the Pimaga station in Nipa Kutubu district, Southern Highlands Province (SHP).
According to a village woman the water supply project has reduced the drudgery of women and children. Gone are the days when children were beaten when they refused to go uphill to fetch drinking water, and for women daily walking long distances to do wash laundry and dishes.
Today water comes to the their door step via 60 taps and 4 shower blocks. This reduces the need to store water in bamboo containers and allows women and children more time to do other chores.
“A lot of changes have already occurred amongst the women, children and school students. This is evident by the existence of back yard gardens, healthy looking children, and women and elderly men wearing cleaner clothes” says Rex Robert, CDI Public Health Officer who does monthly monitoring of Daga’s health indicators.
“Our records have shown a sharp decline in water borne diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid at both Fiwaga and Damayu villages as a result of improved community hygiene” says Wendi, Sister-In-Charge of Pimaga Rural Hospital. She said the school sanitation and hygiene has also improved.
The Daga community provided free labour to clear the dam site, construct the dam, clear the path and dig the drain for the poly-pipe to run from the dam site to the reservoir and distribution drains in the village.
“One section of the climb is about 45 degrees steep and it took fortitude and sheer determination from the community to carry boulders and cement bags uphill some two times their weight to the site of the dam” says Allan Kealaua, CDI Livelihood Coordinator who coordinated the water project.
“This is the most organized and committed community I have worked with in Kutubu” claimed Allan.   
The project construction involved women, men and children who worked on Mondays for two years. Regular project meetings were held on Fridays to brief CDI and stakeholders of their progress. 
The Daga people willingly extended their water supply to include Tanuga primary school to the joy of students, teachers and their families.
It is rare for a landowner or community in Kutubu to share resources freely such as water to a government facility, such as Tanuga, even though their children attend the school.
“This is first for Kutubu area where a 24 hour water supply is serving the school. We acknowledge the generosity of the Daga people and the landowner whose land water is sourced” said headmaster, Mr Vue.
Mr Vue said the water supply means there is no need for staff and students to look for water elsewhere when the only school tank runs dry.
The total length of the water project is about four kilometers from the headwaters of Wara Sura where water is sourced. It ends at Tanuga primary school, by passing Daga 1 and 2 villages. It is a tributary of Mubi river that feeds the mighty Kikori river.  According to Jordan Stewart, an Engineer with RWSSP, “it is one of the highest gravity fed water project in the country”.
Without electricity the fresh mountain stream is piped via a gravity fed system from the dam to its 60,000 litres catchment tank where it’s distributed to two reservoir tanks located at Tanuga, about 60 tap stands and two male and two female shower blocks at Fiwaga and Damayu villages.
“The journey was long and winding, there were deaths in the village, land disputes and local politics that slowed our progress however, it was two years of learning experience” says Philip Kabure, a village elder during the opening ceremony.
“The people have realised that conflict and reconciliation are processes of community development” he adds. 
“The water supply project builds on our heritage and other community development activities already undertaken in our community. Provision of clean water has also contributed significantly to our overall health” says Mrs Esther Kofe, a Christian women leader in Daga.
The community is now cleaning up the village on a regular basis. They have erected latrine toilets in the village and have also established a maternity centre were pregnant mothers are able to deliver in the village if it is difficult to go to the hospital.
“Many development practitioners who have been to Kutubu alleged that Daga has a conducive environment for development agencies to work. This is due to their high level of participation as there are motivated people and leaders present that take ownership of development initiatives,” said Norman Ba’aba, KSPA chairman who spoke at the launch.
Since 2003 CDI with the support of WWF has been actively promoting community organising activities with a lot of villages in the Oil Search project impact areas of SHP and Gulf province however, their intervention at Daga has been well received than other communities.
Community organisation trainings are a participative rapid appraisal tool used to clarify understanding on development issues, create awareness and self realization, and identification of priority needs for the community to implement and achieve.
Apart from the Daga water supply and sanitation project many initiatives were implemented since 2003. Others are Kutubu Foe culture group, artifact shop, local theatre group to make health and environment awareness, rice and vegetable farming, mother’s life skills and sewing activities, Daga sports competition, Kabugi fellowship group, Kutubu Foe Women Association and recently the establishment of a village development committee. These initiatives make the Daga community the standout of all communities in Kutubu and SHP.
Daga people are proud of their heritage, and their ahua (haus-man) which is a symbol of this pride, stands in the centre of their villages (Damayu and Fiwaga). At both sides of the ahua are women’s hamlets or kanemoa.
This house design is now disappearing in Kutubu. This is due to the influx of immigrants and the influences of the oil derived economy from nearby Kutubu project. 
The kanemoas that line the side of the ahua is a reminder that in this village the men and women must work together in order to sustain the existence of the Daga people’s way of life. This was also essential to achieving the completion of Daga water supply and sanitation project in their community by working side by side and drawing on each others strengths.