At Connect for Water, we have the privilege of sharing about the work of organizations around the world providing clean water. One of those organizations is Tatirano Social Enterprise. At Tatirano, they recently debuted two water cisterns at an EPP [Elementary School] in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. But they are more than just two concrete tanks at a school. They’re a combined 10,000 litres of clean water for the students, staff, and surrounding neighborhood. The cisterns serve as a tool for WASH training at the school, the impact of clean water rippling out into people’s lives.

Together, they’re 10,000 litres out of almost 60,000 litres installed throughout southern Madagascar. Private systems help fund communal systems at schools and hospitals, in cities and rural towns. A medical clinic in Fort Dauphin has three of its own systems, allowing doctors to focus on patients and patients to focus on recovery.

Those 60,000 litres are held together by the Calabash Cistern design: an internationally shared method to build rain harvesters with eight bags of cement and simple, locally available materials. One 5,000 litre system takes only six days to put together, and seven days to cure. In just under two weeks, households can have reliable, protected, clean rainwater when they need it.

This project isn’t just about water. It’s about the team Tatirano trains to build the cisterns, coordinated by a Malagasy construction manager, who has since brought on new staff in the same role.

It’s about the Tatirano water agents who monitor the water, maintain and clean the cisterns, sell surplus to the local community, and coordinate with the central office. Tatirano only accepts female candidates for this role because the overwhelming majority of water collectors and managers in the home are women. At the EPP, a young woman now has a critical and professional skill, enabling her to do important work while supporting her family. She was trained to do this job, and now has trained two others to do it as well.

Tatirano isn’t working by itself either. A student environmental club helped research local water points. International universities want to help with analysis and remote sensing technology. Local and community officials vet the project and bring neighborhoods into the fold and larger organizations want to team up to help scale.

This network of partners share a passion for water accessibility and rain harvesting. They build the cisterns while respecting the communities that they’re meant for. They are publicizing our results and using them to inform new partnerships.

Photo by Daniel G Wood

In response to Covid-19, Tatirano has also created 23 handwashing stations around Fort Dauphin managed by a team of 69 currently unpaid elementary school teachers on rotation. This hygiene campaign has been taken up enormously and they have enabled over 100,000 people to wash their hands since starting in early March. The response to the campaign represents a huge demand for sustainable water access that is simply lacking, while understanding about the importance of hygiene is really high. This has proven a willingness to wash hands with water and soap, now it’s up to Tatirano to continue encouraging the government that they are already partnering with on a regional scale, to focus on investment in infrastructure. 

As uncertain times continue, Madagascar’s infrastructure will continue to be tested and strained. Durability and stability matters. Sustainability matters. Two cisterns don’t just change where a community will get its water. It changes how residents think about their water, their health, and themselves. We are thankful to see the great impact that Tatirano is having in Madagascar and look forward to continuing partnering with them.

Original post written by Gabriel Sandler