In June students from the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham completed their 10th annual research trip to Cameroon, where they visited previous projects, and carried out further research for upcoming installations.
Existing Cameroon Catalyst wells were assessed to ensure adequate construction and maintenance, with a focus on the most recent well installation in Petit Bello. After a handover ceremony during which the team was greeted by villagers and senior local officials, there was an opportunity to meet the newly formed well committee, responsible for managing the well’s upkeep and fair distribution of water.
It became clear that the work done by Cameroon Catalyst is appreciated by the local population, due to the noticeable decline in incidences of waterborne diseases. Our regular visits give villagers a forum to raise any concerns they may have, and allow design problems to be addressed in future constructions. This partnership between the charity and locals crucial to the continued growth and success of the charity.
Our well in Mbangue is shown below, and is a good example of the success that can follow from effective management by the well committee. Frequent cleaning by villagers ensures that hygiene is maintained, whilst regular monetary contributions can be saved up to fund repairs if needed. This well has been running successfully since it was installed in 2017.
The team also worked closely with its local contractor, Laurent, on a number of occasions. The communal latrine design proposed for the market in Tongo was discussed, to ensure that it would comply with cultural and practical needs upon installation.
The Southampton team identified several viable sites for future wells by assessing natural water sources in the vicinity, to ascertain the water table depth. Meanwhile, the University of Birmingham focused on further research into latrine use and requirements. Previous liaisons with villagers had shown a preference for private latrines for individual households, although further investigation this year highlighted a need for larger toilet facilities in public spaces such as markets and football pitches, which attract a lot of visitors. Suitable latrine sites were identified in most villages where they were required, providing several future projects to work on.
The team also looked into other potential water and sanitation projects, as this is still a major issue throughout Eastern Cameroon. Local steel and timber yards were visited to identify suitable construction materials, so that these can be considered in forthcoming designs.
Our work would not have been possible without the help of our team of Cameroonian translators and other helpers, who allowed us to carry out our research safely and efficiently.