Collecting water in Huíla

Cisterna-calçadão, Chiange (Gambos, Huíla). Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, November 2020.

These futuristic-looking cisterns are located in a kimbo (communal settlement) outside the village of Chiange, administrative center of the region of Gambos, in Huíla. This is one of the regions in Huíla province that are most severely affected by the drought, and the local administration and NGOs are struggling to find solutions so that the local communities can obtain water for their herding and agriculture.

One such solution is this cisterna-calçadão, an experimental system for collecting rainwater developed since 2017 by the Angolan rural development NGO ADRA in association with the Norwegian Church Aid and importing an idea originally rehearsed in the Brazilian Nordeste by the Christian NGO Diaconia. The system relies on collecting as much water as possible during the rainy season, in order to subsist during the dry season. Each cistern can accumulate up to 52 thousand liters of water. Unlike other aid and relief projects, the installation of the cisterns relied on a participatory process whereby each kimbo is in charge of the maintenance and management of the cistern. Nearby each cistern, we also find a small lavra (garden) that uses the collected water to grow vegetables.

In this occasion, this cisterna-calçadão was virtually empty, as it had been eight months since the last rains in the region, and the demand for water by neighboring kimbos is too high. So far, ADRA has built 13 cisternas-calçadão, and has applied for funding to build 100 more. While some feel that relying on collecting rainfall is not the best strategy to cope with the drought and thus prefer waterholes, it has certainly improved the livelihoods of the kimbos. For instance, before the construction of the cistern, Belinha Uatengapo Pedro, one of the residents in the kimbo, needed to walk 5 kms to reach the next waterhole to get water, and sometimes spent 6 to 10 hours in the process.

The “calçadão” that collects the rainwater and drives it into the cisterns. Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, November 2020.

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