Clean water is transforming the village of Kopas in Papua New Guinea
The Community Development Agency (CDA) is a Papua New Guinea organisation that has been supporting rural families in Gumine since 2001.
CDA empowers people to become to become self-reliant and addresses the root causes of poverty and social issues by providing life’s basic building blocks: safe water and a source of income.
The aftermath of conflict
CDA was established by a group of young men in response to post-election violence that had engulfed the region and left people without any means of supporting themselves. Young people faced extremely limited opportunities for work and many young men turned to alcohol or drug abuse.
Years since the conflict, livelihoods are slowly recovering.
Thomas Irai Guman is 50 years old and lives in Kopas village with his wife Tape and seven children. He set up a small community alliance between three tribes to address drug and alcohol problems. The organisation he heads, called KGYA, has been working with CDA to provide the community with fresh, clean water.
Thomas says: “We live in the grassland, and it’s really difficult to find water around here. There are some water wells around but we cannot access them because of disputes with landowners.”
“So, because we didn’t have any water here, when school students came back home, they have to carry buckets and they walk down to the big river – it’s about 2-3 kilometres and they bring it back to the house.
“But now we are working together with CDA and Oxfam they recognise these needs, and they give us water.”
The whole community rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in with installing water tanks and a tap stand: “The community participation was really, really good. Everyone here – the kids, the men, the women, the youth – everybody participated in putting the water project together with the construction team. And the water construction was completed in a very short while.”
A resurgent Kopas
The availability of freshwater in Kopas has had a big impact. More people are moving there and for the first time, people are building permanent houses. Other community ventures are now possible. CDA has run livelihoods training sessions, equipping people with the skills to set up and manage small-scale agricultural projects. It has even provided the village with piglets.
Tom adds: “Because we get water, we also built a piggery. CDA provided training for piggery so the people now have the skill to look after the pigs.”
Women sell the pigs at market and are also growing more fruits and vegetables to sell. The availability of water means they can rear more chickens for meat and eggs. This extra income is ploughed back into the local community and spent on clothing, books and medicines. Life has become easier, and healthier.
Mila James, 29, pictured above, says “Since the water comes into the community, I have not had to take my kids to the hospital. And we have already taken steps to fulfil our dreams. We have planted lots of kaukau (sweet potato) gardens. Some of us have already sold some of the kaukau at the market and we have money.”