Alana Giustizia Visits Kumbo

In February 2014, I realized a lifelong dream when I was able to visit my aunt, Sister Cecile Buote, who has lived in Cameroon for 40 years, and for the last twenty years has called Kumbo home. She spoke to me many times over the years about OK Clean Water and the water projects in the Kumbo area.
 So I was very excited to accompany Mr. Visi Edwin and Sister Catherine Molloy, along with Sister Mary Anne Rossi who was visiting from the United States, to visit two water projects in progress in the villages of Romajaay and Romndzev in Kitiwum.  I received such a warm and generous welcome by all, and everyone was eager to talk about their project and the impact it has on their village.

I was very impressed by the approach that is used in planning, building and maintaining the water projects. What is considered “best practice” management principles was clearly evident in all aspects of the work. These principles take discipline and effort to apply consistently – organizations often struggle do this effectively. I would like to share a few examples of what I experienced during my visit.

Prioritization and Alignment: Important to the success of any organization or project is clarity and agreement on the priorities.
 Mr. Visi explained that part of his role is to ensure that project is a priority for the village or that the people in the village fully support the project. He shared some experiences from other areas where water projects went ahead without involvement and commitment from the people, and that these systems were then often not maintained properly or did not meet their needs.

Once a village submits a proposal to Ok Clean Water, Mr. Visi’s discusses the proposal with the village committee in detail to ensure there is full commitment and ownership of the project. As part of the initial assessment and planning of the project, the village commits to undertake certain aspects of the project, usually in the form of labor and the long-term maintenance of the system. Sessions are held with the village to ensure that everyone is on-board and fully understands the commitments.

Performance Measurements Top performing companies establish, communicate and follow-up on performance objectives.
In Romajaay, the village set a target for each family to contribute one six meter length of pipe to the project. This was not an easy objective, but the village reached their objectives and purchased 900 meters of piping, a significant contribution to the 5 km of piping required to connect the village to the catchment area. At the Romndzev in Kitiwum project site, Pa George, the village water committee chairperson, was on the site taking attendance to ensure that the village was meeting its commitment to provide unskilled labor for the project, and giving words of encouragement to those working on digging the pipeline and laying the pipes. I asked several people working on the project sites about the project objectives and everyone was able to talk about the project schedule, how they were progressing against the schedule and their role in constructing the project

Visible Leadership Fundamental to any successful organization are leaders who visible and actively champion the project.
Visible Leadership could be seen and felt in every aspect of the OK Clean Water Projects. The Water committee chairperson for each village Madame Josephine Litila and Pa George He-en were on site to oversee and encourage the work. Emmanuel Laika, the designated water maintenance person and the village development and cultural association chairperson respectively, was also on site to observe the progress and provide guidance and assistance.

Despite very difficult travel conditions, Mr. Visi and Sister Catherine make it a priority to continually visit water projects in progress. In one instance, it took them over one hour to drive a 10 km stretch to visit a project! Mr. Visi’s meticulous and thorough oversight of the planning, execution and follow-up of the projects is evident in all aspects on the work. Sustainability Education and on-going follow up are vital to ensure a project’s objectives are sustained. OK Clean Water is investing significant time and effort in providing on-going training and education to villages that have completed water projects, as well as villages that may complete a water project in the future. They have developed training material and the training is done by Sister Catherine, Mr. Visi and various village committee members.

Recently, a local OK Clean Water Advisory Council has been established and the council is made up of representatives from sub-divisions in Bui division of the North West region of Cameroon. The council is working towards establishing a follow-up mechanism to ensure the water systems continue to function effectively, and to also understand the lessons from each project so that the leanings can be applied to future projects.

Recognize and Celebrate Successes Too often, organizations and projects do not take the time to recognize and celebrate our successes.

OK Clean Water and the villages ensured they did not make this same mistake! While I wasn’t in Kumbo the many wonderful gatherings during 2013 that honored and celebrate the 10th anniversary and successes of OK Clean Water, the energy and legacy of these celebrations could still be felt during my visit. 

My day with the OK Clean Water left me inspired and impressed with not only what has been achieved, but most importantly how it has been achieved. I am confident that the great leadership and sound approach will result in sustained, life giving water for years to come, and a solid base from which the villages will continue to grow and prosper. 

As I heard many times from the people of Kumbo “Water is Life”. A heartfelt thank you to Mr. Visi Edwin, Sister Catherine Malloy and the people of Romajaay and Romndzev in Kitiwum for sharing your time and stories with me

Alana Giustizia

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