Local Solutions to Local Water Problems

The UN General Assembly assigned 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation as part of its Water for Life campaign, and World Water Day is on March 20. With that in mind, Barefoot College’s approach to water is worth highlighting.

Barefoot College is an organization based in Rajasthan that believes solutions to rural problems lie within the community and that also encourages practical knowledge and skills rather than paper qualifications through a learning-by-doing process of education. The organization released a report titled The Barefoot Approach: Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting last month.

Rainwater harvesting collects rain and distributes water through underground tanks to store drinkable water for months at a time. According to Barefoot College, this traditional approach has been used for hundreds of years. Barefoot College advocates its simple approach above all:

The success of Barefoot initiatives in rainwater harvesting and well recharging as part of the collective efforts of rural communities in India have demonstrated the need to reintroduce traditional, low-cost technologies that communities can implement themselves.

Using this local, low-cost approach allows communities to spend time on productive activities rather than collecting water on a daily basis, especially in drought-ridden areas. Particularly interesting is that the project is internally dependent, allowing for more sustainable measures to innovative answers:

The Barefoot approach draws upon local knowledge and skills, and involves local people to administer, supervise and finance their own community development. This helps to reduce dependency on external aid and creates a sense of local ownership in managing the local water supply.