Like many villages across Timor-Leste, Ermou did not have running water and during the dry season, collecting water from the river was an even greater challenge.
The families who live in this remote community in the highlands above Aileu Vila are coffee growers who depend on the crop for their livelihoods. Water collection was primarily a role for women and children, who collected water before and after school while the men worked in the fields.
In September 2015, a tap was turned on in Ermou for the first time. Plan International in Timor-Leste, local government representatives and staff from local partner organization Biahula handed over new community water systems Ermou and nearby Liurai and Kirilelo villages. At the same time, Ermou was officially declared ALFA - certified as being Open Defecation Free by the Department of Public Health.
Members of all three communities constructed their own water systems with technical assistance from Plan International, partner organisation Biahula and the Aileu District Water Authority (DAA).
Water Management Committees (Grupu Manajementu Fasilidade, GMF) were established in each village and members were provided with tools and trained to build, maintain and repair the water supply systems. They have also been trained in financial management and collect a monthly contribution from each family to cover the cost of maintenance.
“The Water Management Committees have been a successful way of ensuring this project is sustainable. Months and years from now there will be someone in Ermou who will know how to keep the water supply system running,” said Plan International’s WASH Programme Manager, John McGown.
For Julio de Jesus, the Village Chief of Kirilelo village, the water supply system is an exciting change. “This water system is very good. During the Portuguese and Indonesian period, we always had to go for two kilometres to get water from the river. Our community… our families are very happy to have this water system.”
Having access to clean water will change the way children in these communities spend their time. The time they spent collecting water can be used studying, helping their parents at home and gives them more time to play before and after school.
According to ten year old Dionisio: “I will not be late for school anymore because I do not need to go for two kilometers to get water and take a bath. Getting to school will be easier for us in the morning!”
To date, Plan International has supported communities to build four new water systems and five water system rehabilitations in Liurai village.
“The combination of having access to clean drinking water and being declared ODF is a significant achievement for these communities. People are using latrines, hand washing with soap and will have access to clean drinking water. This will have long-term health benefits, especially for children,” said John McGown.
Plan International’s work in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) is supported through the the European Union and Australian Aid.