Water tanks improving the lives of families in Indonesia

18 March 2019

Photo of Esaul and his grandson.
Esaul and his grandson in front of their newly-constructed water tank. Credit: NTA East Indonesia Aid.

NTA East Indonesia Aid works to reduce poverty in the rural communities of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province, one of the poorest parts of the Indonesian archipelago. In the islands of West Timor and Flores, where NTA works, 30% of people live below the national poverty line.

The region experiences low rainfall and a dry season spanning up to nine months of the year, with recurrent famine-like conditions affecting agricultural productivity, people’s health and their ability to generate income.

These conditions mean access to water is a major challenge for the people of these islands. As part of its water and sanitation program, NTA works with local foundations and farming collectives to provide and construct 15,000L ferrocement water tanks for members of participating household cooperatives. NTA provides technical advice and materials, while recipient families provide additional materials and labour – fostering a strong sense of ownership.

Clean water at home for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing has numerous benefits. Families no longer need to spend hours each day collecting and carrying water home from public water sources. This time can instead be used for productive, income-generating activities. Extra water also allows families to grow vegetables and feed livestock, providing similar financial benefits. The large storage capacity of the tanks means water collected during seasonal rains can last for several months of drought, saving families money as they no longer need to purchase water.

With a water tank at home, children are also more likely to attend school, as they no longer have to assist with water collection. Availability of fresh water at home also reduces illness and improves family health, as these tanks work in synergy with outdoor toilets to enhance hygiene and cleanliness. Vegetables grown using excess water also provide more and greater variety of food on families’ tables, which helps to combat malnutrition.

For people like Esaul and his family, a water tank has created a significant positive change. For most of Esaul’s life, the water his family used was sourced from an underground stream around 600m from his house. In the past, to collect enough water for the family, Esaul and his wife Ester made two trips each to the stream in both the morning and afternoon, carrying the water home in buckets on their shoulders. “We fairly suffered,” he says when describing this toil.

The time they spent collecting water amounted to several hours per day; hours which would be better spent tending to their crops. After receiving assistance from NTA to construct a water tank, daily collection has been eliminated from the lives of Esaul and his family. Their new tank is not just a source of water, but of happiness and pride.

“Personally, for me as the owner and head of the family, I feel proud of what we have”, says Esaul.

NTA East Indonesia Aid is supported by the Australian NGO Cooperation Program.

Last Updated: 18 March 2019