Women benefit most from rainwater harvesting systems at community level in Himalica pilot villages in Myanmar

Wah Wah Htun, MIID
Claire Burgess, MIID
Madhav Prasad Dhakal

Pilot project activities focusing on rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems implemented by the Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya (Himalica) initiative at the community level in Myanmar have proven most beneficial to women. 

Women beneficiaries from two villages, Kyaung Nar and Zee Yar, shared their stories with us. They also told us that neighbouring villages have expressed interest in having community rainwater harvesting technologies in their own villages to alleviate their water woes.  

Kyaung Nar Village

Group discussion with women of Kyaung Nar regarding the RWH project and the community water tank

Women beneficiaries from Kyaung Nar village used to fetch water for drinking and domestic use from the Ah Mart Kyee pond in the dry season before Himalica came along.  Back then it took them a good one and a half hours to fetch water from the pond. The women say that afterwards they were too tired to do any household chores. 

Thanks to Himalica's RWH project, individual households now collect rainwater in the rainy season, even though it is not sufficient for the entire year. For additional water, they depend on the water from the Himalica project's community RWH systems to tide over the two months of the lean dry period. Now, it takes them less time than before—only 15–25 minutes—to fetch water from the community RWH systems, thus freeing them to devote more time to farm work and household chores, including child care. In the worst-case scenario, they still have their traditional pond to fall back on in the dry season. The women all agree that the community RWH systems have indeed been a blessing for them.

As far as water governance is concerned, there is a water users' group in Kyang Nar village comprising both men and women. The users’ group has its own set of rules and regulations governing water allocation per household and the timing of water collection.  Each household is allowed up to six buckets (30 gallons) of water from the community RWH systems between 6 am–9 am daily.  If the allotted amount is not enough for the household, they can access additional water from the traditional pond. The users' group has established an in-kind revolving fund for the operation and maintenance of the water tank. Each household contributes ginger or any other crop from their farms instead of money to the fund and the proceeds from the sale of these crops are then used for managing the water tank.

Zee Yar Village

Women beneficiaries from Zee Yar also had to go to the village pond every day to fetch water for drinking and domestic use before Himalica's RWH systems project came along. Fetching water from the pond was tedious and tiring as it took them a good one and a half hours to do so. 

The women would collect rainwater in pots and tubs in the rainy season to alleviate their water woes to some extent. In the dry months (November – May), they would fetch water from the pond. Many people suffered from water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, tapeworm infection, and skin diseases. 

Thanks to Himalica's community RWH systems, they are now able to harvest rainwater in community RWH systems to tide over the dry season. Moreover, fetching water from the community RWH systems now takes them only 15-30 minutes. Incidences of water borne diseases have dropped drastically because water from the community RWH systems is clean and safe for cooking and cleaning. They said they can now spend more time doing household chores, including caring for their children. 

Community water tank in Kyaung Nar village

The women agree that fetching water takes considerably less time than before, so there is less drudgery than before. They can spare more time for farm work and household chores, and they have access to clean and safe water for drinking, cooking, and religious ceremonies.

Himalica's RWH project in six pilots villages—Pan Tin, Tha Yat Pin, Kyaung Nar, Kyaung Taung, Zee Yar and Antpet—in Shan State in Myanmar have achieved the following: 

  • Constructed 78 RWH systems at household level, each with a storage capacity of 450 litres.
  • Constructed 20 community RWH systems, with storage capacities ranging from 13,500 to 90,000 litres. 
  • Improved 100-plus RWH systems at household level through providing mold for tank construction, and replacing  worn-out or lost parts or patching of roofs, replacing bamboo/zinc gutters with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, and covering of exposed storage tanks with zinc and bamboo sheets.
  • Constructed a new community pond with a storage capacity of 5,000,000 litres near Kyaung Taung village.
  • Dug out sediments from and improved three existing community ponds and increased their collective storage capacity by about 2,400,000 litres.
  • Organized a series of trainings, demos, and field trips on "Drinking Water Quality Improvement Options, and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)" from 2015 till date.