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Working to Ensure Water Security for the Togean Islands

Water covers approximately 71% of the Earths surface, however water scarcity affects more than 40% of the worlds population. It's estimated that humans need 20 - 50 litres of clean water each day to ensure their basic needs for cooking, cleaning and drinking, yet it's estimated that nearly 28 million Indonesians lack safe water.

As an island ecosystem, resources can sometimes be scarce. Many villages on the Togean Islands have access to wells however this water often contains lots of sediment and has to be filtered or boiled before it can be used. There is also the chance that the wells may run dry due to changes in climate and rainfall or from deforestation.

Last year we began our first water project, addressing water shortages in a village called Lembanato whose wells had been drying up. At the shortages worst point, the villagers had to hike for 15 minutes uphill to shower, wash clothes or collect fresh water for use at home. However this water supply would have run dry by 8am so their day would begin at 3am with the next five hours spent carrying two buckets at a time along the trail.

Photo credit: Siana Wijono

We believe the problem was caused by deforestation as the existing forest had been removed to make way for coconut palms to farm copra - the dried coconut meat used to make highly processed oil.

By removing the forest this meant that water simply ran across the steep, sloping land and was not captured by root systems keeping the water in the ground and giving the aquifer a chance to recharge.

Another side effect of removing the forest was that the dew which normally falls from leaves at night was lost. Dew can make up to 80% of available precipitation.

Our first action was to teach the community how to find the contours of the land and dig trenches which would stop the water from running down the hill unhindered. This would give it a chance to percolate into the soil.

However we also needed a long-term solution to repair Lemabanato's watershed. We therefore planted 600 productive trees, including mahogany, palapi, nutmeg, candlenut, mango, jackfruit and jabon. It is hoped that these trees will have a variety of benefits on the land including increasing shade and infiltration, building topsoil and stabilising soil against erosion and landslides.

We hope to continue our work restoring Lemabanato's watershed along with other villages who are also struggling for fresh water supplies once we establish further funding for the project.

Our goal is to build a tree nursery in Wakai village in the centre of Togeans and transport and plant 20,000 trees to restore damaged forest, create agroforestry farms and get Togeans water flowing once more.

Photo credit: Siana Wijono

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