Loans help families make the most of scarce water


July 13, 2012

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    Mercy Corps staff  </span>
    Mercy Corps loans help families to build cisterns for rainwater collection at their home, so children no longer have to walk to far schools or mosques to gather water. Photo: Mercy Corps staff

It is predicted that by 2025, Jordan will have completely drained its water resources. Farmers will not be able to grow crops, families will not have enough water to drink, cook or wash with.

The issue of water scarcity is a huge national challenge in Jordan, which is the fourth poorest country in terms of water. But changes on an individual and community level make a huge impact. Through funding from USAID, Mercy Corps is helping individuals and community organizations to own the issue and take action, better using their water resources and minimizing waste.

I'tidal Al Momani, a widowed mother of eight, was one of 5,200 applicants who received a small loan through the individual loan phase of our Community-Based Initiatives for Water Demand Management program. Every day, I’tidal would have to send her children to walk to the village mosque to collect water, a long journey that could be dangerous and would still only provide just enough water for basic consumption. With the loan, she was able to build a small cistern to collect rain water for her family instead.

Household and small farm projects like this one help people to save rainwater through the winter that can be used in summer, when water is scarce. It also helps families like I’tidal’s to ration water usage so that they don’t run out mid-week and have to wait an entire week for more water to become available.

Water is distributed weekly in Jordan, so running out early means either paying exorbitantly high prices for water or relying on neighbors or family members — which creates tension in the community. Now that they are empowered to manage their own water consumption, people say that the increase in available water has resulted in better community relations and decreased conflict in the family and between neighbors.

Rania Zoubi, the program’s Chief of Party, has been working on the program in varying capacities for five years. The best part, she says, is that community-based organizations who implement the loans have taken responsibility for the water shortage problem.

“It was very difficult in the beginning to convince them, as the people see it as the government’s role, and it’s our right to have water,” she explained. People would blame the government for bad service rather than recognize that what they could do to better manage their water supply. Seeing people own the issue and take steps to change has been one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

And while the individual loans like I’tidal’s and larger scale community loans to schools and mosques have reached more than 50,000 beneficiaries, Rania’s biggest frustration is that the program is wrapping up in the next year. She is eager to help more Jordanians learn the benefits of smart water management.