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Cambridge-Cameroon Clean Water Project

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In September 2013 two members of EWB Cambridge visited Cameroon. Here is their blog: http://www.aidanreilly.net/cameroon/

Highlight photos are here: http://www.aidanreilly.net/album/?dir=Cameroon:%20highlights

Full photo album is here: http://www.aidanreilly.net/album/?dir=Cameroon:%20additional%20pics




CamCam have been awarded a Barclays Award of £1500 from EWB-UK. Read the full details here: http://www.ewb-uk.org/ewb-cambridge-receive-barclays-award-branch-project

For updates direct from the project, follow us here: twitter.com/ewbCamCam


In January 2011 a partnership between EWB Cambridge and OK Clean Water, a Canadian NGO operating in Kumbo, Cameroon was set up after two former EWB-Yale members, who had worked in the area previously, identified the need for continuing support for clean water projects. They also identified OK Clean Water as one of the best organised non-governmental organisations working in the region, as they actively engage the communities in their projects and provide continuing support to the villages to help them maintain their water systems. The partnership was started with the aim of supporting OK Clean Water’s work in providing sustainable, good, clean water to village populations.


OK CLEAN WATER – ‘Laying a Lifeline’

The OK Clean Water Project takes its name from the link that has been developed between Ottawa, Canada and Kumbo, Cameroon. In 2002, an article on water in a small Canadian publication sparked a discussion among a small group of widows and single mothers in Tobin, a section of Kumbo. The women’s discussion recounting the difficulties of living and raising children without access to clean water was printed in response to the article on water. While water was available in the village many people could not afford the cost of the connection. Consequently, many families continued to rely on the polluted stream for their daily supply of water. The women’s stories sparked the interest of a small group of readers in Ottawa, Canada. The plight of the women in Tobin energized the readers to try to help. Their self-appointed task was to find ways to finance the cost of helping families obtain a connection with the existing water system. This initial response enabled seventeen families to have a standpipe bringing clean water into their compound. Soon applications were arriving from nearby villages for assistance in extending their pipe-borne water systems to quarters (neighbourhoods) that lacked access to clean water. And thus, what began as a small gesture to help a few families, grew over the past nine years bringing clean water to twenty-six villages and over 30,000 people.

The mission of the OK Clean Water Project is to provide the resources to make clean water readily available to villages in the area of Kumbo, Cameroon. Having access to potable water will reduce the incidence of water-borne disease and generally improve the living conditions of the villagers.

The above information has been collated from the OK Clean Water website – www.okcleanwaterproject.org


A trip to Cameroon in summer 2011 (see below) highlighted several areas where we could greatly assist OK-Clean Water and increase their capabilities. As such we are undertaking three research projects:

Water Quality Testing:

OK-CW's current method of testing water quality is inaccurate and therefore the systems they implement are not being correctly monitored. The aim of our research is to look for cheap, sustainable, effective and easy solutions for water quality testing for villages around Kumbo, Cameroon.

We will document various practical and low cost solutions, taking into account existing supply chains for consumables, and technologies that already exist in the area and thus propose easy and sustainable solutions that could be provided to villagers and not just the authorities, if that seems appropriate.


The Kumbo Urban Council (KUC) aims to take the diverse community water supplies in the region into its control and ultimately chlorinate all of them. As many of these supplies are for small villages in rural areas, the method of best implementing this needs to be carefully evaluated - taking into consideration the volume of water used, the quality of the throughput, as well as the ease of repair and resupply of any chlorination equipment in these remote areas. OK-Clean Water does not currently chlorinate any of the gravity fed water systems it implements as it feels this to be unnecessary and prefers to train village councils in good catchment protection practices. OK-CW has also indicated that villagers are against chlorination.

This project aims to establish whether the chlorination of community water supplies is necessary (it is going to be mandated by KUC) and possibly to advise against its unnecessary use in certain villages if appropriate. Also, to investigate sustainable chlorination methods that could be implemented in the villages that require them. This will allow the production of an overall report on the issue of small scale chlorination and ultimately a decision on whether OKCW should support KUC or otherwise.


Without a decent level of sanitation in the areas that OK-CW work in, the advantages of clean water may be squandered to an extent. So ensuring levels of sanitation that match the quality of water provision is essential, particularly as increased access to water supply will inevitably stress wastewater/sanitation systems. There is a high incidence of worms & diarrhoea which could potentially be reduced by better sanitation methods. This project aims to evaluate any existing problems related to sanitation in the areas OK-CW currently operates and attempts to assess possible mitigations.



EWB has helped to take one of 15 villages, Sakir, off the waiting list for a clean water supply. We will be following the development of the system from the initial surveying right through to a working system. We worked with OK Clean Water, Cameroonian engineering students, and the local community on a gravity-fed water system capturing clean water from a stream several kilometres outside of the community and pipe it into the centre, distributing water via standpipes throughout the village.

The people of Sakir used to obtain their water from far-off streams which are exposed to pollution by animals and man. They were often quite heavily contaminated, since the same streams were used for bathing and washing of clothes. The high incidence of ill-health, as compared to medical reports by Health Posts in neighbouring villages, motivated the community to approach OK Clean Water for technical and financial assistance for the construction of a water supply scheme back in 2007. The villagers of Sakir hope that the clean water system with reduce water borne diseases and increase personal hygiene. The system also has economic and social benefits as less time is spent collecting far-off water. The livelihood of the entire village community will be greatly improved, and the search outside the village by youths for better living conditions will be reduced.

An important aspect of OK’s work is the development of Water Management Committees who are responsible for the management and maintenance of the system after construction. This is particularly important to ensure the long term sustainability of projects. Sakir was chosen to work with us as they have a particularly dedicated and hard-working committee who have been waiting a long time for clean water.

As well as the benefits to Sakir this project aims to develop members of EWB-Cambridge and Cameroon. As well as the opportunity to practically use our university education, we gained some basic experience of development work encouraging involvement in development work in the future. What’s more the project promotes a sense of unity across countries (‘Without Borders’), allows the sharing of cultural insight and helps build networks that may be valuable in the future.


Several EWB-Cambridge members visited Cameroon to meet with OK-Clean Water and the village of Sakir. Our main task was to complete a precise survey of the first 1.5km of proposed pipeline in order to determine the best location for the storage tank.  Altimeters and GPS were then used to map the rest of the pipeline. The initial study completed in 2007 was not accurate enough to ensure the system would work sufficiently. As such we were able to provide Visi Edwin, the local engineer who works with OK-Clean Water, with much more detailed information. As a result there was a significant redesign of the pipeline layout to provide a more efficient system. On top of this we used our DelAgua water quality testing kit (www.delagua.org) to check the levels of contamination in the spring. Fortunately the spring is almost completely free of bacteria and with suitable protection around the catchment area we will be drinking from it ourselves! We were able to make further use of the DelAgua kit by visiting other villages in the area. This highlighted just what a difference a good water management committee and therefore catchment protection can make as some systems were significantly cleaner than others.

As well as the technical side of the visit we cannot understate the hospitality we received from the Cameroonian people –from a spectacular welcoming ceremony, where we were blessed with a live chicken, to the daily lunches provided by the village.  Their hard work and commitment to clean water stood out throughout our time there but it was particularly evident on a “Country Sunday”, a day where villagers work on civic projects rather than their farms. Men, women and children turned out in force to dig trenches, carry materials and generally do whatever was needed to get the job done. And as we found out when we joined in carrying sand to the catchment – it wasn’t easy! By the end of our stay the catchment was already nearing completion and regardless of our presence it looks like work will continue relentlessly.


In order to undertake the research necessary in country we are planning on sending 4 team members to Cameroon in July 2012. This costs just under £1500 per person. There are also potential costs associated with buying materials, e.g. for water quality testing kits, parts for a demo chlorination kit, although we hope to get many of these donated or at a reduced price we have budgeted £500 for these expenses. This gives us a total budget, and fundraising total of £6500.

If you are interested in assisting with fundraising or making a contribution to the project, please contact us via the Cameroon Water Project link under the Contact Us tab or visit our virgin money giving page.

We have to thank the following bodies for their donations towards the phase I trip:

  • Eric Lane Award
  • Cambridge University Engineering Society
  • Mary Euphrasia Mosley Fund
  • Queens' College Travel Grant
  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Clare College Travel Grant




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