Stella Chirua stands in a shallow well with a bowl of water.
Mtumbatu is a rural village of approximately 7,000 people in the central Tanzanian highlands, straddling the tarmac road between Morogoro and Dodoma. Most of its residents are farmers, cultivating sweet potatoes, maize and beans. Some make a modest living selling produce alongside the road, purchased from more remote villages and sold to passing trucks and vehicles.
As do their crops, the people of Mtumbatu depend upon the rains for water. There are no working boreholes in the village. Water is fetched from hand-dug wells in a sandy riverbed that winds through the northern part of the village or from southern hillside streams several kilometers away. Access is scarce for at least several months each year, typically August through October. Those who can afford it purchase water for 500 shillings (~30 cents) per 20 liter jerrycan. That price can rise to 1000 shillings (~60 cents) during periods of shortage, a significant financial burden for most people here.
There was hope that Mtumbatu's problems with water access would be addressed by a sophisticated system of pipes and machinery completed in 2008 with funding from the World Bank. Poor construction and planning doomed the project from the start. It functioned for no more than ten days and now sits silent behind its fencing, the connecting pipes dug up and repurposed long ago.
According the Tanzanian government's water point data, Mtumbatu and its ward, Mamboya, have the worst access to water in the district, and yet it was not chosen as one of the initial ten villages for the WSDP.