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Tatirano: a community-led approach providing access to clean water in Madagascar

Updated: Jan 18

Madagascar is the world’s 4th largest island, located in the Indian Ocean, 400km from the African continent. As a result of this geographic isolation, approximately 90% of its animal and plant species are endemic – not found in the wild anywhere else in the world. The island was first inhabited by humans only 1300 years ago and evidence suggests that the country’s earliest human settlers originated from Indonesia, not continental Africa, making Madagascar’s culture and language distinct and unique.

Madagascar has a unique population and a unique landscape - @everydaymadagascar

Madagascar’s economy focuses on natural resources: 64% of the population are employed in agriculture, and the country is the world’s largest exporter of vanilla. The island’s unique nature and tropical beaches are increasingly attracting tourists, though much of its tourism potential remains unrealised.

Madagascar's stunning landscapes attract tourists

Despite its natural resources and its growing potential as a tourist destination, Madagascar has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Over 80% of the population live below the World Bank’s International Poverty Line of $2.15 a day. Since the country became independent from France in 1960, Madagascar has experienced repeated political crises. A legacy of colonialism, combined with this repeated political instability, means that Madagascar has not fulfilled its developmental potential. Environmental stressors are superimposed onto this political-economic context: communities and their livelihoods are threatened by increasingly frequent and severe droughts and tropical cyclones.

Cyclone Batsirai battered Madagascar in 2022

Madagascar experiences particular challenges with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Global metrics show that only 54.4% of the population have access to basic water services and only 12.3% have access to basic sanitation. Water sources that are used are often not clean and necessitate long journeys to reach; some communities in the southern Madagascan Tsihombe district travel over 20km to reach untreated water sources that are often saline.

Focus on: southern Madagascar As with most countries, there are also distinct regional divides in wealth and quality of life; southern Madagascar has an HDI lower that the national average. The poor infrastructural connections to and within southern Madagascar mean that many settlements require a multi-day journey through the forest to reach from the capital.

Within southern Madagascar, climate is regionally varied. The regions of Anosy and Atsimo Atsinanana are characterised by a tropical humid climate, whereas Androy has an arid climate, receiving very little rainfall each year. The arid region suffered its most severe drought in 40 years between 2021 and 2022, leading to famine.

The Androy region experienced a significant drought in 2022

Inadequate access to fresh water has been widely identified as a problem across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Thousands of wells, pumps and tanks are built each year by a plethora of organisations, however inadequate planning beyond their initial construction means these water sources can fall into disrepair, rendered useless by their lack of maintenance.

Tatirano’s approach

Tatirano aims ultimately to alleviate poverty by attacking one of the root causes: inequality in access to clean water. By providing long term, reliable, convenient access to clean water, Tatirano believes it can empower women and lift communities out of poverty.

The organisation has two strands of work:

In the tropical-humid region

Tatirano is the only organisation working to provide rainwater harvesting systems in Madagascar. The water from these systems is identified by community members as being cleaner than from other sources. Tatirano employs local women to monitor and maintain the water tanks and sell water from them to their community. Water is priced following community negotiation about what a fair price to pay would be.

Tatirano System and Kiosk in Manambondro, Atsimo-Atsinanana

In the arid region Tatirano operates a water trucking system. The organisation has installed large tanks, to which water from safe sources is regularly transported by truck. These tanks are maintained and monitored by a local Tatirano agent who also sells this clean water to the local community, up to 80% less than what would otherwise be paid.

A 20,000 litre water tank and kiosk in the Arid Androy region of Madagascar

Since Tatirano began operation, its systems have dispensed nearly 13,000,000 litres of water.

What makes Tatirano’s approach unique?

Tatirano identifies the continued monitoring and maintenance of its systems by local community members as what makes it stand out. Tatirano employs over 80 staff, over 95% of whom work in the communities they were raised in. It is geared to providing access to water in the long-run, unlike other organisations which go into a community and build a water pump or well which is vulnerable to breaking and becoming unusable.

Tatirano's locally-led teams ensure organisation’s continued success

The local Tatirano agents also provide data which feeds continuously into ‘Statirano’, Tatirano’s database which shows exactly how much water has been dispensed to how many people each week. It also shows which of the systems are working, which require repair, which are currently inactive and where there are plans to build systems in the future. Tatirano’s work is meticulously monitored.


Embedded in the community

When asked how Tatirano has done so well to engage the local community and get them onside with its work, Harry, the organisation’s director, explained that Tatirano is a ‘micro utility service model’; that is embedded within the community. Tatirano is trusted and understood by communities as a locally appropriate solution to their needs, providing more reliable, cheaper and cleaner water.

“Tatirano is local service model, run by local community members, for local community members, drawing on local knowledge” - Harry, Tatirano Director

Financially secure Tatirano is also well on the way to being financially self-sustaining. Tatirano has also recently created a water treatment centre in Fort Dauphin, which produces high-end bottled water that is sold to corporate clients. The profit from this funds tank monitoring and maintenance. Donations will be required to extend the network of systems, but won’t be needed to keep the existing systems running. The end goal is for Tatirano to become completely community based, with no dependence whatsoever on external actors.

Sales of Tatirano’s high end treated water help ensure financial sustainability by covering maintenance and monitoring costs

To find out more about Tatirano’s work:

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