Bio-sand water filter - cross-section

100,000 litres of clean drinking water

Over the last 14 years, A Rocha Uganda has constructed over 2,700 bio-sand water filters and Pastor Freddie Musisi received one of the very first! Since 2008, it has filtered over 100,000 litres of clean drinking water for his family, neighbours and church members. ‘We never get diarrhoea or any other related sickness because we drink and use clean filtered water from our bio-sand filter,’ says Freddie. ‘We no longer need to buy bottled water again because even when travelling we pack our own water in our reusable bottles.’

Freddie and his wife, Annet live in Namungoona, a slum in Kampala City, with their four children and grandchild. By drinking clean, filtered water, the children’s education has improved. As their water no longer needs to be boiled, their filter saves trees from being cut down to produce charcoal and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by almost one ton per year! The family also has an extra £50 per year to spend on food, which they would otherwise need to buy charcoal.

In 2016, A Rocha Uganda replaced the sand in Freddie’s filter so that it will continue to provide clean drinking water for his family and church for another eight years.

Through Gifts with a Difference you can purchase a bio-sand filter so that others like Freddie and Annet can have better health, improved access to education, more money to spend on food and a healthier environment too!

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray

Rays at risk

Rays are a group of fish whose bodies are flattened and have a skeleton made of cartilage – the same material that forms much of human ears and noses. They occur throughout the world except at the poles. Similar to sharks, rays are targeted by fishers and overfishing is causing a global decline in abundance. A recent study found that rays are even more threatened than shark species: using IUCN criterion, 36% of rays are considered threatened compared to 31% for sharks[1]. These beautiful creatures are particularly threatened in the tropics and subtropics, and several find their home in Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) where A Rocha Kenya assists local managers in protecting threatened ray species.

Six ray species and one guitarfish, which are technically rays, inhabit WMNP based on A Rocha’s research over the past 10 years[2]. The Shark Conservation Fund provided resources to study these species in more detail this past year, including education and livelihoods work among local fishers outside of WMNP.

Four methods were used to study these species: baited remote underwater video, timed swims, beach walks, and SCUBA surveys. Three of the rays were either Endangered or Critically Endangered and one species is considered Data Deficient with this study helping to better understand its threatened status. Rays were most often found in sandy and seagrass habitats, indicating the importance of these often-overlooked areas in WMNP where the focus has frequently been on coral reefs. Education events in eight local schools and among ten community groups helped children and adults better understand the beauty and value of these amazing species.


Water woes

Tourist brochures of the Algarve in Portugal are full of the dazzling blue of the sea and multitudes of swimming pools for those who prefer to stay free of sand and salt. But any impression of abundant water is false. Water is an acute issue here and the impacts are starkly apparent at Cruzinha, A Rocha Portugal’s field study centre on the Alvor Estuary.

The ponds and reed bed are dry, the citrus orchard planted decades ago may not survive the summer, and there is barely any rainwater in the cistern. Humans at Cruzinha may not miss the usually abundant mosquitoes, but the creatures that depend on mosquitoes for food suffer from the scarcity. Tinder-dry, the risk of wildfires is ever present.

A Rocha has been in this little corner of southwest Portugal since 1983. Our long-term presence means changes to climate, biodiversity, air, soil and water have been carefully observed and deeply felt. For the team at Cruzinha, the situation can be hard to bear, particularly as it continues to be exacerbated by seemingly mindless agricultural policies – for example, approval of a rash of new avocado plantations which will drain the already dangerously low water table.

However, the atmosphere around Cruzinha’s big old oak table at mealtimes is cheerful as people share stories of their doings: the Waxbill team are excited to report catching an impressive 15 the previous night, there were otter tracks in the transect surveyed that morning and many beautiful moths in the trap below the house. Volunteers tackled invasive species in the garden and a board game is planned for after dinner.

There is no doubt the water situation is dire, but A Rocha has always chosen to live hopefully, in worship and obedience to God, creator of all. In a parched and dusty landscape, roots must go deep. Have no doubt, the A Rocha Portugal team have deep roots of faith. When the rain finally comes, they will still be holding on.