Fighting corruption with community management of water systems

Social issuesWater management

Notes to broadcasters

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Water is an issue that stimulates passionate discussion and action throughout the planet. In Benin, only 52% of households in rural areas have access to safe drinking water. Water-related diseases, such as infection with guinea worm, typhoid fever, and cholera, are very common. Here, like most sub-Saharan African countries, some communities have very poor access to water, whether it is drinkable or not. A whole village may migrate when there is a drought. Conflicts between crop farmers and livestock breeders or between neighbouring villages are frequent around water points.

Yet access to water is a fundamental human right. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights acknowledges the right to water. This international agreement requires governments to ensure that good quality water is available and accessible to citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status, and not only to those who can afford it.

But this is not the case in most countries. In big cities, privatization or overbilling of water can make it difficult for poorer people to access water. It allows water providers to cheat those who need water. Financial scandals, embezzlement of public funds, bribery and structural adjustments that privatize and shrink state agencies, all affect poor peoples’ access to water. Corruption drains resources and limits the expansion of water systems to villages.

According to the 2006 United Nations’ report on water, corruption is one reason why 1.25 billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. A study on the Millennium Development Goals in Africa found that some 20 billion US dollars may be embezzled in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the 2008 Report of Transparency International on corruption in the world, Benin is classified as number 118 out of a total of 180 countries. Considering these scandals, citizen watchfulness and participatory management of water resources is sorely needed.

This script tells the story of a village which decides that participatory management of water systems is the best way to fight against corruption in the water sector.

This script is a mini-drama based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.



Mommy, (also president of the female rice farmers’ group)
Group of female rice farmers
Presenter: Pacôme Tomètissi

Sounds of oxen mooing, water flowing, birds shrieking, car horns, sound of footsteps on the soil, and clapping.

A local song on water, sanitation or corruption

Signature tune for 30 seconds

Pacôme Tomètissi:
Hello everyone and thank you for joining us on your favourite radio program. This is Pacôme Tomètissi on the mic. Today’s show is about water and corruption. Yes, you heard me right: water and corruption.

Water is life. It is indispensable for drinking as well as for growing crops and raising cattle. But when corruption gets into the picture, hello trouble! In the story you will hear in a moment, a rich man from the Djidja region of Benin manufactured a few thousand water bottles with his picture on it. He planned to give the bottles to a village whose rice fields and cattle suffer from lack of water. Listen up.

Morning sounds: roosters, etc. The village is awakening. Sound of voices here and there.

Fifonsi, get up! Quick, the jar needs to be filled with water. And you know that you have to go back and forth to the river three times to fill it up. (Sarcastically) But take your time if you want to get to school two hours late like yesterday.

Silence, then sound of footsteps running away.

(Talking to herself) Eight kilometres every day before school. It is really not easy to be the youngest kid.

Bird shrieking, sound of river water.

(Talking to herself) I hope that the crocodile will not show up like last week.

Sound of footsteps going away. Fifonsi returns to the house.
Sound of bowl then sound of water being poured into a jar. Sound of steps coming on mic.
Fifonsi is startled. She cries out and drops the bowl heavily in the basin of water.

(Angrily) Fifonsi, this is the third time that you have drunk water in a very short time. Every time you do not go to school, that is what you put us through. You drink like a camel when there is not enough water.

(On mic) It is Fifonsi again, always her. Yesterday, with the excuse that you had exams, you went to school at seven o’clock without drawing water, leaving your mother alone at home. Instead of going to obstetrical care as recommended by the midwife, she had to go draw water. You have already drunk three times today. Go to the pond for water now … or else I’ll have you stay on your knees under the sun (Editor’s note: this is meant as a punishment by her father)!

Sound of footsteps

Fifonsi, before going to the river again, bring me my radio.

Noise of radio being turned on. The radio is tuned to a news station.

Welcome to the news. A sum of 10 billion CFA Francs (Editor’s note: about 15 million Euros or 19 million US dollars) has been embezzled. We received this information from the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Daddy turns off the radio and sighs.

I hope I heard that wrong. Ten billion CFA francs embezzled! We need only five million to build dams to irrigate our rice fields and get a watering trough for the cattle. That is what they call a financial scandal.

We must absolutely do something. They say that Awalé, our businessman brother, will be in our region next week. Let him not set foot here to make electoral promises again. I am going to see the Chief. We must boycott his visit.

Three second pause, then sound of footsteps.

(Coming on mic) May peace be on this house. Hello, Chief. I came to see you about the visit of our brother, Awalé.

Yes. We must all prepare to welcome him. As the town crier, you are in charge of spreading the news throughout the village. And you must motivate all those who are hesitating to come and welcome him.

Chief, I respect you … but I also have a piece of news and a proposal. This morning, the radio announced a ten billion franc embezzlement. I was very angry. Besides, I am wondering why we must continue to welcome people who are not worth it. Awalé has become a master at not keeping his promises.

I understand your resistance to welcoming him. The money that is embezzled every year could build a good irrigation system for our rice fields, and a watering trough for our cattle. I remember Awalé’s promises before the elections. He promised to build both an irrigation system and a watering trough. As soon as he got elected, bang! He forgot us! Oh, this was not fair!

That is why we should boycott his arrival.

One cannot refuse a call; it is the content that one can refuse. Let’s welcome him. Otherwise we won’t even have an opportunity to remind him that he made false promises.

Local music on water. Fade under sounds of car.

Sound of vehicle horns. Sound of car engine. Car comes to a stop. Sound of car door opening.

Hello, dear people of Djidja.

Women’s group:
The women’s group welcomes brother Awalé.

Thank you, dear mamas, for welcoming me. I greet the council of the rice farmers and the breeders of the village! You came in numbers. I am delighted.

Sound of clapping then silence.

Mama Fifonsi, bring some water to our brother.

Sound of footsteps coming towards the mic.

Here is some water. Once again, welcome among us.

Noise of people talking to each other in the crowd.

Thank you for giving me water. By the way, there is a car in my convoy that is coming. It is filled with bottles of mineral water especially designed with my picture on the bottle. The water is for you! You can drink it as you wish.

Mr. Awalé?

Yes, Chief.

I thank you for your visit. It is a great joy to welcome you among us. I also want to thank you for the bottled mineral water. Nevertheless, I pray you to take it to people who really need it.

But there are two thousand bottles! I made them in my company at five thousand francs a piece. It is a big loss if you refuse.

Do not insist. Neighbouring villages need bottles of mineral water with your picture. Not us. I know you know why. Nonetheless, the president of the women’s group is going to remind you of the reasons for this refusal in front of everyone. Dear people, I refused this water they want to offer us as a gift. What do you think about this?

A voice in the crowd:
This decision is fair and good!

President of the female rice farmers’ group:
Thank you, my Chief. We women have a serious grievance against Awalé. Three years ago, he promised us he would build an irrigation system for our rice fields. If we had an irrigation system, the rising waters would not destroy our fields. And they would be watered even when there is little rain. He also promised to build a watering trough for the cattle. But after the elections, he forgot about us. And here he comes with bottled mineral water. That water cost millions of francs. But we could finish drinking it all in one day! Do not count on us too much in the next elections.

I thank you for opening up your heart. I can assure you that it is not my fault that you don’t have access to drinking water. There are so many things to do that we are often limited by time and finances.

How could you have ten million francs worth of mineral water made by your company? Where does all this money come from?

Let us not talk about what we have already talked about. Let us talk about our problems. This is my region. I always keep my promises. And you will see that – yes! … I will have the irrigation system built for the rice fields and the drinking system for the cattle in no time.

President of the female rice farmers’ group:
If it is not done before the election, we don’t believe this!

It will be before the elections. Give me one week. But before that, I pray you to accept the bottles of mineral water, in the name of the love you have for me, your son.

We will accept this bottled water. But we will store it in the agricultural cooperative until you keep your promises. If you don’t keep your promises before the elections, we will give you back your water.

Local music on water, sanitation or corruption.
Fade out. Sound of footsteps coming on mic.
Sound and horn of a car. A short silence, then sound of footsteps coming on mic. Murmuring voices then, suddenly, silence.

Thank you for, once again, coming to meet our brother Awalé. He promised to be back after a week, and he kept his promise. (Short pause) He just whispered something in my ear. It is the best news ever. Awalé came with people to build the irrigation system for the rice fields, including dams and a water drainage system.

Shouts of joy, then a round of applause.

We must get involved in the process, from implementation through management. We will set up a village committee to manage the rice fields. I would like to let the female rice farmers’ group say something.

Group of female rice farmers:
Thank you, Mr. Awalé, for this happiness you are offering us. The end of our problems is near. Now we are opening up a new chapter. While we’re at it, we must condemn corruption. But the best way to fight against this scourge in the water sector is to be a role model of transparency and integrity. I propose that the rice fields’ management committee be formed in a participatory way. The members should rotate responsibilities, and involve all levels of society, including youth, women, pastors, farmers, fishermen, and others.

Let’s discuss how we are going to manage this. I believe that we must set up a system where everyone pays monthly or yearly fees. We will all contribute a small amount of money to maintain the wells. Financial reports will need to be presented publicly and regularly.

Dear people … enough talk! The technicians have to start working. All our brave youth can help them with that. Women will cook during the three days they are working. I ask you to accept with me the bottles of mineral water from Awalé. We thank him for that. They are worth millions of CFA francs. Come on! Let’s all get to work!

Sound of pickaxes. Fade out under the voice of the Chief. Sound of footsteps coming and going.

Quick, we must finish this work rapidly. We must build the ridges around each property, as well as drainage systems to drain away excess water.

Music on water, sanitation or corruption. Fade out under applause.

My people, our troubles are behind us. Some time ago, our cattle would drown in the river when trying to drink. When the waters rose, we all had insomnia from staying up all night to keep watch. Some time ago, the floods would cause huge damages. But today, we can divert water from the river to irrigate the rice fields. Livestock breeders will be able have their beasts drink on site.

I have some words for the management committee that will be created to manage the rice fields and its irrigation system: management must be as clear and as healthy as the water. And a word to the people: paying your contributory fees is a citizen’s act.

Cheering and applause. Fade out under Pacôme’s voice.

Pacôme Tomètissi:
This is the end of our show. Thank you for listening. Enjoy the rest of the programs on your radio. Bye bye!

Signature tune for 30 seconds


  • Contributed by: Pacôme Tomètissi, journalist and producer, Réseau de réalisateurs et journalistes pour population et développement (ReJPoD), Benin, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
  • Reviewed by: Erik Nielsen, Manager Country Based Programmes, Water Integrity Network and Alexandra Malmqvist, Assistant Communications Coordinator, Water Integrity Network.

Information sources

  • Transparency International, Rapport mondial sur la corruption – corruption dans le secteur de l’eau, 2008.
  • Brochure of the Water Integrity Network