On a commission for Water Aid, Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur travelled to two regions in East Africa. The first was in 2008 when she visited the war-torn region of Amuria in the north-east of Uganda. The following year she travelled to the rural communities of Chigongwe and Michese near the capital Dodoma, in the dry central region of Tanzania.
Although the two regions differed in many ways, they both lacked the water and sanitation facilities and needed to take their first steps out of poverty.
International charities WaterAid and Simavi have been working with the communities and local partner organizations here since 2008, bringing improved hygiene, clean water, and latrines.
Arthur’s photographs explore the different needs and effects that this work has had on the inhabitants of the communities. Changes are gradual, but this is a picture of hope and stability, of growth and change, told through the personal stories of the inhabitants.
Amuria has been caught in the ongoing civil war since 2003 and in 2007 suffered the worst flooding in living memory. These incidents caused thousands of refugees to move to the town, putting extreme pressure on the already meager facilities.
Chigongwe and Michese in comparison live in peacetime, but without any water sources, had to rely on deep holes they dug in the dry riverbed that yield only a few liters a day.
There may be a need, but neither of these locations shows a two-dimensional picture of poverty. Amuria is a town forced into growth through adversity, but which has embraced its growing size with cottage industries from sewing shops to cafes and a cinema.
The communities of Tanzania, while living a hand to mouth existence, continue to live; to create industry, to relax with friends and a glass of local beer, to raise families.
Making Ground is a portrait of change; tender, emotionally complex and constantly surprising. The project brings into sharp perspective the reality of how the basics of life such as water, sanitation, and hygiene can change the entire structure of a community and allow it to grow in ever more positive directions.