Making Ground

Olivia Arthur’s photographs from communities in Uganda and Tanzania explore the different needs and positive effects WaterAid has had on local peoples lives

Olivia Arthur

Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Esther Ariao washes beans for a meal. Baby Martha was born in late 2008. “It was a good birth. After resting for an hour I bathed Martha, my husband fetched the water and I had to get strength to b (...)

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.


Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Benjamin Enngu and Kosei Ogarli play at being sci-fi characters. Amuria, Uganda. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground “This district has problems finding and keeping teachers. Some come and see that there is no water and electricity, they come for one day and leave. Some children don’t come to school because they (...)
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground John Ezekial Mahaue building his latrine. “We’re building a latrine. Before, in the rainy season, we used to wait until the rains stopped so we didn’t get wet. We put bags up as doors to try and cr (...)
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground During and after the fighting in 2003 there was an influx of people from the small villages around Amuria who moved into the town for safety. Many of these people stayed after the situation calmed (...)

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.

Olivia Arthur | Making Ground “I lost my leg to a lion in 1956. I was grazing my sheep and cattle on the hill when a lion came and took one of my sheep. I tried to scare him away but it didn’t work. The next day he came back to (...)
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground In Amuria, WaterAid has helped the community to build this water tower. Water is pumped to the tower and then gravity does the rest of the work – allowing water to flow to the surrounding taps. It’ (...)
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground John Olabora, 14, milks his cow; “I take my cow down to the swamp to get water. I’m taking the milk home for the entire family.” Amuria, Uganda. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Farida Acam bathes her baby at the end of the day. Amuria, Uganda. 2008. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

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.

Olivia Arthur | Making Ground The tap is turned on for the first time in Chingongwe as part of the water project funded by WaterAid and Simavi. Gracie Masuguzi collects the very first bucket. Chigongwe, Tanzania. 2008. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground An abattoir worker fetches water from a dirty stream to clean the meat. This was the only water source, making it impossible to keep conditions sanitary. Now that Amuria has running water, a new ab (...)

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.

Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Mwajuma Yona with daughter Miriam and friend Jennifer Jackson at home. Chigongwe, Tanzania. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Stella Numa, 30, is a seamstress and runs one of the many businesses that have popped up along the main high street in Amuria. “I have had this business for two and a half years. I’m from Katakwi, (...)

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.

Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Many people have mobile phones in Amuria, but as there is no electricity these mobile phone charging booths are the only places to charge up and buy credit. Emmanuel Opolot, seven, mans his booth. (...)
Olivia Arthur | Making Ground Early morning in Amuria, with everyone heading to school or work. Amuria, Uganda. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
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