Pump Aid – improving the quality of water in Africa
A bit about Pump Aid:
Pump Aid is an international NGO, and since 1998 we have provided over 1.35 million people with access to clean water. We work with some of the poorest and hardest to reach communities in the world and provide two of life’s basic needs; safe water and a decent toilet. Our mission is not just to give communities access to water but is to achieve lasting change by improving their hygiene and sanitation practices, training them in water pump operation and encouraging them to exploit their economic opportunities, so that they reach a point of self-reliance and no longer need the support of us or anyone else.
World Water Day:
Wednesday 22nd March is World Water Day and we’ve been sharing stories from our entrepreneurs and communities about their personal experiences from our recent innovative project called Self-supply.
What is Self-supply?
Self-supply is exactly what the name suggests – you fund yourself. In the context of our work, this means individuals making improvements to their own water supplies with no financial aid from charities or government. The products and services are usually provided by local entrepreneurs on a fully commercial basis. So people not only get access to improved water, but they also support businesses in their community, contributing to the health and economic wellbeing of everyone.
(Brighton outside his workshop where the makes the pumps)
Why does this approach work?
I guess that most people’s first instinct is that it doesn’t really seem like the traditional ‘aid’. Why would people give to charity just for others to profit? This is a valid point, however, the traditional method of giving something for free doesn’t always work. Despite their best efforts, charities and governments just haven’t been able to meet their water access targets in this way. Primarily this is because giving something away rarely includes provision for ongoing maintenance or repair.
Self-supply results in local people buying from local entrepreneurs which is far more sustainable, both for the entrepreneur, and also the customer. Realistically, we wouldn’t choose a plumber for ourselves who lived in a different country, fitted the water supply and then never came back. So why should people in Malawi? More importantly, local entrepreneurs who are paid to improve water supplies will use the money they receive to buy the things that they need from other local suppliers. This creates a local economy, which promotes growth and development in every sector across the community, which can only be good news for all involved.
(An irrigation pump being installed)
Through our own work with communities, we have identified the need to encourage ownership. In the past, if a pump had our name on it and it broke, nobody fixed it; they expected us to, and why wouldn’t they when it seemed like it belonged to someone else? Now, when a group of households club together to buy a pump, if it breaks it’s their responsibility to fix it, which motivates everyone to take better care of it. As our pumps are made entirely with local materials if there is a problem, it is easily fixable and, because it was installed by a local entrepreneur, there will be someone readily available to fix it.
What have we done so far?
Pump Aid, with support from UNICEF, ran a pilot project for this approach in a district of Malawi called Kasungu. This district was chosen because it had suitable levels of groundwater, a supply of artisans working at community level and a large enough population without access to an improved water source. We approached 25 entrepreneurs who were either well diggers, mechanics or masons. Over the course of a year, Pump Aid provided these local entrepreneurs with training in well digging and pump maintenance and key skills to help them market and promote their business. Over such a short time the entrepreneurs achieved astonishing results:
- All in all, they provided access to an improved water source to over 20,000 people.
- Every entrepreneur at least doubled their income from the previous years, proving this to be a financially viable way of creating new businesses.
- The average distance those purchasing a household pump now have to travel to the nearest improved water source is just 11 metres. (Previously, 65% of households were traveling over 500 metres!)
(The pump being installed into a well)
Hopefully, by now, you are also convinced that this is a concept worth pursuing. We fully back this idea having seen how successful it can be. Our future plan is to scale this up across Malawi, but we can’t achieve this by ourselves.
We believe this will happen naturally in part because the speed of adoption is an escalating curve whereby the more people who see the benefits, the more others will want them for themselves (similar to other fast growing technologies such as mobile phones).
However, we also need backing from the Government of Malawi to ensure appropriate quality assurance is put in place and we need help from you! Whilst the majority of the cost is borne by the individuals involved, Pump Aid is still actively supporting our entrepreneurs, promoting the concept and encouraging others to get involved, which we are currently funding from our reserves.
If you’re now as passionate as we are about this, stay in touch via Newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be the first to hear more about it!
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