Millions wasted on water in Africa

From the Guardian

Got this from our friends at http://www.thelongwellwalk.com/. where Liam Garcia is taking a three year walk for water. On the 30th of June 2013 Liam will leave Sheffield on his way to Cape Town. On foot. Walking 8,000 miles to raise awareness and funds for ten communities in Africa – The Long Well Walk will help to provide clean water. we are planning to work with and support him.

Even though I posted the article on our facebook page I hadn’t really read it until now. A pity because I find it weak and having little of the real shockers that exist in the water business. Maybe the writer should spend a day with our guys in the villages in Northern Malawi.

The next few lines is from our new website and shows why we have been in Malawi since 2005 working on clean water:

WHY?
Mary and myself went to Malawi for the first time at Easter 2005 and were disturbed by a few things in particular:
        the sight of women and little girls carrying dirty water, long distances, on their heads;
         how shallow the wells only needed to be;
         the huge number of broken pumps and how few were maintained by their original installers.

NOW we know that a pump in Northern Malawi needs to work all day every day so the women in a village need to be able to fix it. 

SO Our pumps are made, in our factory in Mzuzu, from materials available in Malawi. Spare parts can be anywhere in Malawi in one day, by bus. Women can maintain using two six inch nails. They can deliver 20 litres per minute from 25 metres deep wells. Worst case scenario: The whole pump can be replaced in 5 minutes and is fully recyleable. The cost of the pump is less than €40. 

Two weeks ago I spent a day up and down goat tracks in our 22 year old ex-Irish army jeep, following old gogos across barren fields in dust storms and down steep ravines knowing that I would have to climb out again. I explained that God didn’t love me or He wouldn’t send me to such a remote, Godforsaken place; they just laughed. Oh! forgot to mention the failed, broken and useless pumps and the litany of dried up wells. Some lasted just a few weeks, some a few months and only the rare one, a year or two. They would all be considered VLM village level maintainable and sustainable and all the life giving words that donors like to hear and proposal writers try out on their potential victims, before settling on what might separate them from their money. Sometime, in the future, I will write the complete story giving GPS locations with the names of the water gurus that installed them or often got others to install. It seems that everyone wants to install a well, sing the songs, pray the prayers and give glory to some God or other. When another box is ticked these people move on, claim a few more souls or donors, keep their well paid jobs and leave God with a dilema. We regularly pick up the pieces and would do more if we get permission!! If we’re the best solution he gets, its not much of a solution, but our women in villages are the real deal.

One of my friends gave me what she thought was a brilliant idea, on pump maintenance, over the weekend. It was some electronic gadget, thingy to attach to a pump handle which would emit a signal if the pump was not in use. This signal would pop to satellite, then to a base, where maybe a fleet of helicopters would take to the air, descend on the location, and fix the pump.

Great I said but we have women in villages with mobile phones, and the just give us a call, we do the triage questioning bit and they fix the pump, or we may decide to unscrew it and screw in another, if that drastic a solution is necessary.

Oh, its that simple? Yes its that simple!!

Report criticises donors, governments and NGOs for installing boreholes and wells in rural Africa without ensuring their long-term sustainability

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on clean water projects in rural Africa, according to a new report.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says up to US$360m has been spent on building boreholes and wells that then become useless because they are not maintained or fixed when they break down. As a result, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.

According to the report only one third of water points built by NGOs in Senegal’s Kaolack region are working and 58% of water points in northern Ghana are in disrepair.

The report’s author, Jamie Skinner, says that water points are often built by donors, governments and NGOs without fully consulting local people and finding out just how much it will cost to keep the boreholes clean and functioning over a sustained period of time.

He said drilling a borehole in a rural community was akin to asking people to run a cooperative private water supply.

“There is no point an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years,” he says. “There needs to be a proper assessment of just how much local people are able to finance these water points. It’s not enough to just drill and walk away.”

This problem has arisen in Katine sub-county in north-east Uganda. In 2007, before the African Medical and Research Foundation and Farm-Africa began their development work in Katine, worms were found in the polluted water supply at the village of Abia, next to the Emuru swamp. A badly constructed and poorly maintained shallow well, dug by a charity, was full of soil and animal faeces and was making local people sick.

Amref’s strategy in Katine is to train local communities to operate and maintain the new safe water points that have been established in the sub-county since the project began.

Water and sanitation committees have been set up to monitor the new boreholes that have been dug and contact newly trained hand-pump mechanics if one breaks down. The committees meet regularly with village health teams to discuss needs and the idea is that everyone who uses the boreholes and wells will contribute financially to their long-term upkeep.

But last year water engineer Bob Reed argued on this website that rural water sources cannot be sustained without continuing external support and that boreholes were simply unsustainable.

Does this new report prove him right?

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