Market Approach for Sustainable Water Supply

A new programme that aims to develop market-led small business solutions to rural poverty is starting with UNICEF and DFID support.

This new initiative will research possible models, trial and test them, and then train and mentor local artisans to equip them with the skills they need to set up viable businesses to build sustainable water capacity.

While many initiatives led by governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have done a great deal to improve rural water supply in Africa, many pumps end up abandoned when they break down when a simple fix could put a pump back into operation.

As many as 30% of pump-operated water points may be non-functioning according to some estimates, putting entire communities at risk of preventable diseases.

Establishing local supply businesses can not only make water pumps in rural areas more sustainable, but can also open doors to more social and economic opportunities.  This entrepreneurial approach would train local trades people, such as welders and metal workers, with the skills and know-how to build, repair and maintain water pumps.

Pump Aid works with rural, often remote, communities that have few opportunities and resources to access spare parts or to hire a skilled professional who is willing to travel incredible distances to make a repair. As a result, when a water point falls into disrepair, communities are forced to return to open water sources vulnerable to contamination.

Unprotected water sources, lakes, rivers and uncovered wells, for example, are vulnerable to contamination from a variety of pollutants, including human, animal and industrial. During heavy rains, organic materials, including animal carcasses and faeces, are washed into open sources, polluting the water with disease-causing micro-organisms that can be life-threatening particularly for the most vulnerable people: infants, the elderly, and others with weakened immune systems.

Our innovative approach was recognised in 2012 with The Pan-African Award for Entrepreneurship in Education from Teach a Man to Fish and the Saville Foundation.

Through DFID’s Challenge Fund, we are delighted to be working with UNICEF to trial small business solutions for ending rural water poverty. Our ultimate goal is to transform lives and livelihoods and help people become more sustainable and self-reliant, without further intervention from NGOs or other agencies. This means reaching more people with sustainable access to safe drinking water for the long term, not just when a donor funds a pump.

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