“Charities and governments must accept that they will never deliver universal access to water on their own. It is time to release the power of the private sector.” Stefan Allesch-Taylor CBE
Writing in the current edition of The New Statesman, Pump Aid’s Chair, Stefan Allesch-Taylor, was full of praise for those businesses already supporting Pump Aid’s work, but he called for a change. “As many countries have patted themselves on their backs for reaching their Millennium Development Goal for access to water”, he wrote, “an inconvenient truth has been conveniently overlooked. Namely that a huge number of the water that have been installed over the past decade now don’t work and there seems to be a collective amnesia around the issue of functionality. If water points don’t work, then they don’t provide safe water to communities. For decades the water sector has followed a community based management model which, though successful in some regions, has been an abject failure in others. This is why Pump Aid is committed to a new approach known in the sector as self-supply. Self-supply encourages households to invest in and own their own water supply. A pump in your own backyard or field makes water more convenient and more likely to be used for the hygienic practices which are essential to reducing water-borne diseases and, because they are owned rather than shared, household pumps are far better maintained and enjoy improved functionality and resilience. I firmly believe that, without a substantial investment in self-supply, the UN Strategic Development Goal of universal access to safe water by 2030 will be unachievable”
The need for corporate engagement with the sector to drive innovation and change was reiterated by Michael Chuter, CEO of Pump Aid, whilst speaking at an event to celebrate Bartlett Mitchell’s 25th anniversary. He praised the caterer for their support and said that, through their purchase and distribution of Thirsty Planet water, they had contributed towards the installation of 30 rope and washer pumps in Malawi. Pump Aid’s rope and washer pumps, usually called Elephant Pumps, are a lower tech solution which proves easier for communities to maintain, unlike boreholes their functionality* rate is higher and the repairs are much more affordable for communities or even single households.
Michael said “Pump Aid’s relationship with Thirsty Planet is one of the most transparent in the sector and, over the past nine years, Pump Aid has received over £1.7m from Thirsty Planet which has had a phenomenal impact on our work.” Unlike other ethical water companies, which donate a percentage or all of their profits to charity, Pump Aid receives a fixed donation for every bottle of Thirsty Planet sold, regardless of any other circumstance or factor. So customers know exactly how much of the selling price is going to charity and Pump Aid can confidently budget for the amount it is likely to receive. “We all benefit”, said Michael, “But the real beneficiaries are the communities which are now able to access clean, safe water. The support of ethical and transparent corporates like Bartlett Mitchell has been vital in enabling Pump Aid to bring clean safe water to more than 1.35m people. An astonishing achievement for an organisation whose UK head office houses just six people.”
Pump Aid, supported by UNICEF, has been working in Malawi to create small-scale commercial enterprises to market and install household water points paid for by the beneficiaries themselves. This approach has already been successfully adopted in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone among others and, although operating for barely ten months, results from the first group of Malawian entrepreneurs have been impressive. Not only are they all deriving revenue from the programme, they have proved the viability of the business model and have firmly disproved the myth that the poor cannot or will not pay to improve their lives and life chances. Indeed, of the customers the entrepreneurs have served, 38% had previously purchased a cement floor and 57% had purchased a tin roof, confirming that well ownership is a desirable and viable investment for those seeking to improve their homes. UNICEF is already showcasing Pump Aid’s work to government officials and other NGOs, but continuation of this programme is dependent on Pump Aid securing funds for a wider role out and it is seeking interested corporate partners to help take the entrepreneurs through to a second stage of support and to expand the programme into neighbouring districts and other areas of Malawi. Pump Aid believe that the idea of supporting an entrepreneur to reduce water loss and keep pumps active and working for longer will appeal to business leaders interested in sustainability.
Pump Aid’s Chief Executive and Chair are available for quotes and interview. All enquires to be made to: Joanna Birch-Phaure, Head of Communications, Pump Aid firstname.lastname@example.org, 07535 182 751.