Pump Aid welcomes the recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) report into DFID’s work in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Pump Aid is proud to be part of the UK government’s efforts to alleviate world water poverty.
The report praises DFID’s considerable success in improving water, sanitation and hygiene for almost 63 million people. The Commission highlights the urgent need to address the issues of short-term functionality and long-term sustainability. The Commission asserts that “water facilities need to be technically sustainable, in relation to local conditions and with regard to ongoing maintenance requirements”. And that they “need to be financially sustainable, with a process for generating revenues to meet the costs of operations and maintenance over the long term”.
The sector has been grappling with these issues for many years. They must be urgently addressed to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of ending water poverty by 2030. Fortunately solutions are available. Pump Aid, with UNICEF funding, has been piloting a new small-scale private sector approach. Called ‘self-supply’ water improvements are paid for by users themselves. For the past 18 months we have been working in three Traditional Authorities (TAs) in Malawi’s Kasungu District. We have trained a group of local artisans in well digging and lining, pump installation and maintenance and in marketing and business skills. Though a small pilot and with our artisans working for less than a year, they have already more than doubled their income. They have already provided almost 7,000 people with access to safer water. They have repaired over 100 broken or malfunctioning borehole pumps. Securing access to communal water for a further 11,000 people.
“Our successful self-supply model is already stimulating demand proving the viability of the business model. It’s thoroughly disproving the myth that the poor cannot or will not pay to improve their lives.” Stefan Allesch-Taylor CBE, Chairman Pump Aid
Even taking into account start-up costs, our results show a far better return on investment than the standard community water point approach. The success of self-supply is that water point ownership, by an individual, ensures their interest in keeping it working. Our training of local artisans and their use of locally available materials means these new water points fully meet ICAI’s requirements for interventions that are ‘technically sustainable, in relation to local conditions’. By creating a local market for water improvement and the local businesses to serve it, we are delivering the ‘financially sustainable’ interventions ‘with a process for generating revenues’ that ICAI seeks.
We believe self-supply has a hugely important role to play in the delivery of the UK government’s aim to bring improved water, sanitation and hygiene to another 60 million people. In meeting the needs of small and hard to reach populations it could help to increase water available for irrigation. Potentially helping protect rural against climate change and harvest failure and improving nutrition in schools.
Pump Aid is now seeking funding to expand self-supply into every TA in Kasungu and 4/5 other TAs in neighbouring districts. This could improve the lives and life chances of 250,000 people during the programme and millions more in the future.