: Drop in the Bucket

Discussion Forum

School selection and the move away from water user committees

By Drink Local. Drink Tap. Posted on Mon 25 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi John, Thank you for all your organization does. I work in Uganda as well and know you can only do you best with the communities/schools. There are so many problems these people face and they have a lot to be concerned with in addition to water. The water world is very complex and we can only give it our best, do our due diligence and move on from there…while learning the whole way!

SIDENOTE: On the monitoring end, I met some students recently that are piloting a monitoring divide to show litres distributed and functioning of the borehole from afar. I'm not sure if anything like this already exists, but it would be another interesting way in the future to begin to show the functionality of past projects.

I admire your focus on females and the IMPACCT student you are doing. I'd love to learn more about that! Will you be in Uganda Dec 19th- Feb 6th?
I'll be working there building (3-I hope) projects. A gravity fed irrigation system and shallow borehole in Masindi and a gravity fed tap system in Luweero near Wobolenzi. Having only drilled 1 borehole in our lifetime at DLDT, I am in awe of the metrics you have. Our mission and measurement of success is a bit different, but on the water project side I'd love to connect in Uganda to learn more about your contractors and partners there and how you came to complete that many projects.

I am curious how you decide on what projects you will do, with what schools and would like to learn more about why you feel water user committees don't work. I did read the messages above and would like to learn more about your VSLA approach.

The community we have worked in and our contractor felt the water user committee made sense for them….so do you sometimes use them? Besides people leaving schools or death occurring, you mentioned when it works people pay no attention. I assume they pay attention when they have to give money….but what about the orphan schools with very little to give?

Please email or contact me anytime-again thanks for your great work in the world!
Erin Huber
Executive Director and Founder
DrinkLocalDrinkTap.org
erin@DrinkLocalDrinkTap.org
1-440-463-1862
Lakewood, Ohio
USA

Ongoing project support

By Schools for Water Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Who manages the ongoing support for the projects. Is that built into the budget for each project?

Ongoing project support

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Once the borehole has been handed off to the local community the Water Users Group, that we set up before we drill, will manage the borehole. Any repairs will be handled by the VSLA committee who have money available to cover inevitable repairs.

Price of the service and quality

By 1001 fontaines Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hello John,

Thanks for this project and the quick answers to the questions posted by the other PWX members. I understand that the community contributes to the maintenance cost of the well and that local villagers are trained to be able to repair it and maintain it over time.

I had a few additional questions:
Do the villagers pay for the water or is the water free of charge?
How is the project viewed by the villagers regarding the contribution that is asked from them (constructing the borehole, contributing funds)?
Do you test the quality of the water over time?

Thanks

Aude

Price of the service and quality

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

We only drill boreholes at schools and the schools are encouraged to slightly increase the school fees due to this provision of clean water. This enables the schools to hire more teachers and have money for maintenance.

We test the water once the borehole has been completed. If there is a problem we will test again, but testing every few months is expensive and for the most part unnecessary if you are drilling down to the water table. If you are hand digging wells, using manual percussion drilling or building protected springs it definitely makes sense to keep retesting, but boreholes do not generally have those problems.

Promoting Gender Equality

By Blue Planet Network Posted on Wed 20 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Thank you for your thoughtful answers to our questions, John. I was wondering if you were trying to systematically capture any data on the impact your work has had in promoting gender equality. For example, what is the percentage of girls enrolled at schools with sanitation facilities and without in the area you serve? Has female enrollment increased at the schools where your projects are located, and if so, by how much?

Thanks,
Jenna

Promoting Gender Equality

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Wed 20 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi Jenna,

We are actually in the middle of a 5 year study called IMPACCT

IMPACCT (Improving Methods Practice Course Correction) is a five-year study aimed at determining what it takes to keep girls in school after they reach puberty. Our goal with the study is to gather, organize, and analyze this data, in order to produce evidence-based judgments about the efficiency and efficacy of various interventions. We will ultimately formulate this information into a comprehensive report, which we will share it with our partners and colleagues in the development field.

We also have a program called GRACE (Girls Ready to Attend and Complete Education) that we have recently started working on.

GRACE is a gender empowerment initiative that teaches essential life skills, encouraging girls to attend school and instilling confidence to remain in school and become future leaders.

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By Blue Planet Network Posted on Wed 20 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi John,

I've enjoyed reading your answers to member questions re: monitoring, maintenance, data around girls' enrollment in school and community contributions per project. After all these years implementing WASH projects in Uganda and South Sudan, what are some best practices you have learned and would like to share with the rest of us?

I would like to also learn a little more about how you are tracking and monitoring your 200 successfully constructed boreholes in the region since 2006 -- spanning across South Sudan and North, Central and Eastern Uganda. Are you visiting the sites a few years after implementation to make sure they are still in operation? Of the 200, how many are still in operation?

Thanks so much,
Silke

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Wed 20 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

We are still learning, I'll get back to you when we've figured it all out :)

We open an office in the areas where we work and follow up on all of the projects in that area for two years. We are in constant communication with the local authorities and school district, and as any of your partners in the field will tell you, when a borehole has a problem, you will hear about it.

How many are still working? With all due respect, I think you are asking the wrong question here. Your question puts the responsibility for keeping the well working on the NGO which means that the project is unsustainable. A better question would be what steps are you putting in place to make the project sustainable, and the answer is VSLAs etc. Our job is not to manage the boreholes in perpetuity, our job is to provide the communities with the tools, training and financial means to manage the project themselves.

School selection and the move away from water user committees

By Drink Local. Drink Tap. Posted on Mon 25 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi John, Thank you for all your organization does. I work in Uganda as well and know you can only do you best with the communities/schools. There are so many problems these people face and they have a lot to be concerned with in addition to water. The water world is very complex and we can only give it our best, do our due diligence and move on from there…while learning the whole way!

SIDENOTE: On the monitoring end, I met some students recently that are piloting a monitoring divide to show litres distributed and functioning of the borehole from afar. I'm not sure if anything like this already exists, but it would be another interesting way in the future to begin to show the functionality of past projects.

I admire your focus on females and the IMPACCT student you are doing. I'd love to learn more about that! Will you be in Uganda Dec 19th- Feb 6th?
I'll be working there building (3-I hope) projects. A gravity fed irrigation system and shallow borehole in Masindi and a gravity fed tap system in Luweero near Wobolenzi. Having only drilled 1 borehole in our lifetime at DLDT, I am in awe of the metrics you have. Our mission and measurement of success is a bit different, but on the water project side I'd love to connect in Uganda to learn more about your contractors and partners there and how you came to complete that many projects.

I am curious how you decide on what projects you will do, with what schools and would like to learn more about why you feel water user committees don't work. I did read the messages above and would like to learn more about your VSLA approach.

The community we have worked in and our contractor felt the water user committee made sense for them….so do you sometimes use them? Besides people leaving schools or death occurring, you mentioned when it works people pay no attention. I assume they pay attention when they have to give money….but what about the orphan schools with very little to give?

Please email or contact me anytime-again thanks for your great work in the world!
Erin Huber
Executive Director and Founder
DrinkLocalDrinkTap.org
erin@DrinkLocalDrinkTap.org
1-440-463-1862
Lakewood, Ohio
USA

School selection and the move away from water user committees

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Mon 25 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi Erin,

School selection and the move away from water user committees

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Mon 25 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi Erin,

First of all thank you for the work you are doing to help the people of Uganda, I also think you recently met Ryan, one of our supporters from Ohio.

We will definitely be in Uganda while you are there, in fact we are always there because we have offices and full time staff there. If you get a chance please come by our offices in Soroti and say hi.

In terms of what works and doesn't, being an organization that sends checks and hopes the wells will stay working, does not work. I know because that is what we did at first, and the result was about half the wells failed in the first year, like 60% of all water wells. The only way to drill wells that will stay working is to have a presence in the area you are working. Sending checks to contractors does not work and it is one of the biggest reasons why there are so many broken wells in the developing world.

We select our projects by a series of surveys and personal inspections in conjunction with local authorities.

In my opinion water committees rarely work, and I'm not the only person who shares this view. I once had a very candid conversation with the head of one of the biggest water charities in the country who has spent a lot of time in Africa and he said the exact same thing. Water committees are a great way for people to go through the motions of trying to address sustainability, but from our experience unless people are given a real incentive to show up for meetings and give money why would they, and more to the point would you?

So to put it into terms people in the US can relate to, let's just say the a group of families in your neighborhood came to you and said "We are going to test your tap water for purity once a month to make sure it always has safe levels of fluoride, and for that you can pay us $50". If you were concerned about fluoride, the first time you might be happy about it, but would you show up to the third meeting and keep paying?

The thing is a contractor will always push for a water committee, because it only takes a few visits to set one up and nobody pays any attention when it stops meeting because it's already expected. VSLA's take multiple visits, a lot more training, longterm monitoring and cost way more money, but in villages where we set up three water committees which all failed, the VSLA's worked and are still working.

For your example of an orphan school with little to give, the people who can afford to pay from the surrounding communities will happily pay for clean water, but if nobody is paying anything the well will not work over time. I always use the example of cars, nobody has created a car that never breaks down or never needs its oil changed or tires changed.

A well pump is a piece of machinery with hundreds of people putting pressure on it every day. With no maintenance it may last 6-9 months, but after that it will break. With regular maintenance it can last for decades, and we've seen wells that have been in service for more than 25 years.

The problem is we are the problem! With the word "we" meaning everybody on this forum) We all think we can do projects for cheap and then move on to the next project and assume it will stay working and that just means broken wells. There is no 'magic bullet', and we are all trying to figure out how to make it work.

So far on this forum two organizations have asked us how many of our wells are still working and it was interesting to note that neither of them offered the percentage of how many of theirs are working. A better question would be "Did you notice a difference in sustainability between when you were setting up water committees and when you started doing VSLA's" and the answer would have been yes the difference is like night and day.

I will call you tomorrow and we can chat more.

John

Toilets

By Global Women's Water Initiative Posted on Thu 28 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi there

Welcome to the peer review. I hope you know that this forum is in the spirit of learning and sharing not judging. We all come into this with different models, experiences, target communities, cultural challenges etc. Many of us have joined PWX initially for the opportunity for fundraising, but have definitely gotten much more along the way. I invite you to come into this with the same spirit.

Can you tell us about your flush sewage eater flush toilets? Very intriguing.

Gemma

Toilets

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Thu 28 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi Gemma,

Thanks for the clarification, because it does actually feel a little like we are the only ones getting our test papers graded in front of the entire class. This forum would be so much more inviting to newcomers if when people started asking questions about how new organizations do things they also talked about their own challenges or admitted to having problems. We do not have all of the answers, but I know we have figured out solutions for a few of the common challenges that everyone actually working in the field is dealing with. We are happy to share some of the things we have learned and are happy to talk about when things go wrong, but feel it should be reciprocal and an actual conversation. With other parties sharing information.

Our toilets are unique in that two of our board members, who are engineers, designed them. They use a process called anaerobic digestion to utilize beneficial bacterial to effectively 'eat' the harmful pathogens in the waste. The toilets never fill up, never need to be emptied and produce no solid waste. The only output is water that is 85% pure and 100% pathogen free. We do not encourage the communities to drink this water, not because it is in any way harmful, because it isn't, but because we do not want to encourage anyone to blur the lines of when you can and can't handle their own waste. I also think this is the reason why we not build composting toilets. When you are working with communities with no shoes or gloves, it is far safer to not have people handle excrement. We do encourage the schools to utilize the water that is released from our septics for irrigating school gardens or for animals to drink.

Toilets

By Drink Local. Drink Tap. Posted on Mon 02 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

I am excited to see this in action and hope to use this toilet model in the future if we can partner up. It makes so much sense. We do it with garbage waste in large bio-digesters, why not a toilet?!
Thanks for sharing John and asking Gemma!
Cheers,
Erin

VSLA vs Water Committee

By Lifewater International Posted on Mon 02 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

Hi John,
You have been clear that you find your organization's VSLA approach to be much more effective than water user committees both in theory and in your experience. At Lifewater we help communities set up water user committees, and there are naturally some issues, but believe that with a few improvements to the training and follow up committees get, they will be extremely effective.

When you talked about the committees, you said they tend to require only a meeting or two on the front end and no follow up, whereas VSLAs require more intensive, long-term trainings with constant follow-up and monitoring. In your opinion, or in your experience, would water user committees receiving the same amount of training, follow-up, and monitoring as the training you give VSLAs be more sustainable/successful? Do you think they would then be as effective as a VSLA? Or is there some other advantage you see to the VSLA?

Thanks for your input!

Julie Smith

Program Manager
Lifewater International
www.lifewater.org

VSLA vs Water Committee

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Mon 02 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

Hi Julie,

First I would like to say that Lifewater International is an organization that we have the utmost respect for, Pat Klever has been nothing but amazing and encouraging to us from day one and we will always be very appreciative for the kindness and advice.

I definitely do not think you can set up a water user committee in a couple of visits, but some organizations just send checks to for-profit contractors and hope nobody tells them when the wells break. The result ends up being water user groups that only exist for a few months and no money being collected after that point. Then when the well inevitably breaks (they all do sooner or later) there is no system in place to repair it other than ask the NGO who drilled it to fix it. If the NGO is based in another country with no staff in the area, this can lead to another broken well that nobody fixes.

Simply put the VSLA provides an incentive to attend water user meetings, and that is the reason they are more successful than water users groups without that incentive. This is not a perfect solution that works 100% of the time with no problems, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Without that incentive water users often stop meeting after a few months, and continuing to follow up doesn't really work if the group isn't holding meetings anymore.

I don't think we have all of the answers, but I also know that doing the same exact thing that has not been working for decades is not the right solution, so we all have to try and figure out things that will work.

Thanks,

John

VSLA vs Water Committee

By Lifewater International Posted on Mon 02 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

I appreciate your response and will definitely consider those observations. And I will pass your gratitude along to Pat.
Thanks,
Julie

Sustainability and tracking and then reporting

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Wed 04 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

Hi John and all the peer participants,

The dialog above has raised some critical points.

If our wells (or other water projects) worked, then we would have solved the world's water crisis many years ago.

The paradigm for decades has been to drill wells or provide filters and then 'walk away' after the ribbon cutting ceremony. We need two pictures: first one of the woman carrying water and then, later, a closeup of a bright-eyed smiling closeup of a child with cupped hands and water drops in slow motion.

Nobody (esp the funders) ask more questions. And those whose jobs are to raise money (either intermediaries or implementers) do not report more. Nor do they track more.

There is a shift, esp. in many of the peers. Many want to know what works and what does not. However, nobody except Project Well has reported any. In fact, Project Well is tracking the reasons why their wells fail: mechanical, community, water quality, gov't intervention, ... If you see the map of their projects, you will see some red drops.

The idea is that at least there are some failures we can work on and reduce.

We have to figure out how to help each other report what is not working. In the completed funding round, there were many whose proposals contained numbers (# of projects, # of people impacted, # of countries, ...) but with no evidence, no data on what even worked for 3 years.

Are the funders solely to blame? What are the causes of this massive failure in the implementation world? If we can't fix the system, we will not solve the crisis. Yes, some will have jobs and we will do some work that will have some benefit. But we will not do more than slow down the crises a bit.

PWX operating DNA is different. Its a new way of operating to change the vector, to change the direction of the crisis. Its been eight long years, but we have not got the momentum we need.

Regards,
Rajesh

Re: Sustainability and tracking and then reporting

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Wed 04 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

I did want to share one more thing about how Project Well is using the platform. Their staff reports daily via SMS as to their field visits (5-10 daily).

And they report everything: # of users, whether water stinks or not, are they using it for drinking or bathing, ... One example of an interesting SMS: of a pump getting stolen (GP means Gram Panchayat - the village ruling body).

Rajesh

Re: Sustainability and tracking and then reporting

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Thu 05 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

Just to clarify, we are involved in all of our projects for a minimum of two years, but we also are still in contact with some schools from 6 and 7 years ago.

The idea that the problem is wells being drilled and the implementing organization "walking away" after taking photos, seems to promote the idea that the charity should stay involved forever?

This actually presents its own set of questions. Should implementing organizations drill a well and them have to stay there babysitting that well in perpetuity? What happens if the people running the charity retire or the charity stops working in that area? Should organizations continue to collect money from their donors to camp out looking after they drilled years before? We shouldn't lose track of the concept that for meaningful progress to be made we have to empower the locals. That idea of adopting a village seems to fly against all concepts of true sustainability.

I honestly feel that for projects to last, organizations have to slowly reduce their influence in such a way that the community can manage the intervention themselves. It is considerably harder than drilling and leaving, or drilling and monitoring and fixing when things break without ever empowering the community, but don't you feel it has to be done if projects are going to last?

Wells can last for decades, but often don't. As do we need to become caretakers and stay managing the wells for years after? To us that just isn't sustainable for the charity or for the recipients. In our opinion the handover to the local community and that process of empowerment is key to ensuring longterm success.

Data collection like Project Well is doing is fantastic, and that is the same reason we are doing our 5 year IMPACCT study. But monitoring alone does not address sustainability, it simply helps understand some of the issues at play. Does reporting on a well pump breaking provide a solution to stop it breaking again in the future, or would finding a way to help the villagers cover the cost of repairs or even a new pump when needed be more effective?

John

Re: Sustainability and tracking and then reporting

By Peer Water Exchange Posted on Thu 05 Dec 2013, almost 7 years ago

Hi John,

This is a great discussion!

We really need to better define the role of the implementer and we need to better structure the project in terms of when it 'handed over' and becomes the responsibility of someone else.

I have seen many projects setup for failure. One way is where the monthly contributions will never be able to pay for replacement when it happens.

You are correct - monitoring does not imply sustainability. We need to push that data back into the project structure.

The big problem we are just touching is that funders are having (and fundrasiers are setting) expectations of $25 will provide water for life (or similar outcomes). And funders and intermediaries taking credit for large impact, which is different from the reality on the ground. If a project fails to take off or fails in 6 months, will that failure result in a report to a funder that something went amiss. Will the total number of people impacted decrease on some website? Will the $25 become $40?

Hope to continue this discussion past this review and actually act on it.

I would be happy to work with Drop in the Bucket with showcasing the IMPACCT study on the exchange and all the learnings. We need to get more people doing that.

Regards,
Rajesh

Project funding

By Schools for Water Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Do the communities you work with contribute to the projects in terms of funding or the actual building of the projects?

Project funding

By International Lifeline Fund Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hello Katie,

Communities are asked to contribute an average of $3 per household (per year) to cover maintenance costs of the borehole. In addition, the community members participate in the construction of the borehole - in the siting of the borehole as well as being responsible in constructing the fence and soak pit following the drilling of the borehole.

This provides the community with a sense of responsibility and increases the community willingness to keep - minimizing contamination of the water at the site.

Project funding

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi Katie,

All of the unskilled labor on our projects is provided by the local communty. This is done so that they get a sense of ownership in the project. The local community also contributes sand and bricks (both of which readily available without cost). After that the community is asked to contribute funds before we start with construction of the borehole. The amount they are asked to raise varies depending on what our fieldworkers feel is an appropriate amount for them to raise. This money is used as the seed money for the VSLAs we set up which will provide the funds to cover inevitable repairs as they come up.

Project funding

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

We also require the community to build a soak pit and fence around the borehole.

Project funding

By 1001 fontaines Posted on Tue 19 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

regarding to TS1001 project, the communities have to contribute land (4 x 12m) for building the station and also they must have water source which usable a whole year.

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By 1001 fontaines Posted on Sat 23 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi John,

As a follow up to Silke's question and your reply, I would agree that the objective should be to make the projects sustainable but could you comment on how effective the VSLAs have been in taking on the on-going management and what are the keys to making that successful ?

What % of the boreholes that you have constructed are still operating ?

Approximately how many beneficiaries are there per borehole ?

Thank you and best wishes.

Rosemary.

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Sat 23 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

One thing we realized early on was that water committees don't really work. When wells are working, people don't care about going to water user meetings or contributing money they can't afford to give. The VSLA gives them an incentive to meet and a reason to contribute money.

Silke already asked this question and I actually did reply to it. The answer is I don't know and it's also not a fair question to ask for many reasons. Boreholes are continually breaking and being repaired. We try to keep them all working, but as I'm sure you know that isn't always possible. We have had cases where a village dispute has left all of the key people we were dealing with dead, or where the school has brought in new staff who don't care and won't work with the community, so in those cases it becomes very difficult to manage. Any organization claiming that all of their wells are working simply isn't doing any monitoring. The truth is if this was easy the world water crisis would have been solved years ago. The key is to make sure people know how to repair them when they break and have the funds in place to do so.

Though now I am curious how you answer that question when asked? How many of your wells are still working after the first year? To me it's almost like asking a car company how many of their cars are still running. If we can't make a car that never breaks down or a computer that never crashes, how can we expect wells to never break? Sure donor agencies expect all wells to stay working forever and often have completely unrealistic expectations, but for people actually working on the ground nothing is that cut and dry.

We try and work at schools of between 600-1400 students and the boreholes are used by the neighboring villages and the school staff too.

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By East Meets West Foundation Posted on Thu 28 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Hi John and Erin, I read this conversation with interest. Erin, you might find the following paper from IRC WASH Library interesting: http://www.washdoc.info/docsearch/title/182387 - there is a history on community management approaches, - their strengths and weaknesses and why the sector should move towards a service delivery approach.

Thanks, Georgia

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By Drop in the Bucket Posted on Thu 28 Nov 2013, about 7 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing this Georgia. I will definitely check it out when I have some time.

Regards,

John

Monitoring 200+ boreholes since 2006

By Drink Local. Drink Tap. Posted on Fri 29 Nov 2013, almost 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing- will check it out!
Cheers,
Erin


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