INVESTING IN WATER POINT SUSTAINABILITY – HOW TO ACHIEVE IT
Access to safe drinking water, good sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is essential for good health, welfare and productivity and is widely recognized as a human right. In Malawi, 87.9 percent of the Malawi population use improved sources of drinking water, which means that 12.1 percent (about 2.3 million people) lack access to safe drinking water, MICS 2019-20.
In Malawi, Boreholes are the most common water source seconded by taps (piped water) and protected shallow wells. With reference to the year 2020, Malawi had 112,160 improved water points (90.3%) and 12,042 unimproved water points (9.7%). Of the 112,160 registered water points 54% were functional, 20% partially functional, 20% non-functional and 6% were abandoned (Mwater, Malawi CFJ)
This confirms that despite sources of improved water being available for households, functionality of the water sources is a huge problem and this drives people to be accessing water from unsafe and unreliable sources.
Although Malawi has about 112,160 boreholes, 54% of the boreholes were deemed functional at that time while 46% were either partially or completely not functional. This means that a greater percentage of the communities use unsafe sources of drinking water at a certain period due to malfunctioning of their boreholes.
Key challenges affecting borehole functionality that needs to be critically addressed include;
Poor workmanship during construction
Borehole management by Water Point Committees (WPCs)
Lack of accountability, transparency, and a sense of ownership by community members
Lack of access to borehole spare parts
Theft of borehole parts on the installed water points
Current Experience & what works
HFHM’s experience from its ongoing WASH projects in both rural and peri-urban areas has shown that over 90% of the boreholes can be fully functional if and only if; borehole resources collected are well managed, borehole workmanship during actual drilling was well managed, the effectiveness of water point committees in borehole management is improved and area mechanics are readily available, supported and well capacitated to do their job.
Borehole resource management
At the community level, Water Point Committees (WPCs) are given the capacity to support the management of the water points. WPCs are expected to perform the following tasks to ably manage the water points;
Collection of fees from users
Fixing minor defects on the water points (boreholes)
Source external support (i.e. Area Mechanics) to fix major defects on the water points
Procure spare parts for fixing the water points (boreholes)
Despite performing these roles, some of the hindrances WPCs face with borehole funds is; how to invest in the funds collected, lack of access to banks to manage their funds due to geographical distances, and high costs of banking services. Therefore, borehole funds are often kept by water point committee members as cash which often leads to loss of borehole funding due to misuse of funds.
HFHM has learnt that failure in the management of borehole resources by WPCs contribute to borehole non-functionality. HFHM has also learnt that most community members lose trust in Water Point Committees (WPCs) because there is little or no transparency and accountability on how borehole funds are managed. This has led to frustration on both the committees and the community. To improve the status quo, HFHM in its interventions has focused on the management of borehole funds through mobile banking approaches.
Mobile Banking has proved to be an effective solution to increase financial transparency and protect borehole funds.
In the areas where HFHM is working, communities are highly recommending the use of mobile banking in the management of boreholes funds.
Some of the testimonies captured on mobile banking are as follows:
“There is none from the members who have hard cash meant for repairing boreholes. This reduces the temptation for members to use or borrow money for personal use”, Anesi Jekete from Mpani village
“We used to get a bus just to get to the bank and collect funds for borehole repairs. It was expensive and time-consuming. Now we can go to the nearest Airtel money agent and collect funds when need be”, Rodrick Kalimoni Chairperson for Mbala WPC
Our Call for Action
Given the existing gaps and the practical lessons that HFHM has harnessed over the years, investing in waterpoint sustainability calls for the following actions;
WPCs to be using mobile banking: This is a proven and effective means of improving financial transparency and safeguarding of borehole funds. Mobile banking (such as airtel money or Tnm Mpamba) is widely accessible in all rural areas. With this system, Water Point Committees (WPCs) will collect funds, record in their cash book, and bank the money at a mobile banking agent at the nearest marketplace.
Mobile Operators to harness this opportunity: Service providers should provide payment collection and management solutions for free. This will enable WPCs to use the service with ease.
Supply chain of spare parts. There should be adequate approved spare parts shops within the community. Once WPCs have enough funds for borehole maintenance, there should be a provision where these members can go and access spare parts at a convenient shop.
All Water Point Committees(WPCs) must enter into a service contract with the Area Mechanics for the purpose of servicing the borehole so that it can remain functional even beyond its lifespan.
In view of the above, HFHM is calling on all the NGOs that are working on WASH to encourage all WPCs to register for mobile banking to ensure that borehole funds are kept safe and that all WPCs should enter into service contract with Area Mechanics available in their respective areas.
For more information, please contact
Anock Kapira, Habitat for Humanity Malawi
Habitat Malawi in affiliation to HFHI work towards safeguarding the right of its stakeholders, as such any unwelcome sexual advances, comments, expressed & implied unnecessary demand for a Service, unnecessary touch, joke, gesture are strictly not tolerated in any form.