The EMAS WaSH technologies –­ experiences, achievements and future goals

This year we are celebrating 30 years since the Rural Water Supply Network was formally founded. From very technical beginnings as a group of (mostly male) experts – the Handpump Technology Network- we have evolved to be a diverse and vibrant network of over 13,000 people and 100 organisations working on a wide range of topics. Along the way, we have earned a reputation for impartiality, and become a global convener in the rural water sector.

RWSN would not be what it is today without the contributions and tireless efforts of many our members, organisations and people. As part of RWSN’s 30th anniversary celebration, we are running a blog series on rwsn.blog, inviting our friends and experts in the sector to share their thoughts and experiences in the rural water sector.

This is a guest blog by RWSN Member Jaime Aguirre, based in Bilbao, Spain.

EMAS is the Spanish acronym for “Escuela móvil del agua y saneamiento” meaning Mobile School of Water and Sanitation; the acronym was coined in the 1980´s in Bolivia by Wolfgang Buchner, supported by a group of volunteers.

The main mission of EMAS is to teach families how to obtain clean water by themselves. “Hand-on learning” is the most optimal way to learn these techniques.

The EMAS WaSH scheme include various Do-It-Yourself technologies like the EMAS manual pump, manual well drilling up to 90 metres, water storage tanks, and VIP toilets among others. All technologies have been in constant development since the 1990’s. They have been implemented in more than 25 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa. The RWSN library hosts documentation and assessments of the use of EMAS technologies in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Panama and Bolivia amongst others.

The goal of EMAS technologies is to provide access to clean water and sanitation through training of local technicians and beneficiaries. These trainings are compact courses where over several weeks all techniques are demonstrated and practiced. In a long term, all facilities can be maintained by the user due to the technology’s simplicity. The result:

  • Improved access to clean drinking water for the world’s rural populations combined with simple sanitary facilities, thus preventing the spread of infectious diseases and reducing mortality rates.
  • Increased quality of life, e.g. by eliminating laborious water-hauling, thus saving women and children time and enabling small farming operations.
  • The trained well builders are self-sufficient and independent, and can, if necessary, receive repeated advising and training.
  • Sustainability: The wells and water facilities are very affordable. Experience has shown that the owners maintain the facilities quite well, which results in long service lives. Any repairs that may be needed are usually easy to complete.
  • All materials needed for these repairs can be obtained locally.
  • The materials and methods are environmentally responsible and most of the steps are performed manually.
  • The withdrawal of moderate amounts of water and its disciplined use have no negative impact on the environment or groundwater levels.
  • Improved opportunities for people to stay in their home regions permanently.

Some of the main technologies include:

The EMAS hand pump is the key component of the EMAS-technologies because it is capable of pumping water vertically up to 50 m. While other hand pumps have higher resistance to intensive or even inappropriate use (many times when the pump is being used by a whole community), the EMAS pump is designed mainly for household use. EMAS pumps have a long service life since any repairs that may be needed are usually easy to complete by the user.

Video-instructions can be viewed on a YouTube channel which counts about 15.000 followers with some videos having over 700.000 views.

Sometimes adaptions of the technologies have to be made or are even necessary in some countries due to material availability.

As of now, approximately 70.000 EMAS wells have been drilled worldwide.  The majority have been financed by the families or beneficiaries. Since the 1980’s, worldwide more than 100 trained technicians have created a micro enterprise offering WASH services to their community. EMAS technologies have been implemented in over 25 countries through cooperations with various local and international organizations (e.g.  PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) ). As a result of the cooperation with Welthungerhilfe more than 3.000 EMAS wells have been drilled in Sierra Leone.  

EMAS aims to partner with organizations which include WASH in their programmes and also wish to implement the mentioned technologies trough training projects in WASH. Projects should include follow-up and support to trained WASH technicians to help them in becoming SMEs. Many cases show that workers of SMEs create their own company and serve other regions which have high demand for WASH services.

An EMAS learning page will be launched shortly in order to share all experiences in various countries and also facilitate all available material. This webpage will also target users with technical skills who wish to learn more about the technologies.

Drilling a well in  Sierra Leona WASH Center

Amadou, EMAS technician from Senegal going with his drilling equipment to make a new well

Training of EMAS pump making at Sierra Leone

Drilling training  at Mali

EMAS systems including rainharvesting, underground tank, bomba manual, toilet, shower and sink

About the Author: Jaime Aguirre is originally a mechanical engineer who acted many years as design engineer  in the wind energy sector. After some disappointing experiences with the implementation of high-tech WaSH technologies he joined in 2014 voluntarily an EMAS training in Bolivia. Since then, he has permanently been engaged in providing training together with German based NGO EMAS-International e.V. In 2015 he initiated the Spanish NGO TADEH in Bilbao, Spain which provides training in EMAS Self Supply technologies worldwide.

Did you enjoy this blog? Would you like to share your perspective on the rural water sector  or your story as a rural water professional? We are inviting all RWSN Members to contribute to this 30th anniversary blog series. The best blogs will be selected for publication. Please see the blog guidelines here and contact us (ruralwater[at]skat.ch) for more information. You are also welcome to support RWSN’s work through our online donation facility. Thank you for your support.

Stop the rot: evidence and action for handpump quality

Currently, about half a billion people, in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), equivalent to half of the population, rely on protected and unprotected groundwater point sources for their main drinking water supplies. With the expected increases in rainfall variability due to climate change, sustainable groundwater sources will be evermore important in supporting resilience in the future.

Access to safe, reliable water supplies in low-income countries, particularly in rural areas has been improved through handpumps, which provide a viable alternative to contaminated surface water, open wells and unprotected springs.

Three new reports from the ‘Stop the Rot’ initiative published in March 2022 examine handpump reliance, rapid corrosion, the quality of handpump components and supply chains in SSA. The research looked specifically at the main public domain handpumps – the India Mark Pump, and the Afridev Pump, and also drew on learnings from the Zimbabwe Bush Pump.

Using the most recent data published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) through the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), the ‘Stop the Rot’ research estimates that almost 200 million people in SSA (18.5% of the total population) rely on handpumps to provide them with their main drinking water supply (Figure below). Further, an estimated 700,000 handpumps are in use in SSA. Meanwhile, 23% of the SSA population still rely on unsafe and distant water sources, of which many could benefit from a handpump. At least for a generation, if not much longer, handpumps are here to stay.

Estimated proportion of the total population relying on handpumps for their main drinking water supply

Despite their merits, criticism has been directed towards handpumps. Limited ability to transport large quantities of water, coupled with a lack of storage capacity at the home, means that water from handpumps is usually fetched on a daily basis. Handpumps have also made the headlines: in 2010, an estimated two out of three handpumps in SSA were working; a decade later it was estimated to have only improved to three out of four.  

A handpump breaks down for a specific technical reason (such as the breakage of the chain, an O-ring failing or corroded riser pipes), but its repair depends on the ability of the users, often a community, to raise funds, organise a mechanic and source spare parts. In turn, these depend on other factors within the locality and country, including the available services support mechanisms by governments, NGOs and the private sector. When water services fail, there are negative impacts on health and other human development gains, not to mention the burden on users of finding alternative sources. These may be distant, overcrowded, or contaminated.

A sizeable drop in handpump functionality in the first one to two years after installation is a common occurrence, and represents a premature technical failure. Something went wrong with the engineering – such as the borehole siting, design and/or construction, pump quality or installation, or the pump use – or there was vandalism or theft. Alternatively, the installation may have been rejected by the users from the outset due to its location, or the appearance or taste of the water.

The series of three ‘Stop the Rot’ publications draw attention to rapid handpump corrosion, whereby aggressive groundwater destroys the galvanising layer and so galvanised iron (or poor-quality stainless steel) riser pipes and pump rods essentially rot in the ground at a very fast rate (see Figures below). The term ‘aggressive’ refers to the ability of the groundwater to corrode, disintegrate and deteriorate materials it is in contact with, and includes, but is not limited to acidity is one type of pump.

This phenomenon has been known about since the 1980s. However, this new study finds evidence of rapid corrosion in in at least 20 SSA countries. A related problem is the quality of handpump components. The research draws attention to long supply chains from manufacture to installation, shows that component quality is not consistent and that there is limited guidance on quality assurance, and that in many cases, procedures are lacking.

The study proposes the establishment of an action group of key organisations involved in Rural Water Supplies in SSA, and handpumps in particular, to join hands and take a lead in tackling the challenge. Many actions are needed at international, national and local level. These including raising awareness of the extent that handpumps are used in SSA, which will continue into the future. There is need for sensitization regarding the ongoing rapid corrosion issue, and how it can be addressed alongside incentives for doing so. There is also the need to invest in updating handpump specifications, improving quality assurance mechanisms and strengthening procurement procedures and practice.

The full set of research reports can be downloaded in English and French. There is also a 20 minute presentation available here, and a recording of the RWSN webinar involving the presentation and discussions is available here.

This is a shortened version of a blog that was originally published by PLOS Latitude.

World Water Forum 9: “We need to act and now, because there is no green without blue and life is blue”

Short reflection by Maimouna Diop, a Senegalese Young Water Professional who chaired Session 2a4 “Rural Water Supply Management Models” at the World Water Forum 2022, on behalf of RWSN.

Maimouna Diop, Ing. MBA, PMP

This forum is definitely the most impactful ever. Dakar has been the capital of water for 6 days.

Young people have been mobilized around the world to show their commitments. We will live through difficult times in the coming decades: resources will become scarce, demography will experience an exponential rise and funding will be difficult to mobilize due to the global crisis we are already experiencing. The expected action is therefore human and it is now. We must be at the heart of politics by investing ourselves intellectually and physically.

Just a quick reminder : issues related to water control and food security in Senegal were discussed 39 years ago, during a session at the National Assembly on April 14, 1983, with the late Minister Samba Yela Diop (May his soul rest in peace). It simply means that water security is nothing new and that our elders knew how to sound the alarm at an early stage. We have to be as benevolent as our elders to identify new challenges to be met in the coming years.

Understanding the issues related to water will ensure that appropriate decisions can be made and for future generations.

We need to act and now, because there is no green without blue and life is blue.


Session Presentations:

3 ways to improve water security for climate resilience

1. More accurate and granular analysis of climate risk is needed to increase relevance of climate information
2. Metrics for monitoring climate resilience in water systems are critical to track progress and inform investments for water security
3. New institutional models that improve water security will be critical for climate resilience

Dr. Katrina Charles, REACH Co-Director

In case you missed it, last week REACH launched its new Water Security for Climate Resilience Report, synthesising six years of interdisciplinary research on climate resilience and water security in Africa and Asia. You can also read a summary of the full report with recommendations.

The REACH programme has been partnering with RWSN since 2015.

Water security and climate resilience are interlinked.

This may seem like a simple statement, but in reality it is a complex relationship. Water security and climate resilience are both about managing risks – from water-related issues and climate-related hazards, respectively – to achieve better outcomes for all sectors of society. There are intuitive relationships at large scales, but underlying them are complexities shaped by the environment, and our interactions with it.

Climate change headlines often focus on temperature increases. These changes will be significant and have severe impacts as highlighted by the heatwaves in recent weeks in North AmericaPakistan and India. These increases in temperature come with dramatic changes to our weather, in turn affecting the complex water systems that are essential to so much of our lives and our planet. Floods and droughts are the most visceral example of this impact, which also receive regular coverage on the news. But climate change is affecting water security for humans and ecosystems in many more subtle ways.

Climate change is impacting our drinking water supplies. There is a limit to how much capacity they have to absorb weather extremes, especially for smaller systems. Heavy rainfall is linked to many major waterborne outbreaks in developed countries. A major drought led to severe water rationing in Cape Town in 2018, nearly causing the city’s taps to run dry, known as Day Zero. The report highlights that for smaller water systems that people outside cities rely on the impact of weather is often less clear, but the evidence is that there is limited climate resilience.

Water quality varies with weather. Rainfall increases the mobility of faecal contamination, with different types of system more vulnerable to heavy rainfall, exposing the users to diseases such as typhoid. Without reliable water supplies, people use a range of water sources to meet their water needs year-round, trading off risks between reliable water supplies that might be saline or expensive, with seasonal but unsafe water sources. Climate change will increase weather extremes leading to increased contamination and less reliability.

Fresh water scarcity is increasing. Industrialisation and urbanisation are increasing both the demand for fresh water and its pollution, with toxic compounds that are difficult to remove. Climate change is amplifying these threats by reducing the availability of reliable water, increasing salinity, especially in coastal areas, and changing river flows that flush saline and polluted water. Reduced river flows from changing rainfall patterns will increase exposure to pollution for those who rely on river water for washing and bathing, and increase saline intrusion from the coast. Building resilience requires better management of fresh water resources to reduce the increasing contamination that is making water harder to treat.

Women using river water for washing in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Sonia Hoque
Women using river water for washing in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Sonia Hoque

To build the adaptive capacity of water systems to cope with changes in climate, climate information needs to be available to water managers at the appropriate spatial and temporal scale. Ensembles of global climate models provide useful information about global climate, but analysis is needed to identify the relevant climate models that best capture local climate. More investment is needed to provide the tools that water managers need to make informed decisions to increase climate resilience, such as accurate projections at local scales and seasonal forecasting based on understanding of local climate drivers. The information needed varies for different users, but is critical to build resilience for managers of small water systems, reservoirs, and basins.

The report synthesises six years of interdisciplinary research by the REACH team across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Collaborations in our Water Security Observatories have allowed us to understand how water security risks are experienced, how inequalities are created and reproduced with new policies, and how new tools and science can support better decision making. The report highlights the impact the REACH programme has achieved with funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), in partnership with UNICEF, for the benefit of millions of people. It concludes with three recommendations for to advance water security for climate resilience:

  1. More accurate and granular analysis of climate risk is needed to increase relevance of climate information
  2. Metrics for monitoring climate resilience in water systems are critical to track progress and inform investments for water security
  3. New institutional models that improve water security will be critical for climate resilience

Climate change will increasingly affect water availability and quality, with devastating consequences for the most vulnerable. Improving water security is critical to build resilience to the changing climate.

Stop the rot – action research on handpump quality in sub-Saharan Africa

Premature corrosion and failure of water supply hardware, particularly handpumps, is widespread in countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, but evidence is limited and largely anecdotal. If drillers are not assured of quality handpumps in country, how can they install pumps that provide water users with the services that they deserve? For the tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on handpumps to meet their daily water needs, handpump failures threaten their health and livelihoods. 

In cases where communities receive a handpump or components of substandard quality, parts may rapidly wear. If components of the wrong material or inadequate quality are installed in aggressive groundwater, the water supply may not function properly or can fail. Alternatively, the water may not be suitable for drinking. If the handpumps fails, or if water is turbid, discoloured, or has a metallic taste, users may return to using distant or unsafe water sources. If handpump components wear prematurely, communities can incur unnecessary costs in trying to fix the problem. 

A new initiative by Skat Foundation and Ask for Water GmbH under the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) strives to find ways to ensure that handpump technologies and spare parts that are installed for drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa are consistently of high quality and can last.

The initiative runs up to March 2022 and will:

  • Document the scale and extent of the problem of handpump corrosion and poor-quality components in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Understand the handpump supply chains for one country, analysing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Raise awareness of problems of handpump corrosion, poor-quality components alongside practical solutions for water users, drillers, governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and others.
  • Catalyse action through ongoing engagement of international organisations, national governments, research organisations and other stakeholders to catalyse actions to tackle the problem.

The initiative will examine corrosion (see box), quality assurance procedures and supply chains. It seeks to draw out successful or innovative ways of ensuring that users benefit good quality handpumps – consistently! If you would like to contribute to the initiative, especially by sharing your experiences and ideas, please contact Dr Kerstin Danert (ask @ ask-for-water.ch).

Box: Corrosion and handpump quality challenges

The twin challenges of how to ensure the quality of handpumps and how to prevent rapid corrosion of certain pump components have been discussed for over four decades. Corrosion of below-ground handpump components was documented in the 1980s. Research concluded that galvanisation of pump riser pipes and pump rods does not prevent corrosion where the pH < 6.5 and provides limited protection for pH 6.5 to 7. In light of this, programmes have switched riser pipes and pump rods to stainless steel or switched to uPVC riser pipes and stainless-steel pump rods, while some countries standardised on pumps which aims to be fully corrosion resistant by using a uPVC rising main and stainless steel, or fibre glass pump rods. Unfortunately, handpump corrosion problems and concerns over handpump component quality persist. The extent of the problem is not fully known because of relatively little research on this topic, coupled with a lack of information available in the public domain. 
This article first appeared in GeoDrilling International (March 2021)

My experience of the RWSN Mentoring Programme

This is a guest blog by Janvier Ngabo, a RWSN young professional enrolled in the 2020 RWSN Mentoring Programme.

My name is Janvier NGABO, from Rwanda. I currently work as a project officer in the department of natural resources management in the organization IPFG, working in southern province of Rwanda. My daily work is to help targeted communities in climate change adaptation and mitigation, focusing on natural resource management and their effective use, with a more emphasis on water and soil natural resources. I am a member of Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). 

The RWSN has the goodwill of organizing mentorship activities in their Mentorship Programme for young professionals, where experienced and skilled RWSN members engaged in helping young professionals in their careers, to help them increase their skills. For the occasion, at the starting of the year 2020, the RWSN organized such mentorship activities. I took advantage of the activity and so got engaged in, as a mentee. It was for the RWSN secretariat to find mentors for the engaged mentees, and for the occasion, I got a mentor, Mr. Nura Boru, experienced personnel in hydraulic engineering, Postgraduate programs, and Research Coordinator, in Haramaya Institute of Technology, Haramaya University, in Ethiopia.  I and my mentor agreed on the way to work and the agenda to follow during the whole working period, till the end of the 2020 year, as planned by the RWSN secretariat.

I and my mentor agreed to discuss on the following topics:

  • Sustainable water resources use;
  • Rainwater harvesting technologies in rural areas (focusing on roof rainwater harvesting technologies);
  • Risks & impact assessment on rainwater harvesting system, focusing on the impact of roof rainwater harvesting on the reduction of soil erosion.

Depending on the subject discussed, intense discussions were done, where most discussions were done through email where my mentor provided some reading that includes some research done as well as modules on the topics discussed. The email channel also served to provide works for more understanding. Skype discussions were done to evaluate the progress, but not frequently done because of the problems of networks on both sides.

From the mentorship activities, I gained more knowledge and improved on different topics in water resource management.

I understand more about the rationale of harvesting rainwater. I understood more the need for water especially in semi-arid zones, as well as some problems water can cause. For that instance, I got that there is a need worldwide, to manage that resource in need but that can cause various problems, to manage it and promote its use, essentially in agricultural production.

I improved on the way to conduct a baseline on the water need at the household and institutional level and the way of designing its storage tank. We used in our organization to recruit consultants if such studies were needed. But from this moment, I can conduct a kind of study in my organization without the recourse of consultants. Of course, I can do consultation work for the topics for other people and institutions in need!

We didn’t stop on roof rainwater harvesting part only; we tried to understand the rationale behind rainwater harvesting, and its contribution to the reduction of erosion, especially in my “country of thousands hills” (Rwanda), where the loss of soil through erosion is intense. By this topic, I started the short study regarding the contribution of roof rainwater harvesting on the reduction of erosion in my community. My mentor agreed to guide me in the continuation of such studies.

Photo: my mentor and me, discussing on Skype

We really appreciated the commitment of the RWSN members to help improving the communities and entire world in water management supply and use, while no one is left behind. That desire and commitment to help everyone who needs the support in the network and beyond it is a golden value from the Almighty God. In my career, I will be guided by it, and help any person who needs my support as I can, without envisaging anything in return.

I appreciated the mentorship activity and the way it was conducted. I learnt a lot and I continue to gain more knowledge in the RWSN. More thanks go to the RWSN and its secretariat, may the almighty God bless them. We wish this kind of training or mentorship to continue for other young professionals. We wish also the continuity of the relationship between mentors and mentees.  In our case, I (Mr. Janvier NGABO) and my mentor (Mr. Nura Boru) agreed to continue the interactions. Overall, from this program, we have gained different skills.

About the RWSN Mentoring Programme

For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, see here. RWSN thanks the Swiss Development Cooperation and World Vision for their support to the mentoring programme in 2020.

Tackling systemic inequalities in water and sanitation

This is a guest blog by Juste Nansi, Country Director for IRC Burkina Faso. It is is reposted with thanks from the IRC blog; you can find the original blog post here.

Systematic or systemic inequalities are grounded in our mindsets; in the way, we think, in the way we plan, in the way we see people, and in the way we interpret the rights to water and sanitation.

A lot has changed, practically all events have gone virtual over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Something positive though is, we have realised the exciting potential, built new skills, reached more audiences, and discovered that virtual is not all bad.  

At this year’s Annual Water and Health Conference: Science, Policy, and Practice hosted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Water Institute [October 26–30th], more than three thousand participants attended this registration free well-executed virtual conference. The 2020 conference was anchored by major panel conversations covering timely topics such as WASH response during the COVID-19 pandemic and Systemic Inequalities in WASH.   

Systemic Inequalities in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) 

The plenaries were an opportunity to explore critical themes emerging in 2020. While a lot of information was shared over the week, this reflection stems from one of the most challenging and interesting themes – Systemic Inequalities in WASH – at which I was one of the panellists. This plenary, just like all the others, was used to challenge us, to review the evidence to stimulate critical thinking and to try to look at our work in new ways so that we can learn and do better. Systemic inequalities in WASH gets to the heart of who we are as a sector and why we do what we do. Recognising that it is not all about water and sanitation for some, but for everyone.  

It happens that we are allowing either consciously or unconsciously for systemic inequality to get in the way of our achieving SDG6 and achieving the real impacts that we hope to have for the beneficiaries of our work.  

In his elaborate and eloquent introduction of the theme and discussion, Dr Aaron Salzberg from the 2020 UNC Water and Health Plenary Panel honestly said that he was somewhat afraid of the topic. He touched on several forms and examples of systemic inequalities, ranging from people in the south struggling at odd hours to find a place with good wi-fi to join the conference, the unequal treatment of people of colour within the United States, in particular black indigenous and Latino communities that have been ignored. The deeply rooted systemic practices that have led to the indiscriminate attacks on and the discriminatory treatment of communities of colour, the growing wage and wealth inequalities in the United States and across the globe. It is highly likely that even our children will not see gender parity in our lifetimes. At the current rate, and this was before COVID 19, it will take 257 years according to the World Economic Forum to close the economic gender gap deeply impacting communities of colour and low-income communities around the world. Countless others have had to die before Black Lives Matter, and that one in every 100 indigenous Americans has died…. Aaron’s list of inequalities was not exhaustive but clearly gives a true picture of what the reality has become… 

This is also true for the work that we do on water, by providing water and sanitation services to an informal settlement on the outskirts of a city we are allowing the government to skirt its fundamental responsibilities and continue its oppressive practices of not legally recognising marginalised communities. It may be easier for us to provide the services than to force governments to recognise the rights of these individuals and grant them land tenure access to capital and extend municipal services. Also, realising that we have let the SDGs define success and have invested in vanity metrics the number of people served rather than measures related to capacity and autonomy of communities.  

COVID-19 is a time of reawakening, a lot has changed, and this situation has reminded us of how fragile life is at a global scale and how ill-prepared we are to address the challenges that we will face in the 21st century, challenges like the spread of infectious diseases, climate change, food and water, and security, access to basic services and health care.  

Women fetching water in the Sahel

Now let’s look at the rural situation in Africa, that I am well familiar with as the IRC country director in Burkina Faso, leading the country programme as well as the regional African programme. 

Over the past decades, I have learnt more about who is left behind and who are not enjoying safely managed WASH services, what, how inequalities are shown, what are the root causes and what would be the solution. 

Most of the time many of us as practitioners in the developing world start working on inequalities with the assumption that the victims are a minority of the population. We used to think that when you talked about marginalisation, these were people living with disabilities, or people living in fragile states, but when we look at the figures of the Joint Monitoring Group [JMP] data of 2017, 73% of the population in sub-Saharan countries in Africa did not have access to safely managed water services and 82% did not have access to safely managed sanitation services – this is really the majority that is left behind from enjoying adequate public services. All these figures confirm the need to address this challenge. This is a noticeably big problem, an excessively big need that we need to address.  

Consciously or unconsciously somehow perpetuating this kind of discrimination 

One of the things that we all know is that many of these victims of inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa are living in rural areas. One of the things that I have noticed is that when we think for example about rural water, we all kind of systematically think about hand pumps and boreholes, while when we think as sector technicians about urban water, we instinctively think about tap water household connections. This way we are consciously or unconsciously somehow perpetuating this kind of discrimination while the data from the World Health Organization [WHO] confirms that handpumps can only deliver basic services and basic services are not enough for improving health. So how do we make the decision that rural people only deserve basic services, and improved services are meant only for those who are wealthy? How do we make the decision about blaming people for being poor? This is clearly just one example of how the systematic or systemic inequalities are grounded in our mindset, it drives a lot of what we do and see, in the way we think, in the way we plan, Etc. How we make assumptions about the types of service that rural people either should have or deserve. 

There is also the issue/bias around data collection, data analysis and then the fundamental assumptions that we make often at the very beginning of a scientific process that in many cases can lead to significant biases and outcomes. 

Listening very carefully and regularly to what people want in the WASH sector is not something we do naturally. This is reflected in the way that we design our questionnaires and surveys. It is about the questions we want to ask and the answers that people give. These are rarely open-ended questions that point to what people want, what their priorities are, for example about sanitation. 

A brief notable example of the work in our community in Banfora district in Burkina Faso is when we were doing data collection and surveys for designing the masterplan for WASH-related SDGs. Going back with the results to the community and they said: yeah, we already know our problems, but for once, you’re considering our expectations and vision in terms of service quality and not only how many handpumps we’re missing in our community as we use to hear from other partners. So, listening and creating space for people to share their knowledge and vision and not only to collect their problems from the lens of our predefined solutions.  

There is no single solution to dealing with inequalities 

The issue of any inequality must be tabled in a constructive manner and not be about pointing fingers at anybody. We need to acknowledge our mistakes and say what is going on despite our good intentions, what we are doing wrong so that we can improve. These issues should be discussed with the public authorities in the developing countries and their development partners.   

As organisations/people providing support to the government in developing countries, we also need to recognise the fundamental and critical responsibility that the public authorities have for addressing the issues of inequalities in a sustainable manner. There is no single solution from my experience that bypassed authorities mandated by their people for taking care of their community. 

Another crucial point is that we must rethink or reframe the usage of our performance indicators that help highlight inequalities rather than hiding them. In my experience, it happens a lot that we have good indicators, but the accuracy as compared to the actual percentages can tend to hide a lot of inequalities and finally, we need to be aware of the critical needs for strengthening country sub-national and national government systems. This is all about all the mechanisms in place for policymaking, institutional arrangements, planning, budgeting, financing, monitoring, accountability and learning and adaptation.  

It is the whole complex system that is actually perpetuating the inequalities and that needs to be strengthened, to be transformed in some cases, to make the change we are all pleading for. 

Watch the online plenary session – Addressing Systemic Inequalities in WaSH – It’s Me; Not You –

[https://waterandhealthconference.pathable.co/meetings/virtual/no2PrLySEKDhxTpfC]

Gratitude goes to Vera van der Grift for her support in making this happen, and Tettje van Daalen for proofreading.  Photo credits: IRC Burkina Faso

The rise or fall of the manual drilling sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This is a guest blog by RWSN Member Dr Cheikh Hamidou Kane. This article was originally published in GeoDrilling international and is reposted with thanks. You can read the original article here.

Despite the fact that 50% of Africa’s water fresh water resources are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese, especially in rural areas, have great difficulty ensuring their drinking water supplies. The very limited progress made in supplying safe drinking water to the population has meant that innovative and affordable solutions, coupled with substantial funding, have been sought.

As a result, in 2009, the DRC government adopted launched an initiative under the National School and Sanitation Village Program (PNEVA) to promote manual drilling as a low-cost water access technology. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Rural Development, in collaboration with UNICEF, set out to develop the skills of the private sector and NGOs on manual drilling techniques.

In the first, introductory phase from 2009 to 2012, NGOs were trained, but were not always fully equipped with the necessary skills or drilling equipment to consistently produce quality works that would be sustainable.

Faced with this situation, between 2013 and 2015, UNICEF requested technical support from the Chadian Association for the Promotion of Enterprises Specialized in Low Cost Drilling (ATPESFORC). They set out to help improve the quality of manual drilling in the DRC through the introduction of new drilling equipment of better quality (water jetting) that can be manufactured in the country. During this period, stakeholders in the sector acquired new skills enabling them to build sustainable structures that surpassed the usual drilling record of 27m to reach a depth of 42m thanks to: (i) the use of the new technology (ii) the establishment of national norms and standards for manual drilling including a technical note for water quality testing and (iii) training in administrative, financial and bidding management techniques.

The third phase of the introduction and professionalization of manual drilling in the DRC took place between 2015 and 2019 and focused mainly on the establishment of the national federation of drillers, the identification of areas favourable to manual drilling technologies and the establishment of a national database of water points. During this period and for the first time in the history of the DRC, the supervision of fieldwork was confined to specialized control offices rather than to government agents.

After a decade of learning, adaptation and promotion by UNICEF and its partners, manual drilling technology is now well known in DRC and remains one of the few low-cost technical options adapted to the logistical constraints of the country to improve access to safe drinking water supply in scattered and hard-to-reach rural communities.

Alas the UK Government financial support for PNEVA, through which this manual drilling initiative was implemented, ended in 2019. At present, uncertainties about funding for the manual drilling sector, low household income in rural areas, and the current donor trend to focus investments in urban and peri-urban areas make it difficult to guarantee the continuation of the program on the same scale after 2020. It is also to be feared that the decrease in financing for marginalized areas not considered in village water policies could significantly inhibit safe drinking water access. Such populations are in danger of being left behind. 

The manual drilling sector in the DRC is at a turning point. It could either become widespread, or fail by losing the gains obtained through the PNEVA.  The debate is posed and some elements of response have been developed in a publication through the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN): https://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/930

Dr. Cheikh Hamidou Kane, a native of Senegal, is a Lecturer-Researcher at the University of Thies. He also works as an international consultant and was the UNICEF hydrogeologist overseeing the DRC manual drilling efforts from August 2016 to September 2020.

My experience of the RWSN Mentoring Programme

This is a guest blog by Byamukama Arinaitwe, a young professional enrolled as a mentee in the RWSN Mentoring Programme.

My name is Byamukama Arinaitwe, a recent civil engineering graduate from Uganda. In September 2019, I started out in my career working with Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme as a Civil Engineer. The programme champions WASH interventions in South-Western Uganda, with its water supply interventions ranging from point water sources like protected springs to piped water systems like gravity water flow systems. It is an exciting field to practice in because it directly impacts the quality of people’s lives.

The desire to grow my knowledge and skill in the WASH sector led me to the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) mentoring programme. When I applied to join the mentoring programme, I didn’t have specific outlined expectations on what benefits would come from being part of the programme. I mostly looked forward to being matched with a mentor, a senior to me in all ways from whom I would learn a lot. I was matched with Engineer Oria-Usifo Ehi Ekiado. He is a Nigerian professional with a vast experience in managing water resources and also doubles as an academic with the University of Benin. He also has a stellar research portfolio of published journal articles and conference papers.

The RWSN mentoring programme has benefited me almost invariably at every turn. To begin with, the application process. When applying for mentoring, mentees were asked to write a one page essay explaining why they wanted to be mentored and then came the filling of the mentoring agreement. The agreement had a part of skills a mentee wanted to improve throughout the duration of the mentoring relationship. I don’t know of a time in my life when I did so much introspection to find out which skills I was confident about and those I wanted to improve but I was certainly sure of the skills I wanted to acquire. This whole process made me more self-aware and helped me learn a bit more about myself in regard to my abilities, hopes and ambitions.

Since March 2020, my mentor and I have held online discussions by both e-mail, video calls via Zoom, WhatsApp as well as text. Our interactions have to date been guided by an agenda prepared for a given meeting. He gives me assignments based on the list of activities that was included in the mentorship agreement at the start of the programme. This list has activities based on the skills I desire to improve as well as acquire throughout this mentoring period and they are broken down according to the months of the year.

pic2

A video call interaction between my mentor and me.

The benefits of being mentored so far are quite invaluable and innumerable to me, both directly and indirectly.

In my career/at the workplace, this mentoring has enhanced my ability to address problems as well as coming up with solutions through sharing the challenges with my mentor. My mentor guides me on how to come up with viable solutions to the problems. Case in point was improving the safety and quality of water used in beneficiary households through enhancing behavioral change.

I have also learnt how to communicate effectively the changes or solutions I think could significantly solve some of the challenges encountered in the workplace. I am currently working on a PowerPoint presentation on how my organization can use PRINCE 2 (a project management methodology) for which I am a certified practitioner, to run our projects better. In the near future I also intend to write some papers that could influence change in my workplace and also propel me professionally.

Through this mentoring programme, I have also learnt to be intentional in choosing and prioritizing activities or programs that I think may add value to me professionally. My mentor’s input in my decisions has and continues to clear my judgment and decision making ability. This has come to play in choosing some desired certifications over others because of the varying benefits each add as opposed to random choice.

Through the mentoring programme, my mentor continuously recommends resources like books and webinars that have enriched my knowledge and understanding of different facets of engineering.

The RWSN mentoring programme has so far been a learning curve for me and I look forward to continuously learn.

For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, see here. RWSN thanks the Swiss Development Cooperation and World Vision for their support to the programme. 

 

 

 

Ugandan drillers receive training at the Water Resources Institute

Being back in Uganda again after an absence of five years gives me immense joy. This country of warmth, friendliness and humour, where one can literally have an engaging conversation with anyone, whether askari (guard), taxi driver, fruit and vegetable seller, driller or civil servant. Thus, my few days here have been filled with shared laughter and kaboozi (Luganda for conversation or gossip, but the word conveys so much more).

My visit to Kampala has coincided with the first day of a three-day training entitled “Practical Skills in Drilling” by Uganda’s Water Resources Institute. The training is for 25 drillers and assistant drillers, and comprises a classroom day, followed by two days in the field. As we sit waiting for the training to commence, I ask the participants (all men so far) why there are no women drillers. We talk about the man’s world of drilling (stamina needed), and the women’s world of fetching water (stamina needed). The discussion is engaging and together we reflect on the role of women and men in society and the home. For my side I feel proud to be one of the few women involved in drilling and talk about the two manual companies that I have heard about in Zambia which are run by women. On the spot, I really wish that there were many more of us….

The training commences. The course is a collaboration between the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) Water Resources Institute (WRI) and the Uganda Drilling Contractors Association (UDCA). The Chair of the Association, Dr Flavio Pasqualato from Draco (U) Ltd., gives a his opening words of encouragement, followed by the Managing Director, Anthony Luutu of Aquatech Ltd. I am invited to say a few words, and express my delight at seeing training of drillers that I wish was happening on a regular basis in ALL countries on the African continent and beyond.

Training 1

Gracious Sembali systematically collects the expectations of the participants

Dr Callist Tindimugaya (MWE) officially opens the training, pointing out that when people are learning informally from each other, that the message will change over time. I think of the game of Chinese whispers and vow to include it as an icebreaker at the start of my next drilling training course make his point. Callist also adds that “Nobody has all the knowledge; you can learn from each other”, something that is key in adult education.

Training 2

Dr Callist Tindimugaya explains the hydrogeology of Uganda to participants

Trying to raise drilling professionalism is a significant undertaking, and I am struck by the pragmatic messages that Callist conveys to all of us. “If you and your colleagues are doing a good job, you will raise the respect for drillers in Uganda…..we want drillers to be seen as serious and doing good quality work”.

It is clear that the training that the institute has been undertaking has had an effect on training methods. Gracious Sembali from Hippo Technical Services systematically collects the expectations of the participants, and writes them up on a flip chart, carefully grouping them:

  1. Improve knowledge and skills (e.g. when to stop drilling, mud drilling techniques, formation collapse, drilling in sediments)
  2. Standardisation in drilling
  3. Knowledge of different formations
  4. Certification as a driller by UCDA
  5. Knowledge-sharing including experiences
  6. Hydrological aspects and siting
  7. Handling of clients and public relations
  8. Availability of geological maps
  9. Expectations of facilitators
  10. Benefits of UCDA membership and recognition

As I listen, I am struck by the number of issues that are beyond the training course itself, something I have also observed in the course I have run, or managed. The specific skills sought and wider concerns are intertwined.

Alas, I am only able to attend the first presentation, an overview of Uganda’s geology and hydrogeology. I learn a lot, and observe the participants taking notes, and later asking questions. There is so much to be learnt, and the eagerness of these drillers and assistant drillers is apparent. I am delighted at what I see, encouraged, and then start thinking about the number of drillers on the African continent, and that this is needed for all. I try not to get disheartened. There are national training institutes undertaking short courses like these, or longer courses in Nigeria and Ethiopia. In some countries, people are more than aware of the need, and the demand, but are looking left and right for funding, without success. I am glad to have run similar courses, but am so aware that to date these have been ad hoc.

So my closing words? A huge thank you to the Ministry of Water and Environment’s Water Resources Institute and the Uganda Drilling Contractors Association (UCDA) for what you are doing. It is inspirational.

Now, how can training in drilling professionalism be institutionalised elsewhere?

Photo credits: Dr Kerstin Danert.