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.

Corrosion de la pompe à main et qualité des matériaux : Un défi pour le Burkina Faso et le reste du monde

Au Burkina Faso, le nombre élevé de forages équipés d’une pompe à motricité humaine (PMH) qui dysfonctionnent ou qui nécessitent de grosses réparations quelques années seulement après leur construction est alarmant. Les audits techniques effectués en 2013 et 2014 au Burkina Faso sur des forages équipés de PMH ont révélé des situations préoccupantes en termes de qualité de l’eau, de matériel inadapté aux profondeurs des puits et de pompes non-conformes. Dans plus d’un tiers des cas, les forages équipés de PMH dysfonctionnent ou deviennent même totalement inutilisables en moins de quelques années. Entre 0.6 milliards de FCFA (0.9 million d’€) et 2.9 milliards de FCFA (4,5 millions d’€) d’investissements annuels seraient ainsi perdus du fait de l’installation de PMH de qualité médiocre et de diverses malfaçons lors des travaux de construction. Chaque année, plus de 130 000 personnes bénéficient d’un service d’approvisionnement en eau dont la pérennité n’est de ce fait pas assurée au-delà des premières années.

La corrosion des PMH est un phénomène connu depuis plus de 30 ans ; elle demeure pourtant un problème majeur au Burkina Faso car les gouvernements successifs et les agences d’aide au développement ont continué d’installer des pompes fabriquées à partir de matériaux inadaptés. Ces pratiques ont généré des coûts d’entretien élevés, de multiples pannes et le rejet de nombreux points d’eau par les communautés car l’eau y était de mauvaise qualité. La corrosion des PMH est un problème mondial majeur, dont le secteur EAH ne s’est jusqu’à présent toujours pas saisi à sa juste mesure, et qui risque d’empêcher la réalisation de l’Objectif du Développement Durable n°6 au Burkina Faso comme dans d’autres pays. Sur les forums de discussion en ligne du Réseau pour l’Approvisionnement Rural en Eau (RWSN), les experts internationaux font notamment remonter comme principales préoccupations à ce sujet : des matériaux et des pièces composantes de qualité inadaptée, un manque de contrôle qualité, des prix anormalement bas, et des pratiques d’achat et de commande problématiques.

Une enquête sur la qualité des composants des pompes manuelles au Burkina Faso a été lancé début 2017. Des échantillons de la conduite principale montante et de la tige de la pompe ont été achetés auprès de fournisseurs à Ouagadougou, et d’autres échantillons provenaient de pompes en service ou abandonnées. Tous les échantillons ont été testés pour leur composition chimique. En 2019 des tests de composition chimique ont été réalisés sur l’ensemble de ces échantillons. L’analyse des résultats de ces tests révèle que : cinq des six colonnes d’exhaure et deux des quatre tringles ne sont pas conformes aux normes internationales de composition de l’acier inoxydable du grade indiqué. La faible teneur en nickel de ces échantillons signifie notamment que les pièces analysées ont en réalité une résistance à la corrosion moindre que celle qu’elles devraient avoir si elles étaient effectivement du grade indiqué.

Les 13 pièces composantes qui ont été testées dans le cadre de cette étude forment un trop petit échantillon pour s’avérer statistiquement représentatives de la situation du Burkina Faso dans son ensemble.  Cet échantillon corrobore toutefois les inquiétudes du Gouvernement et des foreurs. Il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas avec certains composants disponibles sur le marché, malgré le fait qu’ils soient vendus comme étant de l’acier inoxydable. L’ampleur du problème reste inconnue à ce stade au Burkina Faso ou dans d’autres pays. Comme le montre ce rapport publié par la Fondation Skat, le constat est celui d’un échec du « marché » à fournir systématiquement des matériaux de haute qualité. Afin de rectifier cette situation, il est nécessaire de trouver des solutions à la fois au sein des pays d’importation, comme le Burkina Faso, et au niveau international.

Cette étude rapide a révélé pour le Burkina Faso et au-delà une série d’enjeux interconnectés:

  1. Il est nécessaire de poursuivre les recherches sur l’utilisation des pièces composantes en acier inoxydable afin d’éviter la corrosion des pièces de PMH immergées dans des eaux souterraines agressives.
  2. La norme indienne pour les modèles India Mark II et III comprend quelques erreurs, et aucune option n’est proposée pour les cas d’eaux souterraines agressives. Les normes internationales (notamment celles publiées par SKAT/ Le Réseau pour l’Approvisionnmenet Rural en Eau-RWSN) portant sur les matériaux des pièces de PMH adaptés aux eaux souterraines agressives pourraient être améliorées.
  3. De nombreuses entreprises en Inde vendent des PMH et des pièces de modèles India Mark II et III. Les prix de vente pratiqués par certaines de ces entreprises sont si bas qu’il semble impossible que la qualité de ces pompes et pièces soit conforme aux normes internationales.
  4. Il n’existe aucun organisme international chargé de contrôler systématiquement la qualité des matériaux de PMH, et le rôle et l’activité du Bureau de Normalisation International à ce sujet ne sont pas clairs ni évidents.
  5. Lorsque les PMH sont achetées dans le pays où elles doivent être installées, la longue chaîne d’approvisionnement (souvent anonyme de surcroît du fait de la multiplicité des intermédiaires) fait qu’il n’existe pas ou peu de lien entre les fabricants (situés majoritairement en Inde) et les installateurs des PMH en question. De plus, l’absence de compilation systématique des problèmes rencontrés préalablement signifie que les agences, les entreprises et les ménages s’engagent dans l’installation de PMH sans saisir l’ampleur de ces soucis de qualité et ne s’en rendent compte que trop tard.
  6. De nombreuses PMH utilisées en Afrique sont importées d’Inde (et visiblement du Nigéria également), donc les efforts menés pour résoudre cet enjeu de garantie de qualité doivent absolument inclure l’Inde ainsi que plusieurs pays africains.
  7. L’intérêt des financeurs pour l’équipement des PMH est probablement actuellement au plus bas depuis 30 ans, il s’avère donc très difficile de mobiliser à grande échelle pour développer un processus de certification internationale ou financer davantage de recherches à ce sujet. Une telle initiative nécessiterait d’une part des investissements supplémentaires et d’autre part des engagements de long terme de la part des principales agences et des gouvernements qui financent et mettent en œuvre des programmes d’installation et d’entretien de PMH.

Nous espérons que cette courte étude attirera l’attention des gouvernements, des organismes de recherche et des agences internationales d’aide au développement et les incitera à travailler sur la résolution des problèmes pressants que sont la corrosion et la mauvaise qualité des pièces composantes des PMH. Si rien n’est fait la communauté mondiale de l’approvisionnement en eau, par négligence ou désintérêt, prive de fait les populations rurales du Burkina Faso et d’ailleurs des bénéfices d’un approvisionnement en eau élémentaire et fiable.

L’étude complète peut être téléchargée ici : Qualité et corrosion des pièces composantes des Pompes à Motricité Humaine au Burkina Faso et au-delà (anglais et français)

Crédit photo: Colonnes montantes corrodées photographiées au Burkina Faso dans le cadre de l’audit d’équipements d’approvisionnement en eau in situ. (Kerstin Danert)

 

 

Handpump corrosion and material quality: A challenge for Burkina Faso and globally

In Burkina Faso, concerns have been raised regarding the high number of handpump boreholes that have failed, or need to be rehabilitated within a relatively short time of their initial construction. Physical audits of handpump boreholes in 2013 and 2014 raise concerns over water quality, inappropriate handpump for deep water and non-conformant pumps. In more than one third of cases, the handpump boreholes will function poorly, or cease to function completely within a few years. It is estimated that investments of between FCFA 0.6 billion (€0.9 million) and FCFA 2.9 billion (€4.5 million) per year are lost due to the installation of poor quality handpumps and other aspects of the construction. In one year, over 130,000 people were provided a water supply service that is likely to break down within a few years.

Despite knowledge of handpump corrosion for over 30 years, it remains a problem in Burkina Faso, as governments and aid agencies have continued to install pumps manufactured with unsuitable materials, leading to high maintenance costs, pump failure and rejection of water sources due to poor water quality. Handpump corrosion is a major global problem which the WASH sector has so far, systemically failed to address, and which will impede the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Concerns cited by experts from a range of countries on the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) online discussion platforms include the following: inadequate quality of materials and components, lack of quality control, unrealistic (low) prices and problematic purchasing practices.

A renewed call to investigate the quality of handpump components in Burkina Faso was raised in early 2017. Samples of the rising main and pump rod were purchased from suppliers in Ouagadougou, and additional samples were from pumps in use or abandoned. All samples were tested for their chemical composition. Analysis showed that of the samples, five of six riser pipes, and two of four pump rods did not conform to international standards for the composition of stainless steel of the specified grade. In particular, the low nickel content means that the components have less corrosion resistance than they would if they were of the specified grade.

The small sample size of 13 components tested in this study is not a statistically representative of the situation in Burkina Faso as a whole but it verifies concerns raised by the Government and drillers themselves. Something is not right with some components available on the market, despite the fact that they are being sold as stainless steel. What we do not know is the extent of the problem, in Burkina Faso, or other countries. What is being witnessed, as documented in the new study published by Skat Foundation, is a failure of “the market” to guarantee high quality materials. Addressing this failure requires solutions from within importing countries, such as Burkina Faso, but also internationally.

This short study has shed light on a number of interconnected issues for Burkina Faso and beyond including:

  1. There is no international body systematically controlling handpump material quality.
  2. The need for further research on the use of stainless steel components to prevent the corrosion in aggressive groundwater is needed.
  3. Many of the handpumps used in Africa are imported from India (and apparently Nigeria too). There is often no connection between manufacture (primarily in India) and installation of the pump (in African countries). Agencies, companies or households installing handpumps are not aware of the extent, and scale of quality problems until it is too late.
  4. Donor interest in handpump hardware is arguably at its lowest in 30 years, and so galvanising interest to develop an international certification process or fund research is extremely difficult. Such an initiative would require not only investment, but also long-term commitment from the large agencies and governments that fund and implement programmes installing handpumps and their maintenance.

It is hoped that this short study will trigger interest by governments, and by research organisations, and international development agencies to explore ways to solve the problems of corrosion and poor quality handpump components. If this is not done, by inadvertent neglect, the global water supply community is arguably preventing rural populations in Burkina Faso and beyond from the benefits of a reliable, basic drinking water supply.

The full study is available for download here: Concerns about corrosion and the quality of handpump components in Burkina Faso and beyond (English and French).

Photo credit: Corroded rising mains being photographed as part of a physical audit of water facilitiesin Burkina Faso (Kerstin Danert).

 

My experience at the World Water Week Conference: Water for Society Including all

This is a guest blog by Benson Kandeh, winner of the RWSN@WWW competition for young professionals.. For more information on RWSN’s activities for Young professionals, see here.

My name is Benson Kandeh and I am a young water professional from Sierra Leone. I work on providing water supply for rural communities in my country through the EMAS technologies and by training technicians to enable self-supply by and for communities. You can find out more about my organisation here and my work here.

This year, I won a competition for young professionals organized by RWSN to attend World Water Week in Stockholm. Getting to Stockholm from Sierra Leone was a challenge: I had to apply for a visa to Sweden in Nigeria, where I had to stay over two weeks waiting for the outcome of the visa process. My visa was initially denied by the Swedish authorities and later approved thanks to an appeal from the RWSN Secretariat. I got the news that my visa has been appealed on Monday 19th August, and two days later, on Wednesday I was on a plane to Abuja to collect my visa and fly out to Stockholm the next day. It has been a whirlwind and quite an adventure for me!

This year’s World Water Week conference was held from August 25-30, 2019 and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) with over 3,300 people from 130 countries – including Sierra Leone. The 6-day programme consisted 270 sessions with the Theme: Water for society – including all”. Two of the highlights of the event were the Stockholm Water Prize ceremony, and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition honouring outstanding young people between the age of 15 and 20 who have made an innovation in the water sector. 23 countries were represented this year in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition but only Nigeria and South Africa represented Africa as a whole. I was fortunate to meet with the Stockholm Water Prize winner, Dr Jackie King during the conference.

JackieKing

Meeting Dr Jackie King, winner of the 2019 Stockholm Water Prize

The conference gathered many experts, practitioners, decision-makers, business innovators and young professionals from a range of sectors and countries. It featured many interesting sessions, of which I was fortunate to attend the following, and learn and interact with many water professionals:

  1. Shared and Public Toilets: Equitable access everywhere
  2. Joined-Up thinking: Sanitation in the Broader context of slum improvement
  3. From success to scale: improving rain fed agriculture in Africa
  4. Entrepreneurship driving water impact for all (3/3)
  5. Water and Sanitation solutions for the people left behind
  6. Remote WASH: Quality and Lasting services for rural communities
  7. Entrepreneurial model for rural, domestic water for all
  8. Sanitation for Society, including for all (1/3)
  9. Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People, where I served as a panelist

Here are some of my highlights of World Water Week:

Shared and Public Toilets: Equitable access everywhere

This session was very important especially for organizations and individuals that have interests in rural communities for water and sanitation. The presenter was able to clearly outline the shared sanitation model as it is important when considering household access as well as access outside the home. Toilet/latrine access is a challenge in the African region especially in institutions (schools, religious buildings, medical or other institutions). However, with this model, it can reduce the disparity greatly as it considers students, workers and anyone who lives outside their home.

According to the presenter, the quality of these services is often poor, because of limited monitoring standards, and the funding needed for such work is inadequate. The presenter made it very clear that shared sanitation is not just a service needed at one’s home but people need to access safely managed sanitation facilities, while they are away from home, whether at school, work, a market, or anywhere else they might go.

A pitching competition for 9 young water professionals

Thanks to the Water Youth Network for organizing an interesting and educative short pitching competition among nine young people, who work in the water sector.  In fact, the group work was so amazing after the problems were presented to participants with the aim to discuss and offer solutions on how to make sure that water supply projects use an entrepreneurial approach to overcome inclusion challenge. We also talked about the difference between water accessibility and use.

Presentation4

My pitch at the Water Youth Network event

Key projects highlighted during the discussion were mini-grid piped water schemes in Bangladesh, scalable water services in Uganda and a Football for Water project in Kenya (Aqua for All), all reaching rural, poor, underserved households. During the various young water professionals’ presentations, I was able to learn about the impacts colleagues are making in their various countries to improve access to water and sanitation.

Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People – the Last Mile

This was one of the most important sessions for me during World Water Week in Skockholm. I served as a panelist, representing the rural communities among other personalities from the WASH sector with the topic: “Safely Managed Drinking Water Services for Rural People”.

Benson4.png

Speaking as a panelist with Clarissa Brocklehurst (Water Institute at UNC) and Peter Harvey (UNICEF)

I shared my experience using the EMAS technologies in the Sierra Leone context. The EMAS technology is a self-supply concept that entails local public or private initiatives by individuals, households or community groups to improve their own WASH supplies, without waiting for help from governments or non-government organizations. Self-supply is more about self-sustained initiative, rather than donor subsidies or external support. It empowers individuals and communities to gradually improve their WASH supplies at their own pace with regard to technical and financial capacities. Once the basic services are available, families make their own decisions on how to improve those services based on affordability and technical capacities at local level.

The most interesting part about this session was the mixed backgrounds of the presenters (knowledge, skills, cultures, etc.). All were centered on the water crisis and solutions with an emphasis on sustainability, affordability and accessibility for everyone everywhere.

Finally, the different presentations were able to examine the various technologies and hand-pump types that are utilized in various countries and provided evidences for technology options that can yield much for ease of maintenance, accessibility and sustainability.

Conclusion

Participating in World Water Week has been a great opportunity for me to present my work, make contacts, and contribute my perspective as a young professional from Sierra Leone. I am looking forward to staying in touch with some of the people I met during World Water Week, and hopefully this will help me on my mission to provide safe water in rural communities in my country.

Since coming home I have created my own group for young water professionals in Sierra Leone. I am trying to connect with other young professionals in Sierra Leone, to see how we can come together and contribute to the water sector. Any young professional interested in water in Sierra Leone is welcome to join here. I believe we can do a lot!

2019-08-25 09.23.30 Benson and Kenneth

Meeting with RWSN Young Professional Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado from Costa Rica

Rural water supply is changing. Be part of it.

The Rural Water Supply International Directory that is available to download from today aims to track the organizations and businesses fostering this change.

by Philip T. Deal, University of Oklahoma, USA

The Sustainable Development Goals are pushing the water and sanitation community to reach higher than ever before. After decades of fighting for the human right to water, universal coverage is the next, challenging summit to climb. “Access to an improved source” has been upgraded to “safely managed drinking water” – a standard that requires continuous service, good water quality, increasing coverage, and affordability. Considering that rural infrastructure often lags behind when compared with urban environments, accomplishing this standard can sometimes feel more like a cliff than a mountain. For these reasons, rural water supply requires new ideas – experimentation – innovation.

The 2019 RWSN directory of rural water supply services

The The 2019 RWSN directory of rural water supply services, tariffs, management models and lifecycle costs that is available to download (and in French) from today aims to track the organizations and businesses fostering this change. These entities are the catalysts to novel service delivery and management models. Some offer minor changes to technology or accountability mechanisms that increase functionality. Some create new financing opportunities that were not previously accessible. Some create a complex management system to maintain water systems over large geographical areas. Some could potentially fail. All are valuable.

The cases described in the Directory are meant to foster growth, learning, and inspiration. The successes, challenges, and failures depicted by one organization could spark a solution for another across the continent. Financing and life cycle cost discussions could become more transparent, uniform, and clear across borders. Networking opportunities and connections become easier – there may even be a neighboring WASH partner nearby that fits your needs!

This new Directory is intended to be an annual compilation. Current cases can be updated with new developments and research. Other innovations and businesses can be added. If a future reader thinks some other information should be included, there’s potential for expansion. We are open to your input.

Questions to Consider

When reviewing the cases within this directory, I would encourage any reader to think on the following questions:

  • What are some common management traits that you observe? What is similar or different when compared to traditional water and sanitation models?
  • What are the most striking innovations that can be observed?
  • What role does each case hold in their water and sanitation ecosystem? What are their responsibilities, and for what are they dependent upon others?
  • Which cases seem more conducive to scaling up?
  • What life cycle costs do various organizations consider their responsibility? What costs should realistically be expected to be covered by tariffs?
  • How would an organization react if international or support funding were reduced or lost? What would be the ramifications to the customers or beneficiaries?
  • What monitoring schemes seem to be effective in maintaining quality water services?
  • What information or data would you be interested in evaluating for these programs?

Bio – Philip T. Deal

At the end of 2015, I began my doctoral research on service delivery models at the University of Oklahoma. My first significant reference was, “Supporting Rural Water Supply”, by Lockwood and Smits (2011), which has often guided my thought process. Understanding how various management models can improve, disrupt, or maintain the status quo for water service has become a focus of my efforts. I want to know if each case is really sustainable, if there is measurable impact, and if equity is truly equal when applying these models.

Since I began, I have had the opportunity to investigate these types of questions in partnership with Water4 and Access Development in Ghana. You may notice this case was not yet included in the directory. This is because I have wanted to give excellent, data supported answers before I do. The team involved has been working diligently to measure and evaluate the level of service provided, the associated life cycle costs, and the effectiveness or their company. Keep an eye out in the next year for these results in multiple studies.

I would encourage all who would like to be a part of the directory in the future to do similar investigations. Challenge your assumptions and dig into the details. Determine what is working and what should be changed. Put resources into evaluating your organization. Then, be honest about it. It is not an easy or glorious task, but it keeps us accountable.

If you do not know where to start – RWSN is a great place to begin. Connect with experts, practitioners, and researchers that can provide excellent guidance. Sean Furey reached out for help on the Directory project in the fall of 2018 through a Dgroup discussion. Since agreeing to participate, I have had the opportunity to grow my knowledge base and network.  We hope this directory will offer the same opportunity to innovative and budding organizations across the world.

And the winner is… or the tale of how difficult it is for a young professional from Sierra Leone to attend World Water Week

We were very happy to announce Benson Kandeh’s nomination as the winner of the RWSN@WWW competition last month. However, we unfortunately received the news that Benson will be unable to attend the SIWI World Water Week conference, as he was denied a visa to travel to Sweden. This is a huge disappointment to him and to us.

We thought we should take this opportunity to highlight the hurdles that Benson, and other young professionals like him, have to overcome to attempt to attend a conference in Europe or North America. As development professionals, we should aim to cater and build capacity in-country in the water sector, and especially for young professionals. Conferences, workshops and training courses are crucial for building professionalism. Benson’s story highlights how difficult it is for a young professional from a fragile country, such as Sierra Leone, to attend the most important annual global conference in the water sector in development.

The issue is not only to do with the fact that he was not granted a visa – the difficulties for him to obtain this visa in the first place were prohibitively expensive and time consuming. The only place for Sierra Leone nationals to apply for a visa to Sweden are Nigeria and Morocco – and they have to apply in person. Benson had to travel more than 2,000 kilometres from Freetown to Lagos, and put his life on hold while waiting for a decision on his visa in a foreign country for almost two weeks. Admiringly, Benson managed to make the most of his trip by working on improving an unprotected well in the community where he was staying in Lagos.

The problem is not limited to the water sector: African academics and development professionals face arbitrary decision-making by immigration authorities. In the UK, the Royal African Society has compiled a number of disturbing findings about the barriers faced by African professionals. However, as development professionals, we have an obligation to ensure that we are building capacity in developing countries. This is why we are proud to have organised the RWSN Forum in low- and middle-incomes countries since its first handpump technology workshop in Kenya in 1992 and most recently in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016.

In the face of increasingly toxic political discourse on immigration, it is incumbent on all of us not to turn a blind eye, but communicate the benefits of international and intercultural exchange and cooperation and put pressure on over-zealous immigration authorities. In parallel, international development events should be organised where they are most needed and most accessible, to allow more water professionals like Benson to participate in international development conferences.

UPDATE! (from the RWSN Secretariat): We lodged an appeal against the decision to deny Benson his visa with the Swedish migration authorities. The Swedish embassy in Abuja overturned the ruling based on our appeal on 16th August, and this decision was upheld by the Swedish court. Benson should therefore be able to get his visa and attend World Water Week – so watch this space for updates from our winner!

The rise of the off-grid city?

Adrian Healy reports on the findings of research undertaken in Lagos on the proliferation of domestic boreholes. This article was originally published in GeoDrilling International, and can be read here.

The conventional model of urban development focuses on centralised water service provision, where the state ensures a supply of water through storage and treatment plants and a grid of interconnected pipelines. Yet in many of our fastest growing cities, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia, this model is being turned on its head. Here, households, and business users, are increasingly turning to an ‘off-grid’ model, where they take responsibility for their own water supply. Nowhere is this more true than in the thriving megalopolis of Lagos in Nigeria, which serves as an example to practitioners around the world.

The public supply of water is estimated to reach no more than one in ten households living in Lagos State and, with a rapidly rising population, that proportion is changing every day. Despite their best efforts, the city authorities struggle to keep up with the pace of change, hampered further by an ageing infrastructure. In the absence of a reliable and convenient supply of water, it is perhaps little wonder that those who are able to secure their own water supplies do so. The result is a proliferation of domestic boreholes, as households seek to tap the accessible groundwater reserves beneath their feet. Whilst the actual number of domestic boreholes is unknown the possible numbers are staggering. Lagos State Water Corporation suggests that there may be anything up to 200,000 such boreholes in the State. Separately, a 2017 survey of 539 households living in Lagos State found that 51% reported owning their own borehole, with a further 36% reported that they shared a private borehole with other families[1].

The rise in the numbers of domestic boreholes is typically explained as a failure of the government to supply water to households. The public network often does not reach new housing developments and, where it does reach, failures of supply are commonplace. What is less often remarked on is the role played by a thriving drilling industry, fuelled by innovation and new entrants. Certainly, the development of new technologies, often imported from the oil industry or from abroad, has played a major role in driving the establishment of the borehole-drilling industry in Lagos. As costs of entry have fallen, increasing numbers of new companies have started up, offering cheap construction methods which are affordable by more and more households. Together, these factors are driving the evolution of a city that relies on off-grid water infrastructures.

This rise of the off-grid city has, in many ways, enabled the continuous expansion of Lagos as a major economic centre. For those who can afford their own borehole it has also delivered peace of mind as well as health and economic benefits, at least in the short-term. Questions though are now being asked as to the longer-term implications of this, particularly by the more professional members of the drilling and groundwater community. They point to the rise of poorly constructed boreholes as prices and drilling standards fall. They worry that this may lead to widespread contamination of the groundwater, whilst also reporting falling water tables in many areas, leading to fears of over-abstraction and the potential for saline intrusion.

Understanding whether these worries are well-founded is hampered by the lack of any system for monitoring either the quality or the amount of water being abstracted from the aquifers. State Government proposals to require owners of domestic boreholes to register these have foundered on the fear that this will be a front for the taxing of private water supplies. At the same time, our research indicates that the broader population is relaxed about the upward trend in boreholes, regarding the supply of groundwater as infinite (Figure 1). However, attitudes towards the quality of that water are more mixed, with around half concerned for the future. Evidence as to whether these beliefs are well-placed is currently lacking and requires longer-term data collection, particularly in terms of the amount of ground water available. Our research into levels of e-coli found in 40 groundwater sources demonstrates that residents’ caution about quality is well-founded (Figure 2). However, again, longer term monitoring is required if we are to better understand the risks of contamination over time.

Figure 1: Residents’ perceptions of groundwater exploitation in Lagos

lagos1

Figure 2

 

Conclusions

In Lagos, as in many other cities, the rise of the off-grid city is due to a mix of social, economic, political and hydrogeological factors. Attempts to overcome the water gap though public provision alone are struggling with the sheer scale of investment required and speed of change in population. The rise of private provision of water supplies has fuelled the growth of the city and, in turn, has been fuelled by a rising tide of prosperity. Yet there are real concerns that the sheer proliferation of boreholes and unregulated abstraction may be storing up problems for the future. So what are the answers? Certification and licensing approaches will certainly help, but only if there is both the will and means to enforce them. Improving knowledge and awareness through education and training, both of the wider public and amongst new contractors, will also help. In the short term it may be that we need to find new mechanisms to monitor the health of our aquifers if we are not to encounter longer-term crises. Drilling contractors can be at the forefront of this exercise, helping to ensure the resilience and durability of the off-grid city.

Acknowledgements

Dr. Adrian Healy, is a Research Fellow at Cardiff University. His research focuses on themes of urban resilience to shocks and hazards. He gratefully acknowledges the support of all his colleagues involved in the RIGSS project, particularly Prof. Moshood Tijani (University of Ibadan), Prof. Ibrahim Goni (University of Maiduguri) and the British Geological Survey. Financial support was provided by NERC-GCRF ‘Building Resilience’ grant (NE/P01545X/1). Further information on the issues of domestic borehole development in Nigeria can be found here.

Figure 2 is reproduced with thanks to Dr. Kirsty Upton and the British Geological Survey, who prepared the original version.

 

[1] https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1090650/Perspectives_of_households_in_Lagos.pdf

 

Regulating the private sector

This is the fourth and final post in a series of four blogs entitled “Professional Borehole Drilling: Learning from Uganda” written by Elisabeth Liddle, and a RWSN webinar in 2019 about professional borehole drilling. It draws on research in Uganda by Liddle and Fenner (2018). We welcome your thoughts in reply to this blog below.

Great gains have been made in recent years regarding access to improved water sources in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Concerns have been raised, however, over the extent to which these sources are able to provide a reliable and safe water supply in the medium to long term (for example, Foster et al., 2018; Kebede et al., 2017; Owor et al., 2017; Adank et al., 2014).

There has been considerable focus on post-construction operations and maintenance, but increasing attention is on the quality of the implementation to prevent water point failure in the future (UNICEF/Skat, 2016, Bonsor et al., 2015; Anscombe, 2011; Sloots, 2010).

Skat Foundation and UNICEF have been key actors here, jointly advocating for an increase in drilling professionalism across sub-Saharan Africa. They recently released a guidance note on drilling professionalism (UNICEF/Skat, 2016), highlighting six key areas that need to be addressed to increase the quality of implementation work (see Figure 1).

In this blog I focus on the ‘institutional frameworks’ aspect in Figure 1, with specific attention on the ways in which Uganda has sought to improve regulation of the private sector in recent years by introducing licensing systems for both drilling contractors and consultants.

pic1pic2pic3

 

For the past two decades, Uganda has strongly encouraged the involvement of the private sector in the siting and drilling of rural water points (Danert et al., 2003). Having encouraged privatisation, however, the Ministry of Water and the Environment (MWE) recognised that they had a crucial role to play within this: regulation of the private sector. Regulation efforts began in 1999 with the introduction of drilling contractor licenses. To gain a license, drilling contractors must submit documentation outlining their equipment, their staff and CVs, and their work history. Premises and equipment are then assessed, with the drilling contractor’s technical and financial capacity being at the forefront throughout. Drilling contractor licenses must be renewed annually. Updated lists of licensed drilling contractors are published in national newspapers and online every July.

Recent research in Uganda (Liddle and Fenner, 2018) found that drilling contractor licenses have greatly helped the procurement process within Uganda’s implementing agencies, with the drilling contractor license list typically being the first port of call during bid evaluation.

In recent years, MWE recognised the essential need to extend this licensing system to consultants/hydrogeologists, given the proliferation of ‘briefcase consultants’ in the country (those with no formal geology or hydrogeology training). The issue of briefcase consultants is discussed in blog 1 of this series. Briefcase consultants were bidding for the siting and supervision work, yet evaluation teams within implementing agencies had no way of identifying those that were truly qualified for this work, and those whose bidding documents (e.g. work experience, degrees etc) were fake. Poor quality work then proceeded as briefcase consultants began winning contracts.

To address this problem and provide guidance for evaluation teams, the MWE started the process of issuing hydrogeologist/consultant licenses in 2016 (Tindimugaya, 2016). Consultants can apply for an individual hydrogeologist license or a groundwater firm license. For an individual to gain a license, they must submit their academic documents, CV, and an overview of past work. The individual must have hydrogeology specific qualifications (short course, diploma, or degree); geology qualifications alone are insufficient. Premises and equipment are then assessed and a practical assessment and interview are conducted. For a firm to gain a license, the director must gain an individual license. The firm then needs to submit their company registration details, a list of staff and CVs, and details of past work. By July 2018, licenses had been issued to 65 individuals and 15 firms. As with drilling contractor licenses, consultant licenses are renewed annually and updated lists of licensed consultants are published in national newspapers and online every July.

While these licensing systems have greatly helped Ugandan implementing agencies, similar licensing systems across SSA, especially for consultants, appear to be rare. According to Danert and Theis (2018), of the 14 sub-Saharan Africa countries listed in their report, only three had licensing systems in place for consultants, while ten had licensing systems in place for Drilling Contractors. It is now essential that additional sub-Saharan African governments follow Uganda’s lead, and begin the regulate the private sector, especially consultants given the essential role that siting and supervision are known to play when considering the quality of the implementation work (UNICEF/Skat, 2016; Anscombe, 2011; Danert et al., 2010).

What do you think?

So what do you think? Do you have experiences of trying to select qualified and experiences groundwater professionals? Do you think that licensing professionals is the way forward within your context? Are there any efforts to better regulate the private drilling sector in your country? You can respond below by posting in the reply below, or you can join the live webinar on the 14th of May (register here).

References

Adank, M., Kumasi, T.C., Chimbar, T.L., Atengdem, J., Agbemor, B.D., Dickinson, N., and Abbey, E. (2014). The state of handpump water services in Ghana: Findings from three districts, 37th WEDC International Conference, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2014.

Anscombe, J.R. (2011). Quality assurance of UNICEF drilling programmes for boreholes in Malawi. Lilongwe, Malawi: Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Government of Malawi.

Bonsor, H.C., Oates, N., Chilton, P.J., Carter, R.C., Casey, V., MacDonald, A.M., Etti, B., Nekesa, J., Musinguzi, F., Okubal, P., Alupo, G., Calow, R., Wilson, P., Tumuntungire, M., and Bennie, M. (2015). A Hidden Crisis: Strengthening the evidence base on the current failure of rural groundwater supplies, 38th WEDC International Conference, Loughborough University, UK, 2014.

Danert, K., Armstrong, T., Adekile, D., Duffau, B., Ouedraogo, I., and Kwei, C. (2010). Code of practice for cost effective boreholes. St Gallen, Switzerland: RWSN.

Danert, K. and Theis, S. (2018). Professional management of water well drilling projects and programmes, online course 2018, report for course participants, UNICEF-Skat Foundation Collaboration 2017-2019. St Gallen, Switzerland: Skat.

Danert, K., Carter, R.C., Rwamwanja, R., Ssebalu, J., Carr, G., and Kane, D. (2003). The private sector and water and sanitation services in Uganda: Understanding the context and developing support strategies. Journal of International Development, 15, 1099-1114.

Foster, T., Willetts, J., Lane, M. Thomson, P. Katuva, J., and Hope, R. (2018). Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya. Science of the Total Environment,, 626, 156-164.

Kebede, S., MacDonald, A.M., Bonsor, H.C, Dessie, N., Yehualaeshet, T., Wolde, G., Wilson, P., Whaley, L., and Lark, R.M. (2017).  UPGro Hidden Crisis Research Consortium: unravelling past failures for future success in Rural Water Supply. Survey 1 Results, Country Report Ethiopia. Nottingham, UK: BGS (OR/17/024).

Liddle, E.S. and Fenner, R.A. (2018). Review of handpump-borehole implementation in Uganda. Nottingham, UK: BGS (OR/18/002).

Owor, M., MacDonald, A.M., Bonsor, H.C., Okullo, J., Katusiime, F., Alupo, G., Berochan, G., Tumusiime, C., Lapworth, D., Whaley, L., and Lark, R.M. (2017). UPGro Hidden Crisis Research Consortium. Survey 1 Country Report, Uganda. Nottingham, UK: BGS (OR/17/029).

Sloots, R. (2010). Assessment of groundwater investigations and borehole drilling capacity in Uganda. Kampala, Uganda: Ministry of Water and Environment, Government of Uganda, and UNICEF.

Tindimugaya, C. (2016). Registration of groundwater consultants in Uganda: rationale and status. RWSN Forum, 2016, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

UNICEF/Skat (2016). Professional water well drilling: A UNICEF guidance note. St Gallen, Switzerland: Skat and UNICEF.