Sustainable WASH Systems
Whave provides preventive maintenance service of water sources in rural Uganda to ensure daily reliability of safe water.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Uganda: National impact based on model systems in rural areas in Kotido, Kaabong, Kumi, Kamuli and Nakaseke districts.
Whave is a Ugandan rural water maintenance company. Villagers sign service contracts and pay every year so that Whave can keep their water sources in working condition every day. Whave contracts local technicians to check the pumps and replace worn parts, so preventing a breakdown before it happens.
Villagers typically collect water from heavily polluted ponds, even when there is a modern water pump in their village. This is because it is very common for the pumps to be out of action for weeks or months at a time.
Delays in repairing pumps also happens because of mistrust between community members and the water and sanitation committee that is in charge of collecting money for fixing the pump. The money is sometimes misused and banking is often not available to rural communities. To address these issues, Whave trains the water and sanitation committee in banking and helps them to open a savings account to ensure accountability.
Local technicians are performance paid by Whave for reliable daily operation of the water pumps. This means that the technicians have a regular monthly income and they put pride in eliminating down-time of the pumps. It also establishes a better relationship between the community and the local technician.
"I lose money if a pump breaks which I don't fix within one day. I take care of hand-pumps in 25 communities now and I'm increasing my business size." – Whave local technician.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
In rural Uganda, 80% of the population suffers from frequent prolonged downtime of clean water sources, with severe health consequences. The “wait till it breaks” culture has many causes, including absence of incentives for preventive maintenance; electioneering, lack of NGO co-ordination, weak local governance and weak infrastructure quality control, misuse of funds linked to lack of affordable rural banking facilities.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
While considerable investments are made in rural water infrastructure, frequent prolonged down-time is endemic and forces reversion to contaminated water, with productivity consequences. Whave has overcome this barrier to economic growth by inviting water users to sign 5-year service contracts. Annual payments are made to Whave acting as a locally-registered model service utility. The revenue performance-pays local technicians for full reliability, introducing preventive maintenance schedules and penalising prolonged repair times. Whave is training and franchising local service companies as viable businesses providing reliability assurance within Public-Private Partnership frameworks. This is also a solution to the endemic hygiene crisis, because the presence of an effective maintenance structure, justifies investment in small rural piped systems which underpin hygiene.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Climate change is causing longer and less predictable dry periods which increases dependency on reliable borehole water for animals, crops, and human health. Whave’s business approach is popular with communities and government, already proving that full reliability is affordable. Currently 270 rural communities in five districts experience less than 4 days downtime per year on average compared to baselines from 50 to 200 down-days. This has transformed health and productivity levels. Whave has shown that people are willing to pay for a reliable water service, so laying the foundation for investment in rural piped supply, which solves the issue of poor hygiene in rural areas where inadequate volumes of water are carried long distances. The impact is also on governance capacity. Local governments are passing by-laws which mandate preventive maintenance service agreements, banking of maintenance funds, and minimum tariff levels. Central government has requested roll-out nationally.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Our work is focused on sustainability. Earned income averages 20% of the amount needed for financially viable local service utilities. Grant income plus earned revenue builds the necessary government regulation capacity, and helps scale customers to economic levels. $1/family/month is needed from approx 600 communities for economy of scale, while privately-managed supply typically costs $4-$8/family/month, such that social consensus is emerging.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Whave establishes self-sustaining and reliable water supply for people vulnerable to climate change.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
When travelling in villages where ill-health and hunger were common occurrences, Adam Harvey, the founder of Whave, was amazed to see half the water pumps not working, and women and girls regularly collecting drinking water from heavily polluted ponds. His thought was, “if only the technicians had a real financial incentive to check for worn parts and replace them before an expensive breakdown, all this suffering could disappear”. Then he realized that this was in fact a practical possibility – if a service company was paid by the villagers to relieve them of the headache of maintenance, they would pay and the service company could pay the technicians not for repairs but for preventive checks and replacements of parts.
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