Savings and credit cooperatives for sustainable water, clean homes, and resilient communities

We can help poor, rural communities establish self-sustaining cooperatives that break the cycle of poor health and poverty.

Photo of Chris Prottas
1 4

Written by

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.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

The Water Trust

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $500k - $1m

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 10,000 - 50,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

New York, NY

Location(s) of impact

Uganda: Kiryandongo Uganda: Masindi


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

In rural Uganda, more than 1 in 3 wells end up broken and abandoned, wasting millions of dollars in investment and leaving families without clean water. At the same time, hygiene and sanitation practices remain dangerously low, with less than 15% of homes even having a place to wash hands with soap. Common nonprofit and government approaches too often fail to help communities break this cycle of poor health and poverty.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

While water NGOs care about sustainable water points, a broken pump is just one of many risks that confront rural communities. Households often have little savings and access to credit to navigate their own personal risks, from a season of bad crops to all-too-common medical emergencies. At the same time, while good hygiene is critical to keep water clean and kids healthy, brief informational sessions on the importance of handwashing fail to break community norms that have persisted for generations. The Self-Help Group approach creates a local savings and credit cooperative, providing a safe place to save and take out loans on a weekly basis. Members value access to credit and the transparent accounting, and they agree to set aside a reserve fund to pay for well maintenance and repairs. As our staff builds the capacity of the group for self-management, they also regularly coach natural leaders in the community to catalyze the construction of latrines and handwashing facilities.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

After one year, self-help groups of 25-30 members are accumulating more than $900 in savings on average, and setting aside a minimum balance of >$80 for water point maintenance and repairs, from a starting point of <$15. In addition, the average village constructed more than 120 durable latrines and 100 handwashing facilities. Nyaranyara Village, which consists of nearly 300 households, represents one success story. While they had access to a clean well, the village struggled with poor health as hygiene and sanitation remained poor: 3% of households had a durable latrine; 0% had a handwashing facility; 3% had bath shelters; 10% had drying racks. Now more than 270 improved latrines have been constructed, more than 200 handwashing facilities constructed, and so on. Their Self-Help Group now has more than $170 in reserve with an incredible accumulated savings of $1,900. The community has not only reduced its exposure to disease but now has the capital to invest in its future.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

This initiative only requires one-time funding for each village supported. After 12 months of regular coaching and 6 months of periodic coaching, each cooperative operates independently and sustains itself through its savings collection and loan repayment. The cooperatives are formed using a well-established methodology (Village Savings and Loan Association), which has demonstrated that 94% of groups survive more than 5 years. Funding for the development of these cooperatives comes from grant support and charitable donations. In the long term, as The Water Trust demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach, there is scope to engage the government to support the program's expansion. Approximate revenue resource breakdown: Foundations (71%); Corporations (5%); Individuals (24%)

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

The Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene sector has acknowledged that rural water point sustainability and poor hygiene practices are a significant problem. Progressive peers are working with the district government to help them support the villages more. While we do so as well, our initiative differs in that it aims to build bottom-up capacity and that it borrows from the financial inclusion sector to financially empower communities to solve their problems, from water sustainability to livelihoods.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Last year, we discussed our challenge of supporting the maintenance of the more than 300 water points we have built in western Uganda since 2008. We saw this dependence on a foreign nonprofit as unhealthy, and we set out to find a better way. We believe in making good ideas prove themselves so we talked with our peers and ended up piloting three different approaches (including this program) across 60 communities to improving water point sustainability. Our "Aha!" moment was when we saw the significant sums of money being collected -- putting to rest the notion these communities were too poor to maintain their water point -- and we saw the enthusiasm that community members brought to their weekly meetings, and the pride they took in how their group was improving the cleanliness and dignity of their homes, helping one another with loans for emergencies, and investing in their livelihoods.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Social media

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Old Friend

Hi, for two years I had $95,000 in debt, including $36,420 in credit card debt. My credit score was nothing to write home about. I managed to get most of my debt removed in bankruptcy and i was left with $7,000 car loan and $51,000 in student loans. Determined not to repeat my mistakes again I was recommended by a credit consultant to contact 760PLUS CREDIT SCORE who would help fix my credit score and clear my loans she referred me to her hacker friend she has met years ago who specializes in fixing credit score. I contacted him through 760PLUSCREDITSCORE@GMAIL.COM the following day, it took him some time to get back to me, because he was fully book, after a while he responded and helped me out. He started from raising my credit score to 799 after which he cleared my outstanding pending bills. I bounced back quickly, I am currently on my feet and on my way to buying a house. All thanks to 760 Plus. You text : +1(304)-774-5902.