Handpump Operation & Maintenance (O&M)
Everybody can understand, that a new handpump will not work for ever, with time some part may come loose or wear out and need to be replaced. Therefore, technical know-how and support will be needed sooner or later for maintenance or for repairs when the pump breaks down.
However, some some 20 years ago, development organizations developed the VLOM approach. VLOM stands for: Village Level Operated & Maintained. The basic idea of the VLOM approach is that the users should be responsible for the maintenance of the pump. This sounds logic, but in practise it became clear that this was easier said than done. Repairs usually become more complicated and expensive after some years and spare parts are often hard to find. It it therefor no surprise that the VLOM approach did not work and that most VLOM handpumps are abandoned after a while.
In the VLOM approach, it was also assumed that if the community has a "sense of ownership", they will feel more responsible and therefore will automatically be more motivated to maintain "their" handpump. However, in practise also this assumption did not lead to sustainable handpump O&M practice.
Indeed, some "example" show-case communities could do this, especially in shallow boreholes and when the NGO is still around. But the reality all over Africa is different. The result is that, today, in most countries 40% to 60% of these VLOM handpumps are now abandoned. It is expected that with time, this will only get worse.
Especially handpumps in deep boreholes break down very often and are abandoned (actual figures 70 to 90%). Statistics are hard to beat. It is expected that within 10 years most VLOM handpumps in Africa will be broken down.
What makes a handpump sustainable?
Sustainability is mainly dependend on 2 factors:
(1) Time between Repairs (TbR) and
(2) Sustainability of the Support Structure (SSS) that can do these repairs.
(1) Is is obvious that the fragile VLOM pumps have a very low TbR and are therefore not very sustainable. The VLOM handpumps (often mass produced in India) are not designed for heavy duty day-in day-out pumping in African rural communities. The advantage of these India pumps is that they are cheap, the disadvantage is that they break down all the time (sometimes already within a few weeks) and need many spares that are typically made for these pumps, so not available on the local market. No wonder that communties are irritated by the the never ending repairs of "their" handpump. On top of that, they cannot afford these frequent repairs as well, it drains the small family cash budget.
(2) The Sustainability of the Support Structure (SSS or tripple S) is even more crucial for sustainability of a handpump. Also in this aspect the VLOM approach failed, because the support structure in VLOM is in fact nothing more than a few trained people in the community. If these persons move away or die, there is no follow up. Also the supply of spare parts in local shops is not sustainable. It soon became evident that the shop keepers were not particulary interested to sell handpump parts because they were hard to get for them and also because of the low profit margins.
The FairWater BlueZone alternative
Technology & quality matters. Therefore first of all, to avoid the irritations of the never ending breakdowns, the BluePump has been designed to be the most increadilbly reliable handpump on the market. In fact, the BluePump therefore also need no spares all the time. Maintenance is limited to regular check on nuts and bolts. In addition to that, the Sustainability of the Support Structure (SSS) is also solid and organized in a different, modern and professional private sector approach to create sustainable win / win relations.
The Bluezone Concept with A-B-C maintenance approach
The recommended O&M concept for the BluePump is a simple A-B-C which stands for:
A. the "Agent", or country distributor (supported by FairWater and the world-wide distributor BOODE B.V.);
B. the "Back-Up" of a regional operating company or structure (supported by the Agent), close by the users;
C. the "Caretaker" of the community (supported by the regional Back-up).
These 3 elements are in contact with each other and each plays a different role.
A. The Agent has pumps and parts in stock and expertise available;
B. The (regional) Back-Up has a repair capacity and assist the agent with installation and repairs;
C. The Caretaker supervises the use of the pump and is the eyes and ears for the Back-Up structure.
The regular small maintenance of the BluePump can still done by a local caretaker, he/she is appointed by the community and may recieve (yes or no, depending on the community) a small salary to supervise the water fetching and to collect the contribution of the users. Acceptable family contributions for this supervision in present rural Africa is in the order of 0,5 to 1 US$ per family per month.
In case of a problem the caretaker will contact the regional BluePump Back-Up support for assistance. Repairs will be done Fast, Fixed & Fair in price, the "triple F Approach". The price for the repair is mainly depending on the distance. Because the BluePump will never need a lot of spares, the community normally does not pay for the spares or other materials used. The obvious advantage is that they know exactly what the maintenance of the BluePump will cost them each year.
In the ABC approach, the community is encouraged to make an arrangement with the regional Back-Up support for (1) a regular ABC or (2) for what price they will come to fix the pump when needed.
(1) The regular ABC will cost the community between 50 US$ and 100 US$ a year, normally with a 3 month quarantee.
(2) The Pay per Repair (PpP) can be done for a fixed price, with also a 3 month quarantee.
No community water bank-account needed
In the old VLOM approach, communities were encouraged to regular contribute to create a sum that could be used in case of repairs. However, this often created many problems in the community, because normally the money was already gone when needed for a repair for "various" reasons. With this new A-B-C approach this additional accountability problem is also avoided.
Sustainable water supply for the lowest price
Because of the simplicity and reliability of the BluePump, breakdowns are rare and can easily be resolved without many expensive spares. Therefore the BluePump repairs should in practice normally be done for a low and fixed price. The BluePump ABC concept therefore makes the BluePump the cheapest to operate & maintain handpump for community water supply.
ABC for a BluePump in Mozambique by the local company "BlueZone", the country dealer for the BluePump.
(this is an UNICEF sponsored BluePump, 24/7 pumping from 67m. deep, providing water for about 2.000 people)