We are therefor not in favor of donating more new boreholes with cheap and fragile VLOM handpumps; they simply don't last.
This also includes that we are not in favor of promoting VLOM solutions like the rope pump for community water supply. Evaluations have shown that the "community ropepump" breaks down several times per month. After a while, communities are getting tired to repair them all the times and finally abandon the rope pump. Rope pumps normally only give good results on shallow family wells that are not intensively used and with a limited number of users, so defenitly are not a sustainable solution for communities.
The Fairwater O&M approach is based on the understanding that even poor people can and will actually pay a little for a reliable community water supply. Payment per day, or payment per season, depending on the local economic situation.
Three aspects of a community handpump are important for sustainability:
1. Reliability (no frequent breakdowns)
2. Low-recurrent costs
3. Presence of a caretaker (to collect contributions)
- Rehabiliation is cost-effective : It is more cost-effective to replace a broken down handpump with a durable BluePump, in stead of drilling a new expensive borehole and install again a cheap handpump that does not last.
- Low-cost maintenance: Cheap handpumps are fragile and therefore expensive or impossible to maintain. With this restriction in mind, FairWater developed and promotes the strong BluePump . It is not the cheapest handpump, but it can be maintained at the lowest cost compared with any other handpump.
- Economic of scale are important to reduce maintenance cost. A Regional Maintenance Team (RMT) is therefore more cost-effective than the VLOM community based repairs.
- Start with the service provider: It is more cost-effective to start a water project with the organization that will maintain the handpumps (RMT) in stead of focussing on maintenance by the users in the scattered communities.
- Allow people to make a profit: A pre-condition for a sustainable service is that all stakeholders in the O&M supply chain should have at least a small profit, including the pump caretaker. Apart from more cost-effective, it is therefore also more sustainable to facilitate the local private sector to start a small business in low-cost water supply services.
- Additional income principle: To keep the economic risk as low as possible, the most sustainable option for community handpumps maintainance is that these services are offered by a company that has its main income from other activities.
- Medium sized companies : To make it attractive enough for a company to invest in handpump maintenance, the company should not be too large, so the additional revenues of the handpump maintenance is substancial but not the main source of income. The optimum share is about 10 to 30% of their total income.
- Transport is major constraint: Because a major constraint for a regional maintenance team is transport, the best option is to sub-contract the maintance to companies that are already familiar with technical assistance and that have access to transport. For instance, a good option is look for a workshop for car maintenance. They can easily include regional handpump maintenance in their regular activities and would welcome an additinal income.
NGOs should operate more cost-effective
The assisting and implementing NGOs itself should also operate as cost-effective as possible. Obviously, it makes little sense when the NGO spend 60% or more of the donations to cover first its own costs. Some organizations claim to have low or no overheads, but a closer look to their finances shows that this is neither realistic nor true. Besides, NGOs have a tendency to grow into large bureaucratic organizations with increasing overheads while their output is getting less as they grow bigger.
FairWater is more cost-effective
We do not have expensive local offices, we don't need to, because we use and pay the logistics of our partners in the local private sector, only when we have a water project. Our partners already have an infra-structure, cars, telephone, fax, internet, etc. That means that most of the donations will indeed be spend locally on the project itself. This is important for transparency & accountability.