What is the best way to put WFA low cost pumps and drilling technology to use?
Make family water wells. There is no reason millions of desperately poor rural families around the world can't have a family water well like the one below in Ethiopia. This well and pump only has $70 in material. If families are taught to drill their own wells even the poorest can dream of having a family water well. They just need someone to take the time, trouble and effort to teach them how. Read more below to find out how and why.
Over many years of work and observation, we have found our technologies work best if individual families can be taught to drill their own wells and make and maintain their own pumps.
The way we are working in Bolivia and Ethiopia and others in Nicaragua, is to work out the technology locally until we get the price down to where families can actually own their own wells and build and maintain their own pumps. ($100 -$200 total for materials in Bolivia,$70-$80 total in Nicaragua and Ethiopia). In all three places groups of 10 or so families form a 'water club" and do the work and even pay for their own material. The sponsors lend a sponsor made rig and provide initial training for a group on site and physically help drill the first couple of wells with the "club". Then the club works on it's own until every family has a well. The club then returns the rig when finished. The sponsor needs to live in the area to be available for troubleshooting, encouragement, and follow up.
The end vision goal WFA wants to share with partners is to reach a point eventually, where we work out the technology locally with the partner, and then if technically feasible, work out a program where family or household ownership of a well and pump can happen. This is very important in our view for long term sustainability. We recently received a report from Burkina Faso that a country wide survey found 80 percent of all community hand pumps on wells broken. This is what we want to avoid.
Our pumps work well for families or compounds and in some instances for very small groups of families where there is constant monitoring by an owner or outsider. But they won't hold up to long term super heavy use unless they have an owner. They work fine for years and years if families own them and build them and know how to maintain them. We found the ideal way to start is to do a whole bunch of very low cost wells in a limited focus area and teach everyone how to drill and make pumps via the club method mentioned above. Then spread out from there. Our goal is for each rural family to have a household water supply where ever it is technically feasible.
The first step we recommend is a trial drilling stage with a paid crew. One must deal with subtleties in a new area and make necessary tweaks etc. This might take up to a year or more with constant follow up of pumps and dozens of wells drilled. It might mean putting commercial heavy duty pumps on most wells in the beginning and constantly monitoring the wells with our low cost pump prototypes.
The second step would be to begin organizing actual well clubs once the drilling technique tweaked and pumps proven enough for the area. This will take a full time promoter with resources, transport etc. to start and encourage "water clubs". The promoter will need to have been involved step one.
The third step is to continue on expanding and training new "promoters" and expanding to reach more families.
In one area of Bolivia this strategy has resulted in over 1800 wells and dozens of spin off village well drillers who charge reasonable prices that even the poor can afford. At the beginning of the program family well ownership was as only an unreachable dream for most rural families. But now it is a reality for most.
We have seen clubs train other clubs etc. to 5 generations. The promoter/club trainer is the most important component and needs to be committed and have intimate knowledge of the local culture and economy. We have found that with out a promoter clubs stop being formed. They won't form without a promoter. The poor are very busy and don't really have time to promote.
The total minimum time in or view for the above to occur is three to five years. Serious groups contemplating a low cost drilling program that empowers families to drill and make good pumps should plan to have a full time promoter with resources for that long.
A final note.
We don't really recommend our technology solely for starting micro enterprises. We have found many village drillers will spin off naturally if many clubs are formed in an area and then they charge fairly cheap prices as all their neighbors also know how to drill.
If the beginning the goal is simply commercial micro enterprises we have found an elite group will be formed that immediately learns they can command a very high price for drilling that is well out of the range of the poor. And they may do shoddy work eventually. If thus only community wells are contemplated for a program and no keen interest in empowering families to make their own wells in most cases we simply recommend using orthodox drilling contractors.
We have seen however that in many places around the world there is no technical reason at all individual families and households can not have their own family water well and pump that they and their neighbors have made and know how to maintain. It is a possibility for millions out there who desperately need a household water supply to have a family well right outside their kitchen. They just need someone to stay in their community for a while show them how. Hard time consuming work but worth it!
Family owned wells reduces water hauling and contamination and frees children and women from the drudgery of water hauling. Having a water tap close to home allows families to practice better hygiene and reduces disease. House hold livestock and foul are better cared for. Small irrigated Kitchen gardens increase food supply.
Abundant family water, that families can control and use upon demand, is key to allowing people to lift themselves out of poverty It is a big job. But very doable if the will is there. Water For All Feels it worth it and is ready to help those that want to put the time and effort and resources to help make family wells for the rural poor a reality.
Terry Waller, Dir. Agua Para Todos Water for All International