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No free water! Adopt Community managed clean water.

Establishing Boreholes and purification systems owned and managed by the community- based on Solidarity Lending from "Grameen approach"

Photo of Jenny Adaobi

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The Grameen Principle founded on the notion that loans are better than charity to interrupt poverty. Its principle is based on "solidarity lending" which involves lending to groups that borrow collectively and group members encourage one another to repay. 

In establishing Aid-Schemes for poor communities, it is necessary to ensure that they take full ownership and responsibility for such schemes to enhance sustainability of the projects. 

Boreholes with purification systems could be placed strategically in communities in enough quantities to avoid long water queues. This water systems should be under the control and supervision of the community, headed by the community.  The community members would be asked to pay a very little token monthly to maintain the boreholes and purification systems and more importantly, to create an opportunity for the community members to feel ownership towards the clean water system and thus use them responsibly. The community Leaders would be responsible for the collection of the little token and would report to the water providers on care, maintenance and issues with the boreholes and purification systems.

Currently in Nigeria, people go to fetch water from boreholes and pay about 0.05 cents per 25 liter keg. This is currently on the high side. This model could be used if the "water money" is hard to collect by the community leaders. People could be made to pay their little token at the point of Purchase where they could have flexible options of  Payments- for instance, Pay-as-you-go; daily Payments, Weekly or monthly payments. This is to provide enough flexibility to suit different income levels of community members, thereby affording everyone safe drinking waters. 

Also, Hand-Pushed water trucks or tankers could be used to supply water at a cost to institutions, the weak and elderly, or whoever indicates interest and flexible payment options could also be made available.

The Solidarity Lending method could be adapted to a number of water and sanitation solutions. The key issue is that there should be community buy-in as well as manageable groups responsible for bearing the low cost financial burden, and urging each other to pay their tokens as at when due.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Ready for piloting

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

Very scalable. It's is based on a practical model that has been replicated severally

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The idea is built on sustainability. Charity or government projects usually have a free connotation that can attract mismanagement.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

Well a typical borehole will cost between $1000-3000. Part sponsorship by Micro finance organizations and a monthly contribution by community members would help sustain this project. If about 5000 families pay 25cents per month, it will amount to $1250 dollars monthly and $15000 per year. This will gradually go a long way to alleviate the water problem profitably or non-profitably. The key issue is that there must be a commitment to pay which must be the responsibility of the most respected community leaders

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

I propose to partner with Borehole companies.

In-country experience

  • Not yet

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • No

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Currently, I am an M.Sc student in Food, Nutrition and Health. I also have an MBa and a first degree in Agriculture. As a student in Agriculture, I did a lot of liaison in rural communities to help alleviate poverty. I have also come to understand that a lot of negotiation and buying over is necessary when working with rural communities. The people need to see you as part of them and understand the change and betterment you propose to bring into their lives


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sikandar Meeranayak

Ownership of solutions to water challenges is one of the biggest things we have to deal with.  It is imperative to involve the people in the projects that are to be implemented.  When they are not involved, no maintenance is done and destruction of systems happens very quickly.  First the people need to be consulted.. simply asked.. what is it that you want and need.  This is the first step.

Photo of Jenny Adaobi

I completely agree with you on this one. As with many projects targeted at the grassroots, there is need for the commitment of the people. Once we wanted to extend an agricultural loan to a little farming community in my country as a way to develop agriculture. The farmers either took new wives with the loan or bought new bicycles or upgraded their houses etc...Anything but agriculture. Loan recovery became an issue because there were lots of bad debts. But then the farmers were divided into groups and the loans were extended one group at a time. The success of the next group collecting their loan depended on the first group's ability to pay their loan. The result was that there was a greater involvement by the community and farmers to ensure that the loans were put to effective use. The other groups carefully monitored the activities of the first group to ensure loan payment. There was a high a sense of commitment, loan recovery and general improvement in their lives.

Photo of Brian

As with Sikandar and Jenny, I agree on this thought pattern as well. If there isn't acceptance or buy-in from the community help can also be construed as 'here comes someone to tell us what to do'. The community must take ownership of both the reason why clean water is good for them and ownership of maintenance. VERY curious that the ag loan money was used for everything but ag yet it sounds like that issue was overcome by restructuring the loan program. 

Photo of Jenny Adaobi

It is a surprising fact but one of the issues commonly faced with ag loans is loan diversion. One would think that any aid to ag would be greatly appreciated and put to the intended use but that is not the case.  The " free money" was used to fulfill other hidden needs which had little or nothing to do with ag. So there was need to use the community members as " watchdogs" over one another to actualize the purpose of the ag loans as well as the repayment. 
This trend is usually common with aid programmes. The best aid programme is bound to fail if not well planned and monitored, and more importantly owned by the community.

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