Pump Aid harnesses the power of local entrepreneurs to end water poverty

by | Apr 3, 2018 | Blogs

Whilst many initiatives led by governments and NGOs have done a great deal to improve the rural water supply in Africa, DFID Malawi estimates that up to 40% of all water points are non-functional at any one time. They end up abandoned when they break down, even though a simple fix could put the pump back into operation, this puts over 7 million Malawians at risk to waterborne diseases.

To end water poverty in Malawi, households need reliable and convenient access to water: access to improved water is defined as up to 500m away but the further away the source of water, the less it will be used for hygiene purposes, which increases contamination. To improve food security, small-scale farmers need water for irrigation through low-cost pumps: over 80% of the population is engaged in small-scale farming and vulnerable to weather, yet only 11% use irrigation.

Through DFID’s Challenge Fund, Pump Aid, a member of End Water Poverty spent two years from 2014 to 2016 working alongside UNICEF to train and mentor local entrepreneurs to equip them with the skills they need to set up viable businesses to build sustainable water capacity in their own communities.

Throughout the two years Pump Aid provided intensive support to a group of 25 motivated WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) entrepreneurs through technical, business and marketing skills to enable them to supply a range of products and services to community water points, individual households, and small-scale farmers.

The social impact has been astonishing. In just 12 months, the 25 entrepreneurs gave 21,614 people in poor rural communities access to secure, sustainable water for communal, individual and farming use.

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The future for these communities has been transformed:

  • Safe water is now only 11 metres away from pump owners, where previously it might have been over 500m;
  • 86% of pump users report an increase in water usage, particularly for handwashing and hygiene purposes; and
  • Pump functionality has risen from an average of 55% to almost 100%.
  • Farmers’ productivity at least doubled which improves food security and livelihoods

Establishing local supply businesses has helped make water pumps in rural areas more sustainable, as well as creating more social and economic opportunities for the entrepreneurs involved in our programme, and their wider communities.

Pump Aid delivered this change by treating people as customers, not beneficiaries, and by the application of commercial principles. Eschewing the dependency model, they have restored independence to some of the poorest people.

In 2017, Pump Aid won the International Aid and Development Award at the UK Charity Awards in recognition of their successful pilot project, and has plans to expand into other districts of Malawi.

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“Encouraging self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship is vital if we want to address the core challenges that sustainable development faces,” Say’s Tiyese Zumu-Mwale, Pump Aid’s Country Director for Malawi. “We work with Malawian individuals looking to establish and grow their own local water and sanitation businesses. This is a more sustainable approach to development which gives individuals in the community the ability to build, repair and maintain water points, rather than relying on foreign aid.’

As Hopeson Phiri, a Pump Aid self-supply entrepreneur, said:

“Through my business I’ve managed to buy many things. Previously I didn’t have a reliable house but, because of the business I have done, I’ve been able to put an iron roof on it. I’m really happy because this is important to me and my family.”

To find our more information about Pump Aid’s work, visit their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.