Drinking Water Sustainability

 Epidemic Breakdown 

Only a portion of Zambia's water insecurity can be attributed to difficult drilling environments.  Over the years, pumps have been successfully installed, yet a large proportion of them aren’t producing clean water. SAM recently partnered with Chief Sipatunyana to complete a hand pump survey of the 150 villages in his chiefdom. It was found that out of 205 pumps, 37% were broken. This needles source of suffering is the incentive for SAM’s hand pump repair program.  

 Why do hand pumps break down?  

Hand pumps break down when their maintenance demands outweigh the capacities of the village. This situation arises in Zimba District for two reasons. Firstly, the pumps being installed are unsuitable for Zimba’s corrosive waters; the pipes rust out quickly and require frequent, expensive replacement. Secondly, although they’re deemed responsible for maintaining the pumps, the village is rarely empowered with the knowledge, tools, skills, and access to parts needed to do so.    

The 2016 repair program participants voted a lack of education as the largest contributor to pump break-down

Holistic Capacity Building

Ensuring a pump’s sustainability means working with every component of the maintenance chain: we sensitize the communities who contribute user fees, we train the V-WASHE (Water and Sanitation Health Education) committees who collect and apply the contributions, we make sure the paid mechanics have the tools to do their job, and we help the local government start to retail parts to the public. 

 Self-committed Repairs

Although SAM pays attention to all components of the maintenance system, our involvement is fairly minimal. We don’t repair the pumps or pay for the parts ourselves. Rather, local outreach workers train the committees until they can perform the repair on their own. Then, we entrust them with part subsidies. So far, all groups have gone on to successfully repair their own hand pumps. This gives the committee hands-on experience while raising the community’s confidence in the committee, a crucial ingredient for continued payment of maintenance fees. 

 Investing in Quality and Sustainability 

Investing in Quality

The most competent committees may still be unable to afford the high costs of hand pump maintenance. Considering the financial status of the villages, they shouldn’t have to. To address this, we invest in corrosion-resistant parts that are compatible with  Zambia’s maintenance system and the knowledge of local mechanics. The largest re-occurring cost and leading cause of breakdown - corroded pipes and rods – is removed. This increases the number of pumps operating while lessening the financial strains of accessing water.  

On average, it costs $750 to run our repair program in a community

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