Payment Past Due

jayReport from the field: Jay Hocking, Water for Good Director of Communications

Consider a personal question: how much is your water bill each month?

Hopefully it’s a bill you can reasonably afford! All across the world these bills are part of a bigger infrastructure that we don’t often think about… it’s a system that keeps safe water flowing from the tap for all of us.

Your support for Water for Good builds these same systems for reliable water that will reach every man, woman, and child in one of the world’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic.

To make sure our projects last, Water for Good is committed to doing work WITH the people we serve, not just FOR them. In my four years with Water for Good, I’ve never been asked to fix a water well. All of our in-country work is done by local professional technicians—we’re building local expertise. And just like in the rest of the world, communities need to step up and help cover the costs of maintaining their water wells. We already ask communities to pay a small monthly fee for Water for Good to provide regular service visits so that over time, this service can be financially self-sustaining.

It never ceases to amaze me that my Central African colleagues visit over 1,000 different wells each year to keep the clean water flowing.  I was lucky enough on my last visit to Africa to ride along and experience what it’s like to pull into villages where our teams are always greeted with excitement.  Although the communities value their water, some struggle to make consistent maintenance payments.

Photo: Christophe and Laurent, two of Water for Good’s water pump  repair experts, work on the Sakpa Mborla water pump while community members watch.

The neighborhood of Sakpa Mborla, on the out­skirts of Bangui, had missed a few payments. This community has a committee that manages the pump and collects a fee per 5-gallon jug. People were waiting in line to fill up their jugs at the well, which is the only source of clean, safe water in the area, but the water pump was in poor condition. The community had tried to repair the foot pedal with a piece of rubber, but it wasn’t holding up. My co-worker evaluated the situation and let the well committee know that he could get it fixed, but would appreciate them paying at least the most recent maintenance fee. Happy to get their water pump working properly, the committee immediately emptied their collection box, and paid their service fee.

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The rubber guide for the foot pedal had worn through, and despite the attempted fix by the community, the destroyed guide  resulted in the pedal (above right) wearing through the side of the base, eating through the threads (above left), making it impossible to keep the foot pedal sealed properly to the pump.

A man from the well committee, Paterne, seemed embarrassed as he apologized for missing past payments and explained that, in fact, the community had slowly been saving up and building a local pharmacy with the money they’d been collecting from the well. They had already purchased a property with a small metal-roofed structure that would serve as their future pharmacy. They still did not have the resources to stock it, but they are realizing the value of the water pump as a community resource—a tool that they could use to raise funds for maintenance of the pump and other projects, like their pharmacy.

I could walk away and say that this community is an example of failure—the community is not paying their maintenance fee—but that’s not the whole story.

Interactions like this help communities understand the importance of investing in maintenance. In a country that is just starting to recover from a civil war, supporters like you allow Water for Good to be patient, work with well committees, and continue to fund the well repairs while we figure out solutions that will work at the local level.

We share this story because donor support creates this potential!

Please consider making a donation today and join us in building systems that provide sustainable water for all in the Central African Republic.

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fixpump

Above: Paterne lends a hand as the Water for Good maintenance team tightens up the fittings on newly repaired pump.

Below: Paterne and Jay visit the property that will hopefully become a small pharmacy for the community. The earnings of the community’s water committee funded the purchase of the property.

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