Report from the Field:
Jay Hocking, Dir 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 keep safe water flowing from the taps. Your support for Water for Good helps us to build these same systems for reliable water in one of the world’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic (CAR).
Water for Good works WITH the people we serve, not just FOR them.
Did you know that Water for Good also asks communities in CAR to pay a small monthly fee? Their fees support our local staff to provide regular service visits. Currently, community payments are not covering the full cost, and some communities are not making their payments at all. On my recent field visit I learned that there are some surprising reasons why.
Traveling with the Team
I have worked with Water for Good for four years. Yet, 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!
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. I got to experience what it’s like to pull into villages. Our teams are always greeted with excitement.
Just like in the rest of the world, communities need to step up and help cover the costs of maintaining their water access. We ask communities to pay a small monthly fee. This money could cover the costs for Water for Good technicians to provide regular service visits.
The goal? Over time, this service can be financially self-sustaining. The problem right now is that, although the communities value their water, many struggle to make consistent payments. Here’s an example from the neighborhood of Sakpa Mborla.
Sakpa Mborla: Their Payment is Past Due
The neighborhood of Sakpa Mborla is on the outskirts of Bangui. They had missed a few payments even though 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. This is the only source of clean, safe water in the area. However, the water pump was in poor condition. The community had tried to repair the foot pedal with a piece of rubber. That DIY wasn’t holding up.
My co-worker evaluated the situation. He 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.
Saving for a Pharmacy
A man from the well committee, Paterne, seemed embarrassed. He apologized for missing past payments. He explained that, in fact, the community had slowly been saving up and building a local pharmacy. This is what they did with the money that they’d been collecting from the well!
The community had already purchased a property with a small metal-roofed structure. This would serve as their future pharmacy. They still do not have the resources to stock it.
I could walk away and say that this community is an example of failure– the community is not paying their maintenance fees– but that’s not the whole story.
The Truth is More Complicated
This community realizes 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.
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. We can work with well committees and continue to fund the well repairs while we figure out solutions that will work at the local level.