We are really proud of the work we get to do with our partners in the area of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), and HIV/AIDS. Our partners, both past and present, have done absolutely amazing work providing clean water and sanitation and hygiene solutions to thousands of families in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re often asked how much it costs to build a well, but there’s actually a lot more to consider when approaching the water crisis and the water projects that our partners implement in Africa.
ENSURING COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
It is essential to partner with African organizations who have the local context and understanding to know what their community’s needs and wants are. In order for a water project to be successful, we cannot merely walk in and tell the community what they need, because we (people who live / grew up in another country with a different culture) do not truly know the answer! Not only that, but without community involvement, a water point is destined to fall into disrepair if no one on the ground knows how to maintain or protect it.
By empowering African communities to be a part of their own solution, we are empowering them to be able to take their families’ futures into their own hands. This creates change for generations to come.
TYPES OF WATER SOLUTIONS
Often when water projects are mentioned, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is an image of a certain kind of water well (typically a borehole well, one that is created by drilling down into the earth to access water below). But since our partners are in charge of deciding what water solution is best for their communities, they have the freedom choose from a variety of water solutions. And because they live in different climates, countries, cultures, and so on, they definitely do not always choose a borehole well!
Another popular solution, for example, is a rain or surface catchment system, which is probably exactly what it sounds like. This is a particularly great option for areas that might have a lot of rain, since that is clean water that is harvested from natural processes and can be continually replenished.
Spring-protected wells look very similar to borehole wells on the surface, but they are actually a different kind of water solution. Instead of having to drill down to access water, spring protections utilize natural flowing spring water. However, without a protection, springs are contaminated by animals, algae, and the like, making the water unfit for consumption. By building a spring-protection, the uncontaminated water can flow through the structure and can be accessed by turning on a tap!
Filtration and Treatment Systems
Something else of our partners like to invest in is household filtration and treatment systems, so that individual families can have access to their own clean water system that treats and continually recirculates it back through the house. This info from the CDC gives a little insight into how this works in the US to add some perspective.
The water solutions listed above are just a few of the options that might be most effective for a community in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to these, there are actually a number of other ingenious ways our partners can provide clean water! Often a combination of multiple technologies might be the most sustainable.
Our partners’ local insight and expertise is what gives them the ability to determine which solution is the best long-term fit for their community. They take into account their community’s geography, topography, culture, socioeconomic status, weather, and so much more when implementing solutions to their community’s needs. All of these things are necessary when determining whether a community would benefit more from a borehole well, a rain tank, or some other solution. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the water crisis. That’s why local expertise is crucial.
WASH: ALL THREE TOGETHER
Without including sanitation and hygiene, a water point cannot possibly maintain its effectiveness over time. Communities need to be trained in proper hygiene practices and provided with adequate toilet facilities, hand-washing stations, and other healthcare necessities. Without them, a well or water point can be recontaminated and waterborne illnesses can again wreak havoc on communities. This is why our partners work so hard to spread this vital information far and wide through vehicles like community-wide training, WASH committees, and mobilization of community health workers.
You can see what a huge difference it’s made for one village in Malawi that now has access to the knowledge and facilities it needs!
WHAT THAT MEANS FOR WATER PROJECTS IN AFRICA
So as you now know, the basic, human right of access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa is a lot more complicated than simply building a water well! Our local partners are changing lives in their communities every day in ways that would never be possible without their expertise and dedication. So if you’re interested in fueling their fight to help more people who are affected by the water and HIV/AIDS crises, then we’d love to have you join our community!