Long Read

Best practice: Establishing committees and training mechanics for safe water in Uganda

The number of people who can access safe water in rural areas in Uganda has increased significantly from 39% in 1990 to 64% in 2015. However, many pumps aren’t properly maintained and repairs to water facilities take a lot of time. Currently one in five rural water points is not fully functional: as a result more than a third of people in rural areas have no access to safe water, damaging public health and wellbeing.

In Western Uganda, the Rwenzori WASH Alliance (Health through Water and Sanitation (HEWASA), Joint Effort for Saving the Environment (JESE), the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and Protos) helps communities access safe water by forming and strengthening Water and Sanitation Committees. The Rwenzori WASH Alliance, supported by the Dutch WASH Alliance, with finance from the Dutch government, is becoming a catalyst for change.

Water and sanitation committees

Supported by Simavi as part of the Dutch WASH Alliance, JESE and HEWASA have trained 40 new or existing Water and Sanitation Committees in Kyenjojo and Kabarole districts to manage local water points, collect and use water user fees, keep good records and report back to community members. The Rwenzori WASH Alliance partners meet each committee every quarter to raise community awareness of the right to safe water, and the need for good sanitation and personal hygiene.

The committees consist of 7-9 volunteer community members (at least three of whom are women) who take responsibility for operating and maintaining water facilities. They manage local water points, collect and use water user fees, keep records and report back to community members.

Hand pump mechanics

While the committees take care of water supply management, the Rwenzori WASH Alliance has established a network of hand pump mechanics to ensure a regular supply of safe water on a practical level. So far 32 mechanics have been trained to carry out minor repairs, rehabilitate broken facilities and install new ones where needed.

The mechanics are paid by the district government to monitor the functionality of the water facilities twice a year and rehabilitate any that are broken, while the Water and Sanitation Committees use water user fees to pay the mechanics for routine maintenance and minor repairs.

Together, the work of the committees and mechanics should ensure sustainable, safe and reliable water services across the Rwenzori region.

Sustaining success with Action-Research for Learning

The Dutch WASH Alliance’s Action-Research for Learning project helps NGOs learn from what they are doing and sustain success after the end of an intervention. In Uganda, Rwenzori WASH Alliance partners worked with communities to collect data on the effectiveness of its interventions before analysing this information to improve their work. It emerged that a campaign was needed to raise awareness on the importance of paying water user fees to ensure a safe water supply. Community meetings were organised and supported by talk shows and short slots on the radio. This resulted in an improvement in the collection of user fees in communities where JESE and HEWASA are active.

As they grow in confidence and awareness, communities are increasingly demanding better water services on sub-district and district governments. To ensure these demands are heard, HEWASA and JESE organises meetings between communities and local government every quarter to discuss WASH needs and services. This approach is working: for example, when a water source in the Hakibaale community was poisoned, the community reported the matter to the sub-district authorities and demanded action. Subsequently officials were sent to investigate and solve the problem.

Furthermore, the Rwenzori WASH Alliance has established quarterly coordination meetings in which sub-district, district and regional government officials and other organisations reflect together on existing problems and possible solutions. In this way, we hope to ensure the sustainable supply of safe water long after the completion of our intervention.

For more information on this project, download WASH Alliance’s factsheet here.


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