As far as water goes, rural areas of the developing world, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, are the most underserved segment of the world’s population. In many of these areas, water is much more than a way of quenching thirst—it is often tied to health, sanitation, food security and poverty.
The purpose of this blog is to lay out some of my personal findings and experiences as a researcher and shed light on some of the promising and not-so-promising approaches to addressing the challenges of rural water supply in poverty-stricken areas.
The foundation of these thoughts is best summarized by the wisdom of Solomon: “Abundance of food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away for lack of judgment” Proverbs 13:23
My personal conviction is that God cares for and provides for the poor. In many cases, this means that an “abundance of food” is actually obtainable right under their feet in a very real way, with one condition: the wise use of judgment. While there are crises that necessitate immediate emergency assistance, I don’t believe donations will ever release God’s provision for the poor. Rather, wisdom is needed in exercising judgment to release the abundance locked up.
My approach stresses full cost recovery: all costs (capital, operation and maintenance) of any investments in water supplies can and should be fully paid for by the users themselves. I think this is possible, even in poor, isolated communities. Actually, that’s what I’m studying.
The conventional approach might be summarized like this:
Water improvement => Meet Health standards => Costs => Donors
I would like to investigate ways of making a new approach work:
Water improvement => Income generation => Meet Health standards => Costs => Users
As a practical way of investigating this, I spent much of my time in a rural village of Zambia called Simango. Most of this blog is about that time, and the ongoing project.
Please comment, criticize, question, add ideas, and put your input into the discussion. I’d like to hear from you about your own experience or ideas related to this challenging topic.