Bwaise II, a poor settlement on the outskirts of bustling Kampala, used to resemble many of the other similar settlements that dot the map around East Africa. As with these other communities, poor families in Bwaise II would regularly pay more than the wealthiest families in Uganda for their water, and as a result would often use contaminated springs for washing and laundry. The rashes were troubling, but at least it was more affordable. When families were able to buy water, timing was always a challenge, as most of the water vendors only sold water while the day-laborer population that lives in Bwaise II was at work. When they returned home, parched from a long day, many of the people selling water would have closed shop.
It wasn’t just the lack of available water that plagued the good people of Bwaise II, it was also an abundance of water, in the form of rainy season floods. Trash collection was irregular, and as a result, the drainage canals were too clogged to drain the community. There was a saying about Bwaise II, that you didn’t need to go shopping; just wait for the rains and grab whatever you need when it floats by.
Today, Bwaise is a changed neighborhood. Water flows 24 hours a day at a cost as much as 10 times lower than what was charged before. This is possible because of RAIN’s support for an innovative pre-paid meter approach. People can easily add value to a prepaid chip, much like the residents of Bwaise II top up their cell phones. This reduces the cost to deliver the water to the community, and that savings both ensures sustainability and lowers the cost of water to the end user. Every step of the way, this cutting edge approach was done in incredibly close collaboration with the local utility, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
While the installation of these water points was impactful, the engagement of the community made the project work. An advocacy group was developed, and trained to have enough skill both to encourage their own community to handle their trash better, and to work with KCCA to get the municipal trash trucks to pick up refuse regularly.
The great success of
this project seemed perfectly captured at a high-profile handover, where the
community and utility both signed a contract for ongoing maintenance and
service of the water systems. With singing, dancing, and even the