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 Coca-Cola board of trustees, the event perfectly highlighted the impact this project has had, and will continue to have, in the lives of the people of Bwaise II.What’s truly incredible, however, is that the beneficiaries singing and dancing that day were only a piece of the true benefit of the program. The real benefit is that the government now has the ability to do replicate this work, and scale it elsewhere. Not only was Bwaise II transformed, but other surrounding communities can also now receiving similar transformation through water. By intentionally investing in capacity development for the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), the approach that RAIN supported can now be scaled across Kampala. By doing the project hand-in-hand, NWSC is ready to continue the approach. In this way, RAIN has not just given the community water, but created a ripple effect that can transform the city. While the project may be over, improved services will continue to reach new communities for years, all because of Coca-Cola’s investment.