Integration of village savings and loans association into operation and maintenance of water sources in Oyam district.
Link to progress (LTP) implemented a two years’ WASH project in Oyam district from August 2018 to July 2020 covering four sub counties of Aleka, Otwal, Aber and Myene using funding from Medicor and FEMI Foundations. During this period a total 20 new deep boreholes were constructed and 45 broken-down boreholes were rehabilitated. The sanitation and hygiene of the beneficiary community in the 65 villages were also improved through community led total sanitation (CLTS) approach.
In a bid to enhance the sustainability and continuous flow of water, LTP also put much emphasis on software activities such as forming and revamping the water users committees (WUC, Training of the WUCs, monitoring and technical backstopping to the WUCs, linking the WUCs to Hand pump mechanics (HPMs) and establishment of village savings and loans association (VSLA) groups at every water source. The village saving and loan association (VSLA) approach is a structured system of saving, borrowing and lending money generated from the village contribution. It was designed to be simple enough to verbally explain that even the illiterate members of the community can understand how it works.
The functionality and maintenance of these water points are therefore anchored on the existence of VSLA in a way that members of the water users are at the same time members of the VSLA. As these members come for their weekly saving, they are also saving some money for the operation and maintenance of the water (O&M Fee). In VSLA there is transparency and accountability since members are always updated from time to time on the amount money collected and the money used.
All the 65 water sources are functional and those that broke down the WUCs linked up with the HPMs and they were repaired as money for O&M was readily available. The community are now taking clean water and distance moved in collecting water and congestion at the water source has reduced.
Collection of O&M fees have been made easy because of establishment of VSLA at the water point. “Apio Lilly, a member of VSLA at Alengo A village, Aleka Sub County said she has never been in any VSLA group but after joining the VSLA group formed by LTP, she was encouraged and advised by her husband to start saving. After saving she said she can now get money from the group as loan to support her basic needs and she can contribute O&M fee easily for the maintenance of their water sources.”
The cleanliness of the water source environment has improved and safe water chain management has also improved. This is because as the members come for their weekly saving, matters pertaining the cleanliness of their water source are also discussed.
The existence of the VSLA has helped to build good relationship and coordination among members of the water users. This is because of transparency and accountability that exist in VSLA and the members are always updated from time to time on the amount money collected and the money used.
Out of 65 villages 59 villages has their VSLA functional representing 91% functionality of the VSLA. The non-functionality of the VSLA was due to the fact that there was outbreak of CVID-19 in March 2020 where social gathered were prohibited to curb down the spread of the virus hence the 9% non-functional VSLA have not yet resumed their operation.
Even with all efforts made to ensure the water sources are sustained there are some challenges that are met: The performance contract signed between the WUCs and HPMs are not very impressive. It was reported by WUCs that HPMs are overcharging higher price compared to the one agreed in the contract and the WUCs also reported that they are not seeing the effect of preventive maintenance done by the HPMs since the boreholes are installed with stainless steel pipes that take long to breakdown As it was reported by the some community, Some HPMs also take long to respond in case of breakdown.
Actions for improvement
The WUCs should be provided with the refresher training by the sub county technical staff. This training always helps them to identify the gaps that exist and how to improve on the identified gaps and there should be continuous monitoring and technical backstopping to the WUCs by the sub county technical staff.
Communities are also to be encouraged on fencing and protecting of the boreholes using brick work as opposed to poles that can easily be destroyed.
The integration of VSLA into O&M play a vital role in strengthening operation and maintenance of the water sources since the functionality of the water source is majorly anchored on the availability of O&M fee need to support repair in case there is breakdown.