A recent report released by the International Institute of Environment and Development revealed some startling information about the inefficiency in a recent project in Africa that involved creating clean water supplies.
According to the report, and to an article in The Guardian by Annie Kelly, ”$360 million has been spent on building boreholes and wells that then become useless because they are not maintained or fixed when they break down. As a result, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.”
Subsequently, more than half of the current boreholes are broken or not functioning properly, and the people expected to run and maintain these waterholes (those living in the villages) don’t have the means or the knowledge to fix them.
Says Jamie Skinner, author of the report, “There is no point an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years,” he says. “There needs to be a proper assessment of just how much local people are able to finance these water points. It’s not enough to just drill and walk away.”
As we see time and again, without fully considering the socioeconomic and political climates of the area a program is being introduced to, there is a diminished chance of the program being successful. It’s the equivalent of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to catch it himself. Eventually, the fish will run out and the man (or in most cases, the village) won’t have any means or skills to continue feeding himself. Enabling people by providing them skills is much more valuable than handing them something they can’t use, that will eventually run out.
It’s a shame and a waste of money, time, and energy to implement these programs that have such great intentions and potential. If only these NGOs and non-profits took the time to fully evaluate the needs and abilities of the people and the area, our time, money, and energy would be so much better spent.
To see the full report, click here.