How Tech-Innovations for Clean Water can Promote Socio-Economic Change

Insights into a public-private cooperation project

According to the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, about 30% of Ugandans do not have access to safe drinking water and lack access to improved sanitation facilities. The consequences are bad health conditions and diseases such as recurring cholera outbreaks: about 75% of all common diseases in Uganda are a direct result of lack of clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene (Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, 2017).

In Eastern Uganda, Lake Victoria constitutes an important water source for the population in the otherwise dry surroundings. Poor economic conditions impede most people in the region to substitute unsafe water sources by bottled water for their daily use. Many households therefore boil their water as a basic safety mechanism. Nevertheless, waterborne diseases remain a challenge. Additionally, boiling water requires large amounts of firewood which not only puts pressure on the local environment but also creates a time-consuming effort for women who are traditionally responsible for collecting the firewood.

A small innovative technology – a big effect

In cooperation with the Austrian social enterprise HELIOZ and the local NGO Get Water Uganda, the Strategic Partnership Technology in Africa (SPTA) kick-started a pilot project in November 2021 to address this challenge by integrating the innovative power of a small technology into an impactful social project design.

The starting point of the project was HELIOZ’s WADI device, a solar-powered UV measurement technology that monitors and visualizes the process of solar-based water disinfection (SODIS). Placed in the sun next to bottles filled with water, the device indicates when water is safe to drink. This innovative technology could save up to 20.000 tCO2 in the framework of the project, not at least while establishing an easy and safe access to clean drinking water. And what is more: the technology disburdens women in their chores, so that they can invest their time in income-generating activities.

A community-based approach as key framework

But how to successfully translate this innovation into sustainable positive social and economic effects? This requires a holistic approach integrated into local structures and communities. The roll-out of the SODIS technology was therefore integrated into a set of trainings and accompanied by the establishment of community-groups and selected additional WASH infrastructure. This was implemented and monitored on the ground by Get Water Uganda.

During the pilot project 5,016 households from 59 villages and 2 schools (1,416 pupils) were supplied with the SODIS technology and were trained and regularly monitored on its application. In that way, a total of about 25,000 people have now access to safe drinking water. Additional household trainings on WASH management and environmental protection (e.g. waste management), awareness raising campaigns on community, school, and district levels as well as the construction and training on menstrual hygiene management rooms complemented the learning process on WASH management in the project areas. To strengthen the uptake and ensure sustainability of the measures, 59 Village Sanitation Committees were formed with more than 400 members (57% female).

„The project will bring social transformation” – Henry Ouma (National Programs Coordinator GWU)

The pilot phase ended at the beginning of 2023 – with remarkable outcomes.

On a community level, 9 villages were successfully certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF). People who participated in the project reported fewer sick days leading to 17,3 more schooldays and 12 more workdays on average per year. In addition, an equivalent of 40.46€ in medical costs were saved on average per year while women reported to have reduced their workload at home by 7.7 hours per week.

The savings in time and money could be directly invested in the activities of Plastic Collection Groups or Village Loans and Savings Associations (VSLA) with a specific focus on women. The groups became a successful driver for socio-economic change. For instance, the all-female “Sibahola Nobana” group from Muhuwa Village reached total savings of an equivalent of EUR 1,200 in a period of eight months. VSLA members are currently investing in crop farming, selling produce or livestock production. To build on these new potentials, a follow-up project is planned with a focus on financial inclusion of women and capacity-building in the field of financial, business and digital literacy. Sounds interesting? Check out the opportunity to join the next project phase as project partner.

Brief project description

The Strategic Partnership Technology in Africa (SPTA) is a network of German Development Cooperation and over 200 companies. It aims to mobilise the innovative spirit of companies to develop projects and initiatives that harness the potential of future-oriented technologies in African partner countries. The SPTA was launched in 2017 by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is coordinated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

HELIOZ is an Austrian social enterprise active in the field of water disinfection and development of climate projects. Relying on its easy-to-use and environmentally friendly solution for water disinfection - the WADI device, HELIOZ provides safe drinking water to thousands of families across Africa and Asia.

Get Water Uganda (GWU) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2019 and is currently operating different projects in Namayingo and Busia district, Eastern Uganda, in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and climate change mitigation and economic empowerment of women in Uganda. GWU envisions a community where all people have access to clean and safe drinking water, sanitation, are responsive to climate change and economically empowered while using simple and sustainable Community Based Design Approaches fronting the participation of girls and women.

Copyrights: Get Water Uganda

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