In spite of massive investments in Tanzania, the demand for adequate and safe water sources far outstrips their supply as the country’s population continues to grow rapidly. According to WaterAid, only 50 per cent of Tanzania’s population have access to an improved source of safe water, while 26 million are estimated to be lacking even the most basic of supplies (WaterAid). For villagers of Maganzo and Masagala in Shinyanga Region the picture is no different. Prior to the project, their demand for water was a combined estimate of 681.3m3 per day while the water available from vendors and shallow wells was estimated to supply just 194.9 m3 per day – equivalent to 25 per cent of the total required. In both cases, the sources of drinking water were highly contaminated with animal waste and not treated or purified in any way, causing a real threat to people’s health. Investing in Children and their Societies (ICS) recognised that a major stumbling block to a safe and sustainable water supply in the area was the problematic and non-transparent system of revenue collection and the non-compliance of users to pay for the service. To address this, ICS and their technical partner, Susteq, combined a pre-paid water system with a scalable revenue model that would not only provide access to a safe and reliable supply of water but also generate income for the community.
ICS and Susteq piloted a pre-paid kiosk system whereby users can collect water at any time of the day via water credit cards topped up via their phones or from licensed credit sellers. The first cards were provided to households for free, with a small fee charged for replacements. The solar-powered water kiosks receive water from storage tanks connected by Susteq to the main pipeline constructed in the area by the Kahama Shinyanga Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (KASHWASA). The automated payment system allows for transparent accounting of water revenues and enables members of the local water committee and village leaders to check exactly the amount of water they are collecting and how much they are being charged. The technology behind the system also enables Susteq to capture data including water point distribution and functionality, usage, and maintenence, and respond to problems such as leakages or illegal connections as soon as they arise.
By the end of the pilot:
- The pre-paid water system was installed in 25 water points and 11 sales points.
- 13,316 people in Maganzo township and Masagala village in Kishapu District were provided with reliable access to safe and clean water.
By the end of the pilot:
- Take time to build community trust: New innovations take time to bed in. Work closely with communities from the outset, listen to their concerns and use training and awareness-raising activities that foster a sense of excitement and ownership.
- Use local partnerships: During design and construction of the system, ICS water engineers worked with local authority engineers who helped to review and guide the design based on their expert knowledge of the area.
Gender equity and social inclusion
Women and girls are considered to be the main beneficiaries of the project. Women responsible for fetching water for domestic use often have to walk far to find it and are at risk of abuse or attack along the way. The water points have helped reduce the burden of water collection, made women feel safer and freed up their time to engage in other productive economic activities. Girls at risk of dropping out of education due to a lack of available water sources in school or because of water collection duties are now more likely to attend.
Principles for digital development
Build for sustainability: Producing a sustainable, safe and reliable water supply and infrastructure was at the heart of the pilot. ICS and Susteq built a pre-paid water system that benefits everyone: from the water users and the licensed credit sellers to the local technicians and the local government authorities (LGAs) responsible for revenue collection and monitoring.
Following community engagement, together with social marketing, training and guidance on pre-paid water systems, the project has handed over the system to the LGAs to manage revenue collection. ICS also prepared and delivered a training programme to build the capacity of local technicians to use and maintain the system through Susteq.