4 May 2008

Digging Wells for the Poor

The 1000 Wells Project raises money for the Blood:Water Mission, which passes it to Lifewater International (LWI), which drills wells in poor countries. (All of these organizations are Christian.) LWI has several programs to bring water to communities, one of which is drilling shallow wells:
National drill crews also learn to involve the local community through the formation of a Village Water Committee. This committee actively participates in the selection of the well site, helps organize the community’s contribution toward well construction, and finally oversees the maintenance of the well once complete. Commitment and oversight by the Village Water Committee is critical to the sustainability of the water supply.
So, I asked the local coordinator of 1000 Wells this question: "What do you do about managing use of the wells after they are built?"

She really didn't know (they raise the money), and my quick look at the LWI site does not give me any indication that villages are given any more than engineering information on how to maintain them.

What I want to know is how LWI incorporates institutions for managing resources into the plan for "sustainability of the water supply." At the moment, it seems that they drill the well and the villagers figure it out. (I checked their website. They have links to papers developed for USAID in 1982. The paper on managing groundwater seems to be oriented to solving engineering -- not economic or social -- questions of water supply.)

I'd like to hear stories from LWI on resource management. Do they use a "one-size-fits-all" management scheme, adapt to or adopt local schemes, or do nothing at all.

Bottom Line: A resource (of water, fish, oil, trees, etc.) will not be around very long if the institutions for managing the resource are absent. If they are, all you are giving is a hole in the ground.

1 comment:

  1. I've spoken to some individuals that do similar well digging projects in Haiti semi-recently. Their experience was that the groups funding the well diggings hadn't had the foresight to plan concretely for maintenance over an extended period and dozens of wells have become non-functional due to mis-use and non-maintenance. Its difficult to develop programs for maintaining even low-tech infrastructure when there is little local expertise in metal-working/parts manufacture and mechanics.

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