Sustainability and well functionality are major challenges for the entire water aid world. Many water organizations do provide clean drinking water but maintaining the wells after they are built is something most find difficult to achieve.
Marion Medical Mission has a maintenance system in place that works. The key to the maintenance system is building a well the village communities know how to maintain and can afford to maintain.
Here’s how it works…
1. Village Maintenance
A water committee is selected by the village to preside over their well. They meet with other nearby village well committees consisting of 10 to 20 villages forming a Zone Management Team (ZMT). Each ZMT selects two maintenance persons. The selected maintenance persons are people the villagers know, people whose children and families benefit from the safe drinking water the well provides. The selected maintenance persons work with MMM’s skilled well builders and after the construction of the 5th well, they know the well inside and out. Marion Medical Mission then provides a ballcap, T-shirt, and a pipe wrench. The well maintenance is now the responsibility of the village.
When a well requires repair, the local maintenance person is contacted and if the well is fixed within 48 hours the maintenance person is given a chicken, rice, vegetables, or some other type of gift to compensate them for their time and effort.
Additionally, each village pays an annual fee of approximately $10 to cover the cost to purchase spare pump parts. Pump parts are readily accessible through one of MMM’s 3 workshops (one in Malawi, one in Zambia, and one in Tanzania) where the parts are manufactured by skillfully trained subsistence farmers.
2. MMM Functionality Monitoring System (developed by Dr. Hayden Boyd)
Marion Medical Mission has 21 Field Officers each living in an area covering roughly 3,000 square miles. The MMM functionality monitoring system enables the Field Officers to oversee the functionality and maintenance of the wells in each area.
In February, March, and April, of each year, the Field Officers visits a stratified random sample of 100 wells from among the 1,000-2,000 wells built in their area. This process is designed to give MMM and its donors a documented, objective estimate of the overall functionality of MMM wells.
MMM’s Functionality Monitoring System also detects problems providing a way to initiate corrective action. If the Field Officer observes construction and siting issues, the names of the builder and supervisor for that well are recorded in the database so the Field Officer can work with them to improve performance.
The Field Officer inspects each of the 100 stratified random sample wells and interviews the community, filling a detailed survey questionnaire on the Android Tablet about all aspects of the well’s functionality, including the condition of the structure and the pump, the quantity and quality of water, and the well’s recent maintenance history. In addition to the GPS coordinates, the Field Officer also takes a photo of the well to visually record its current condition. If there are maintenance issues with the pump or structure, these will be discussed with community leaders, the local Zones Management Teams, and the maintenance people, to encourage and enable better performance.
Each of the four MMM program areas in Northern Malawi, Central Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia has the equipment and software to take the survey information from the Androids and convert it into usable spreadsheet form. A database of more than 30,000 wells is maintained by an American volunteer, who is also responsible for developing and improving the functionality monitoring system. The database includes information collected on Android tablets for all wells installed in 2012 and later and baseline surveys of earlier wells in Malawi.
Funds can be donated directly to this purpose. Our goal is to provide safe, sustainable, sources of clean drinking water that will meet the villagers’ needs indefinitely.