Safe Water

Safe Water Projects

Water Committee Management Workshop

by Rebecca Grattage on 11/08/2017 No comments

In the framework the water projects’ monitoring system, Fontes Foundation conducted a field trip to check on water and educational projects in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda from Sunday 16th to Friday 21st July 2017.

During the field trip, Philip Borchert (Laboremus Uganda Ltd) and Agnes Kampire (Fontes Foundation) held management workshops for the water committees. The aim of these management workshops was to provide a platform to reflect on past issues and to review how they were resolved, focusing on how the committees communicate internally and with different stakeholders.

Philip Borchert (Laboremus Uganda Ltd) and Agnes Kampire (Fontes Foundation) leading a management workshop for the water committees.


In the past, two of the main reoccurring problems for water committees have been management and communication issues, which sometimes cause committees to break down. The workshops therefore helped committee members to reflect on:

  • How to deal with a difficult person on a committee and help them to perform well.
  • How the water committee is responsible/accountable to the community.
  • How the water committee can involve the community in the management of the water.

Providing a workshop to help water committee members come together to improve their communication and management is crucial to the water projects’ sustainability. It is important that the committees can work independently from Fontes Foundation so that if necessary the projects can sustain themselves without our help.

To spark discussion, the committee prepared a role play, during which they impressed us with their acting skills. The role play addressed issues like how to detect conflicts in the team, including conflict resolution, money management and how to communicate better in a team. The members of the different committees were very engaged, and we were delighted to see how the different members reflected upon and discussed best-practices for the management of water systems.

Members of the water committees participating in role play.

read more
Rebecca GrattageWater Committee Management Workshop

Project Management Internship at Fontes Foundation

by fontes on 13/07/2017 No comments

My experience at Fontes Foundation in Uganda has been very enriching. Finding your way in a country and working environment that is so different to anything you know is challenging, yet highly rewarding. Fontes Foundation is currently in the process of formalizing efforts and strengthening the entrepreneurial focus in its Youth Development projects. I was fortunate enough to join the organization in such dynamic and exciting times, having the chance to actively engage myself in various ventures.

My first personal highlight was the co-organisation of the first ever Fontes Foundation Career Day. It was deeply satisfying to see – after initial difficulties – how sharply dressed students presented their startup ideas, around sixteen companies decorated their booths with banners, flyers and brochures to attract possible employees and our partners Jumia Jobs, DFCU Bank and People Performance Group  gave inspiring keynote speeches.

Today, I am delighted to be preparing myself to go on my first field trip to Western Uganda. After having done much research on safe water treatment and its impact and written various funding proposals, I am looking forward to visiting the villages we have set up safe water treatment plants in and experiencing our influence first hand. I am especially thrilled to visit the village of Katunguru, which is located within Queen Elizabeth National Park.

After this last adventure, my days at Fontes will soon come to an end. I happily look back on an insightful time. Not only did I get the chance to gather work experience in various processes of an NGO. I met many development professionals, be it government officials, development consultants, or EU and UN delegates, and learned about their career paths. This gave me a holistic understanding of the development sector and I discovered many opportunities for my professional future and how to grasp them.

read more
fontesProject Management Internship at Fontes Foundation

Community Involvement is crucial to the Sustainability of the Water Projects

by fontes on 23/06/2017 No comments

Fontes Foundation is specialized in community development through the implementation of safe water systems and education projects. We pride ourselves in our long-term approach and focus on sustainability. In effect, in twelve years of being active in supplying water to disadvantaged communities as an entry point to escape poverty, we were able to attain a retention rate of a 100% of our portfolio projects. One of the main pillars of our long-term approach is Community Involvement. This article briefly touches on benefits and costs of this form of organizing our projects and discusses ways to smooth the processes.

There are many benefits that come with the involvement of the respective communities and the employing of local resources. Most of them are related to the creation of ownership. By closely involving the communities in the planning, implementing and running of our projects, we aim to establish a sense of ownership and thereby increase of responsibility within the community.  However, deep community involvement also bears the potential of challenges. Some challenges are found in the implementation of sound management processes.

Most failures in management result from three major reasons; first, the attitude of the community towards money collection. It is a common belief in some communities that it is legitimate for the volunteering water committee to use some of the money collected from water sales to cover their basic needs, instead of improving and maintaining the water system. This misunderstanding can lead to mismanagement of funds by the water community, which comes with terrible consequences in case of defects in the water systems.

Secondly, due to a low democratic capacity, it is possible that the community elects people for short-term personal gains instead of by reason of capability.  In unfortunate cases, this can result in locally elected representatives with little inspiration or interest of developing the water project, in the worst case even to an embezzlement of funds. Lastly, the high illiteracy level among people in rural Uganda is a prevalent challenge. Literacy constitutes the minimum criteria for some of the positions within the water committee, such as chairman, treasurer and secretary, in order to being able to conduct their tasks. These criteria unfortunately exclude a part of the population from being eligible to the mentioned positions.

Workshop on financial management

Over the years, we developed different tools to tackle the mentioned challenges. Regarding the financial management issues, we have been increasingly focused on educating the water committees in cash management and basic accounting. For this to be successful, it is important to keep the tools simple and to move step by step as well as to let the committees try and fail.

To foster the democratic capacity of the communities, we educate communities about the importance of electing strong and responsible water committees. Through workshops and capacity buildings that are organized at least once every year, Fontes teaches roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the community, aiming at improving the understanding of the entire system. We constantly remind the members of the community that the project belongs to the community and not Fontes Foundation. The community should therefore take responsibility for inventory of the systems, and supervise the water committee, which is directly accountable to them.

To solve the illiteracy issue, Fontes has started a scholarship program where a child is selected from the villages basing on performance, discipline and the financial status of the guardian or parent. The program covers four years of high school and two years of vocational training. This has been very fruitful, two former students, Cleophas and Pascal supervise the water projects on behalf of Fontes Foundation.

In addition to these formalized efforts, we need to stay open-minded to learn and flexible to find individual solutions, adapted to specific occasions. This was apparent in a recent case, when a respected treasurer turned blind. Since the community insisted on keeping the experienced treasurer, we agreed on appointing an assistant to help him, who takes over the reading and writing. In this way we managed to ensure the completion of the task without interfering with the decision of the local community.

read more
fontesCommunity Involvement is crucial to the Sustainability of the Water Projects

2016 Safe Water Seminar

by fontes on 20/12/2016 No comments

This year, Fontes Foundation was able to hold a safe water seminar for the first time since 2012, thanks to a generous donation from the Pharo Foundation. The water seminar took place in Katunguru-Kasese from 24th-25th November, 2016. The objective of the water seminar was to improve financial and technical capabilities of the Fontes Foundation water committees to ensure adequate water service delivery to the community. The seminar addressed a number of areas that are vital for ensuring effective water committee management, these included community mobilization, financial management and technical training.

Water seminars present an opportunity for the different water committees to come together and share experiences and learn from one another. During the seminar participants were encouraged to actively engage in discussions, group work and presentations. In addition, local leaders and other stakeholders were also invited to the seminar to facilitate relationship building and community mobilization.

The seminar was a huge success, the organizers were met with extremely engaged and motivated participants. The feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, they expressed how the opportunity allowed them to network and make friends, develop new skills, to share experiences and gain knowledge about project management. In their feedback, many of the participants suggested yearly water seminars. We are therefore happy to announce that Pharo Foundation has provided funding for three consecutive years. We look forward to next year’s water seminar and seeing how the committees are progressing as a result of such training sessions.


read more
fontes2016 Safe Water Seminar

How invested community participation leads to greater water system sustainability

by fontes on 09/12/2016 No comments

The Fontes Foundation team has just returned from a field trip in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, where the main purpose of the trip was to conduct follow-ups in all of our water and education projects and hold a two-day water seminar for the Fontes water committees. The Fontes team observed how the water committees were taking charge and creating positive change in their water systems by showing a greater commitment to project maintenance, upscaling the water systems and coming up with innovative solutions to reoccurring problems.

Across all water projects, committees were improving their systems by ensuring regular maintenance. The committees weren’t just making small repairs, they were also undertaking more substantive maintenance. When a filter broke in Kazinga, the water committee raised money to buy and replace the broken parts. In both Kazinga and Kashaka the water committees have replaced broken doors at the tap stands and water meters. In Kiseyni, the committee brought in technical expertise to fix a broken intake cable. While the water committee in Katuguru-Kasese has put concrete around their intake for lasting stability.

The Fontes team was impressed by some of the water committees, who were taking initiative and upscaling their water systems. In Kisenyi, the water committee has installed an additional public tap stand to accommodate those people in the village who live further away from the two main public tap stands. They have plans to install another two public tap stands in the near future to ensure that the whole community has easy access to clean water. Katunguru-Kasese and Katunguru-Rubirizi are both continuing to install private connections. Kasese currently has 25 private connections. Such private connections and additional public tap stands provide the water committees with greater income and savings to better manage the systems and ensure the system’s sustainability.

Lastly, the water committees demonstrated their ability to implement innovative and preventable solutions to reoccurring problems. In Kisenyi, the water committee came up with an environmentally sustainable solution to animals destroying the fence that surrounds the water tanks. The committee has created a natural fence by planting trees. After loosing a technician, the water committee in Kashaka is providing technical training to multiple people in the community to ensure that information is never lost and that they can always find a quick replacement technician if needed. In Katunguru-Kasese the water committee is testing out a new type of tap that has a gate valve, in an attempt to stop leakages. Finally, to fix the problem of chemical shortages, all five water committees are considering buying chemicals together in bulk and storing them in Katunguru-Kasese, as it has the most accessible road. By buying in bulk together, all water committees will ensure that their water system will never suffer from chemical shortages again.

At Fontes, we believe that greater community participation in development projects leads to improved resource sustainability and quality of infrastructure. As the Fontes water committees actively invest in maintaining, improving and managing their water systems their communities will continue to benefit from the Fontes safe water projects for years to come.

The new 'gate valve' taps in Katunguru-Kasese

The new ‘gate valve’ taps in Katunguru-Kasese

read more
fontesHow invested community participation leads to greater water system sustainability

Enhancing Cooperation in the WASH Sector

by fontes on 22/07/2016 No comments

From the 20th to the 23rd June 2016, Uganda was hosting the Kampala WASH Symposium, an international conference to improve the global development cooperation in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene with more than 200 participants from 27 countries and 5 continents. Within this framework, Fontes Foundation was welcoming participants of the symposium at an Open House event at our head office in Kampala. The visitors got introduced to the most important pillars of our water projects in form of an exhibition, including community involvement, monitoring and evaluation, implementation and maintenance as well as Fontes Foundation’s long-term commitment to its projects and beneficiaries. The Fontes Foundation staff was at the disposal of the visitors to give them more detailed information and to answer their vast amount of ques- tions.

Participating in the Kampala WASH Symposium and hosting this Open House event was a great opportunity for Fontes Foundation to interact with a large variety of stakeholders such as governments, civil society organizations, the private sector as well as academia, to increase the organization’s network and to establish new potential partnerships.

– written by Michael Pletscher

read more
fontesEnhancing Cooperation in the WASH Sector

Uniting Strengths for Prosperity

by fontes on 22/07/2016 No comments

Installed in 2011, the Safe Water Project in Katunguru-Kasese is Fontes Foundation’s biggest water project, serving approximately 2,000 people. Due to the rapid population growth and the increased demand for safe drinking water resulting thereof, Fontes Foundation, with the generous support of Lions Club Oslo-Slemdal (Norway), carried out an extension of the current water system in January 2016.

The newly constructed second water tower with the elevated storage tank.

The newly constructed second water tower with the elevated storage tank.

To guarantee that the water pressure is high enough for further water system extensions in the village, an additional steel water tower has been constructed and connected to the old one, with the result that the whole water system is now on high-pressure connections. In addition, a second settlement tank has been installed to further increase the production capacity of the system.

Besides the installation of new hardware, the already existing water treatment container has been reworked by installing a proper iron sheet roof, fixing and cleaning up the inside and painting both the in- as well as the outside of the container. With this extension successfully put in place, the Katunguru- Kasese water committee will be able to cover the increasing water demand of the village in the future.

– written by Michael Pletscher

read more
fontesUniting Strengths for Prosperity

How Management, Solar Panels & Seasonal Conditions affect Profit

by fontes on 22/07/2016 No comments

The urgent need for increased access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services has been a continuous issue on the global development agenda since years. Although promising developments have been achieved, such as the improved access to drinking water for 2.3 billion people between 1990 and 2012 (cf. GLASS Report 2014), the supply, especially in rural areas, is still inadequate. Fontes Foundation is addressing the problem of inadequate access to safe drinking water in rural southwestern Uganda since 2004.

To find out about our projects’ performances and obstacles, Katharina Stegelmann conducted a research study during three months. By analysing the project’s accountability and monthly reports of 2015 as well as by conducting interviews during the recent follow up in May 2016, she discover challenges regarding project management and data collection, but also revealed promising trends. According to the current committees, the challenges encountered are various and range from financial difficulties to problems related to the lack of knowledge, commitment and communication. Furthermore, the projects’ performances depend highly on the seasons. During the rainy season, water users tend to fetch rainwater for domestic purposes. While demand decreases within this period, the chemical usage increases as a higher amount of aluminium sulphate has to be added to purify the water.

Figure above: Comparison of annual accountability of the safe water projects in 2015. While the collected income highly depends on the season (the more it rains, the lower the income), the expenditures vary a lot due to fluctuation of maintenance costs. Demand de- creases during rainy season (as water users tend to fetch rain water), while the chemical us- age increases as technicians have to add more chemicals to purify the water.

Figure above: Comparison of annual accountability of the safe water projects in 2015. While the collected income highly depends on the season (the more it rains, the lower the income), the expenditures vary a lot due to fluctuation of maintenance costs. Demand de- creases during rainy season (as water users tend to fetch rain water), while the chemical us- age increases as technicians have to add more chemicals to purify the water.

A further challenge is the high demand for power, either from the grid or produced by solar panels. While the demand stays constant, the supply varies as power cuts occur or the energy produced by the solar system doesn’t meet the demand. Besides this, the research identified deficits in relation to data collection. The study revealed that monitoring tools (e.g. monthly report forms) need to be adjusted to the projects’ individual circumstances and the submission of the forms should be taken more serious by the water committees. Besides incompleteness and inaccuracy, caused by vague or neglected monthly reports, adequate accountability has been identified as a core challenge concerning data collection. To improve the monthly data submission and strengthen the management skills of the committee members, further capacity buildings are necessary. As all committees showed deficits within their general management, mostly caused by a lack of communication or the misplacement of important documents, this gap should be addressed by constant follow ups. Furthermore, the awareness within the community about the importance of chemicals, such as chlorine and aluminium sulphate needs to be strengthened. However, the recent capacity building on responsible chlorination, which was carried out in April 2016, has already widened the communities’ awareness.

One has to regard the fact that the five safe water projects are facing different circumstances in relation to their management, to the water source, which impacts the water quality as well as to their population size. These different conditions affect the project’s performances, which are dependent on internal (e.g. commitment of the committee, financial support by the community to maintain project) as well as external (e.g. water condition, donations from donors) factors. The research has clearly revealed that solar panels impact income, expenditures and profit. In the village of Kazinga for example, after having installed the solar panels, the project was able to increase the current revenues, balance the expenditures and make a profit within one year. This development is promising, nonetheless, the Kazinga project was reliant on power produced by generators, while the remaining two non-solar projects (Katunguru-Kasese & Katunguru-Rubirizi) have a power connection, which is more economical in their case.

To ensure a responsible and secure maintenance of our projects, Fontes Foundation will continue guiding and financially supporting the water committees, since their means are only sufficient for minor repairs, but not higher maintenance costs. As Fontes Foundation Uganda ‘envisions empowered communities, able to collaborate for the common good, develop themselves and realize their potential’ constant monitoring and evaluation plays a crucial role in discovering and addressing challenges, as well as ensuring sustainable development and community involvement.

-written by Katharina Stegelmann

read more
fontesHow Management, Solar Panels & Seasonal Conditions affect Profit

Norwegian Expertise for an Additional Safe Water Project

by Michael Pletscher on 09/12/2015 No comments

As part of his bachelor thesis in mechanical engineering, the Norwegian Frank Larsen is designing a new safe water system for a fishing village on Nsadzi Island in Lake Victoria. Thus, Frank was accompanying a Fontes team on an 8-day follow-up field trip to the QENP in South-Western Uganda, where he became acquainted with existing Fontes water projects. Besides inspecting all the different elements of Fontes Foundation’s small piped water schemes, Frank was collecting technical and managerial information about how the systems are run by the local water committees and supported the Fontes team during their follow-up and capacity-building work. Thereafter, Frank joined the Fontes team for a two-day assessment of a prospec- tive water project on Nsadzi Island. On site, he collected data for his thesis (such as the latrine coverage, the number of people living in the village or the lake’s water quality) and he also identified potential locations of the treatment facilities.

Currently, the inhabitants of Nsadzi Island do not have access to any safe water sources and thus have to rely on (potentially contaminated) water from the lake.

Currently, the inhabitants of Nsadzi Island do not have access to any safe water sources and thus have to rely on (potentially contaminated) water from the lake.

With his knowledge as a trained electrician, Frank was a highly valuable addition to the team. Fontes Foundation would like to thank him very much for his efforts towards the organization’s work and is looking forward to the results of his thesis, which will serve as the basis for the planned implementation of the water project on Nsadzi Island. Moreover, Fontes is grateful for the good collaboration with Engineers Without Borders Nor- way, who provided financial and technical support.

read more
Michael PletscherNorwegian Expertise for an Additional Safe Water Project

Fontes Foundation chosen as WASH Impact Network Partner

by Michael Pletscher on 04/12/2015 No comments

Fontes Foundation is happy to announce that the organization has been selected as a partner of the WASH Impact Network. The network consists of more than 120 organizations from East Africa and India that are considered innovators in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Brought to life in April 2015, the WASH Impact Network is financed by the Washington D.C.-based non-profit Results for Development (R4D), an organization bridging the gap between think-tanks and academia (which develop promising ideas to tackle urgent problems in low- and middle-income countries) as well as the implementers on the ground (which are the organizations dealing with operational issues and the realities of the respective communities).

Convinced that the best solutions to challenges in the developing world are being designed by innovators and entrepreneurs that live within those communities, the WASH Impact Network was initiated to identify common obstacles across the WASH sector, and to find out how organizations can be supported in overcoming them. Following an iterative process of defining barriers to maximum impact, gathering insights from the various partner organizations, sharing solutions and tracking their implementation progress, the WASH Impact Network tries to leverage successful strategies and programmes amongst its member organizations and eventually in the communities affected by poor WASH conditions.

For Fontes Foundation Uganda, being part of the WASH Impact Network is a recognition of our track record within the sector. Moreover, it provides us with valuable opportunities to tap into the collective knowledge of 120 like-minded organizations as well as to share our experiences from operating in Uganda and Mozambique for more than 10 years within the network.

To learn more about Fontes Foundation’s innovative approach in its safe water projects, have a look at the Fontes Safe Water Project profile on the WASH Impact Network homepage or learn more about the network itself under

read more
Michael PletscherFontes Foundation chosen as WASH Impact Network Partner