Safe Water

Safe Water Projects

Fontes Foundation and the New Era of Development Goals

by Michael Pletscher on 14/05/2015 No comments

During 2015, the Millennium Development Goals meet their deadline. Fontes Foundation Uganda’s Regional Coordinator seizes the opportunity to evaluate Fontes’ contribution within the framework of global development goals.

(Caption above: Inhabitants of Katunguru-Kasese, Uganda filling up their jerry cans with safe drinking water. The inhabitants have to pay a small fee for the water, which will go to the local water committee for managing the water system. Fontes believes that when the beneficiaries have a sense of ownership of the water system, the project will be sustainable in the long run.)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), defined by the United Nations in year 2000, were an ambitious attempt to reduce poverty in the world. Now, fifteen years later, the MDG-deadline is approaching and while some MDGs have already been met, others have been missed by miles. As the international community has to decide on new development goals for the next 15 years, it is time to evaluate how Fontes Foundation has contributed towards the MDGs and how Fontes’ approach can be implemented within the soon to be defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Fontes Foundation is making a small but reasonable contribution towards several Millennium Development Goals through its water, education and youth projects. What characterizes the Fontes approach is the long-term commitment the organization has towards its projects. For example, instead of establishing as many new safe drinking water projects as possible in order to reach the MDGs, Fontes Foundation is focusing on a limited number of water projects and the provision of technical and managerial training and continuous follow-ups to increase the feeling of ownership among the local population. Studies made by the Rural Water Supply Network and WaterScan Consulting have shown that the average life span of a drinking water project in Africa is 2-3 years due to the lack of locally available resources and technical and managerial knowledge of the beneficiaries. Given the fact that Fontes Foundation’s water projects have been running successfully since 2004, we feel confident that our approach is a successful way to reach sustainable development, meaning to one day achieve the total independence of the water projects from the organization. The current Millennium Development Goals seem to give wrong incentives for development organizations: Instead of a long-term commitment in a limited amount of projects, the focus lies on the installation of new safe water projects on a large scale combined with a short-term exit strategy for the development organization. This leads to an increased safe water coverage in the short run, but will have a very limited – if any at all – effect on the access to drinking water in the middle and long run.

Fontes Foundation’s long-term approach is not only reserved for the organization’s water projects. At Potentiam Youth Development Centre, vulnerable youth is trained in ICT, Business Skills, English and Personal Development. Even though the original idea was to establish a vocational skills training centre, an extensive assessment study including the community, the youth, as well as employers from the neighbouring areas, revealed that it would make more sense to provide the youth with the skills necessary to run their own business or simply being a good and reliable employee. Hence, the programme was adapted accordingly.

Fontes follows up every student with a two-year mentorship programme, which continues long after they have completed the Core Course. This follow-up is essential in order to make sure that the youth actually finds employment or successfully starts up a business. Again, Fontes Foundation’s long-term commitment is evident.

As with the MDGs, we at Fontes Foundation are convinced that we can play a small but impactful role in the successful implementation of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals by sticking to our long-term approach. “Help to Self- Help” is the buzzword, including capacity building, constant follow-up and establishing a sense of ownership among the beneficiaries of our projects. The final goal is not to give Fontes Foundation a “raison d’eÌ‚tre”, but to empower the communities supported in a way that they one day can operate the projects independent of the organization. Only like this can a development project be considered truly sustainable. Even though there already is a lot of criticism towards the SDGs, as they seem to be even more ambitious and much broader than the MDGs, we will have to wait until September 2015 to see if those goals are formulated in a way where development really can be considered sustainable.

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Michael PletscherFontes Foundation and the New Era of Development Goals

Celebrating Ten Years of Safe Water

by Agnes Kampire on 14/05/2015 No comments

The 10-year anniversary of Fontes Foundation’s first safe water system was celebrated with the implementation of a new settlement tank and solar panel in Kazinga village, southwestern Uganda.

(Caption above: The local communities in Katunguru Sub-County, Uganda are showing their gratitude to Fontes Foundation founder Dr. Andreas Koestler at the 10-year anniversary function.)

In 2004, Fontes Foundation installed its first safe water system in the village Katunguru-Rubirizi in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. The 10-year anniversary of this initial installation was celebrated with a function in Kazinga village 30th of January 2015 and was attended by local water committees, political leaders, donors, the local community and representatives from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Andreas Koestler, one of the founders and the current Director of Fontes Foundation, proudly announced that the organisation’s first water system is still working and has supplied safe water for Katunguru for over ten years.

The highlight of the celebrations, however, was the implementation of a new solar panel and settlement tank in Kazinga village. The photo-voltaic solar panels needed to run the water system now only cost about a quarter of what they did when the system initially was installed in 2007. This tremendous price reduction made replacing the petrol generator with solar panels a viable option. It is also more environmental friendly. The installations of the solar panels and the new settlement tank, which were assisted by Engineers Without Borders Norway, were made possible through generous donations from Laboremus Oslo AS and Balder Foundation, both in Norway. We are grateful for these organizations’ continuous support. Fuel used to be one of the largest operating expenses for the water project in Kazinga. Now the project will have more money for maintenance of the system, which again will make the project more sustainable.

Fontes Foundation’s first safe water project in Katunguru-Rubirizi, Uganda was implemented due to dire demand for safe drinking water in the fishing villages inside Queen Elizabeth National Park. People were suffering from waterborne diseases caused by drinking the contaminated water. In addition, fetching water in the lake was dangerous due to the presence of wild animals. Upon request from the UWA and the local community, a small surface water treatment plant was installed in Katunguru-Rubirizi in Februay 2004.

The building of the foundation for the new settlement tank in Kazinga, Uganda. The new settlement tank will ensure continued access to safe water in the village.

The building of the foundation for the new settlement tank in Kazinga, Uganda. The new settlement tank will ensure continued access to safe water in the village.

Now, more than ten years later, the effect from providing safe water has proved to be much greater than only reducing diseases. When the project in Katunguru-Rubirizi was first installed, the village only had a couple of hundred inhabitants. In recent years, however, the population has grown tremendously and the village is now host for a number of new institutions and projects. These include a small hospital, a secondary school and, not the least, the national park headquarters. People say all of this happened because the inhabitants in Katunguru now have access to safe drinking water.

The results from these projects show that Fontes Foundation’s long-term take on sustainable development cooperation – including community involvement, ownership and training, as well as continuous follow-up and advising – is working. Fontes Foundation is not running the projects alone; the local communities have been trained to manage their own water systems, which in each village is run by a democratically elected water committee. The ideal is that each community acquires a feeling of ownership over the safe water system and understands that the project belongs to the community and not to the organization. This is important, so that when the community has learned to appreciate the value of clean and safe water, they will have the responsibility, the skills and the capacity to keep the safe water system running without the involvement of external actors.

The trench for the cable running from the solar panels to the pumps was built by the community in Kazinga, Uganda, as their contribution towards the new installations. Every villager had to contribute with a certain length of trench and the community leaders kept a log to ensure that everyone did their part.

The trench for the cable running from the solar panels to the pumps was built by the community in Kazinga, Uganda, as their contribution towards the new installations. Every villager had to contribute with a certain length of trench and the community leaders kept a log to ensure that everyone did their part.

 

 

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Agnes KampireCelebrating Ten Years of Safe Water

Celebrating ten years in Queen Elizabeth National Park

by Michael Pletscher on 11/02/2015 No comments

The implementation of a new solar panel and settlement tank in the village of Kazinga in western Uganda marked the ten year anniversary of Fontes Foundations first water project in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Ten years with progress and development.

One of the Fountes Foundations`founders, Andreas Koestler, is adressing Kazinga village.

One of the Fountes Foundations`founders, Andreas Koestler, is adressing Kazinga village.

Ten years with safe water

Fontes Foundations first water project in QENP was implemented in 2004 due to dire demand for safe water in the fishing villages inside the park. People were suffering from waterborne diseases and, in addition, fetching water in the lake was dangerous. There are crocodiles and hippos lurching in the water, and along the path down to the lake, several people were attacked by lions. Upon a request from the Uganda Wildlife Authorities (UWA) and the local community, it was decided to install a small surface water treatment plant in the village of Katunguru-Rubirizi in February 2004.

When the project was first installed, the village only had a couple of hundred inhabitants. In the last years, the national park headquarters were moved to Katunguru, a secondary school has opened, and a small hospital has been built. People say all this happened because they have access to safe water. In the long term, the effect of providing safe water has shown to be much larger than only reducing diseases. Since the first water instalment in 2004, Fontes Foundations water projects now cover five villages, and provides clean drinking water for thousands of people on a daily basis.

The new installations

The anniversary was celebrated with a function and the implementation of a new settlement tank and a solar panel in Kazinga village, which will result in lower running costs, and make the water system more sustainable. Fontes Foundation celebrated with the local water committees, political leaders, UWA, donors and the community.

Make a difference!

Through the development of basic infrastructure such as water supply, sanitation and education facilities, Fontes Foundation aims to improve the standard of living and well-being of people in Uganda. Using a participatory approach, appropriate and affordable technology is selected with a long-term perspective and sustainability in mind. All this is made possible through the continued effort from our donors: Support Fontes Foundation today: http://fontes.no/foundation/donate/

 

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Michael PletscherCelebrating ten years in Queen Elizabeth National Park

10 Years Anniversary of Our First Project

by Michael Pletscher on 30/09/2014 No comments

Fontes Foundation is proud to announce that its first safe water system, installed in 2004 in Katunguru-Rubirizi, is still running, which is not self-evident in Africa. It has now supplied safe water for the community for over 10 years. This deserves a proper celebration!

We cordially invite you to join us on an unforgettable trip through Uganda, which will carry us from the pulsating capital city of Kampala to the breathtaking landscape of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, combining visiting of Fontes projects and tourism activities.

We are inviting friends, colleagues, Lions and Rotary club members, donors and whoever might be interested. This trip will be a unique opportunity to learn about Africa, to learn to know Africa, to understand Africa and at the same time spot some of Africa’s precious wildlife.

Please follow this link to find the invitation and the program for our 10 years celebration trip.

 

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Michael Pletscher10 Years Anniversary of Our First Project

The Fontes Team Heads to the Field to Follow Up on Some Projects

by Michael Pletscher on 16/09/2014 No comments

The Fontes Foundation field trip team has just come back from a trip following up the organisation’s water and education projects in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The main purpose of the trip was to conduct technical training for the water committees in our project villages with the help of our Field Assistant Pascal and our Technical Consultant Ibrahim. In addition, both our scholarship students as well as their parents got career guidance sessions from our Youth Programme Coordinator Apiyo about what the students can do with their secondary school education after graduation.

The Fontes Foundation team also visited Kashaka, south-west Uganda. The local water committee of the Fontes safe water scheme in Kashaka was proud to inform the team that the intake rack and the solar panels that were installed in May in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) are working flawlessly and have led to a considerable reduction of the running costs of the scheme. The committee also managed to install an additional fence above the intake to protect it against unauthorized access as well as to reduce the danger for children playing next to the steep shore.

During the community meeting, it turned out that the community is very happy with the performance of the water committee and that communication between the two is good and based on mutual trust.

Fontes Foundation would like to use this opportunity to thank EWB again for the good collaboration regarding this project implementation and is looking forward towards future common undertakings

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Michael PletscherThe Fontes Team Heads to the Field to Follow Up on Some Projects

Humanitarian Engineering in Practice

by Michael Pletscher on 20/05/2014 No comments

A course in humanitarian engineering organized by Fontes Foundation for Engineers Without Borders Norway was a great success.

The installation of the water intake in Kashaka, Uganda during the field course - a joint effort of Engineers Without Borders and Fontes Foundation.

The installation of the water intake in Kashaka, Uganda during the field course – a joint effort of Engineers Without Borders and Fontes Foundation.

What does it take to carry out a successful engineering project in an African context? This was the key question of the “Humanitarian Engineering in Practice” course carried out by Fontes Foundation in early May this year. A group of eleven engineers from a wide area of fields such as civil engineering, water and wastewater engineering, ICT and marine technology participated in the ten-day field course held in southwestern Uganda. The overall goal of the course was for the participants to gain skill in how to work with engineering projects in emergency aid or development projects. Facilitated by Andreas Koestler, Director of Fontes Foundation, and Luke Dokter, Director of EWB Norway, the team faced the task of installing a solar power system and a new water intake for the safe water supply project in Kashaka fishing village.

The course participants installing the solar panels in Kashaka, Uganda. The panels are important for the sustainability of the water project as it will reduce the running costs.

The course participants installing the solar panels in Kashaka, Uganda. The panels are important for the sustainability of the water project as it will reduce the running costs.

Although the technical solution is not complicated in itself, implementing it under these particular circumstances is not that easy. The real challenges of implementing or improving a water system in rural Africa lie in the adaptation to social and cultural values as well as the rules of the respective society, which differ substantially from European approaches. Already in Kampala while preparing for the field trip the course participants quickly realised the crucial importance of drawing on local knowledge and resources.

In Kashaka, after a cultural briefing from the Fontes Foundation staff, the EWB team was first required to complete both technical and socio-economic assessments to get an overview of the situation in the village. With a view of informing the people of Kashaka about the purpose of the visit and ensuring cooperative collaboration, a community meeting was held to officially introduce the visitors from Norway. The involvement of the local population is crucial to develop a sense of ownership for the project among the beneficiaries. For this reason, the EWB team was actively involving the local community into the entire construction process of both the solar panels and the water intake.

The busy construction site of the new water intake just next to the existing water tanks. When assembled, the water intake tower was lowered into the water and rammed into the lakebed. The submersible pump was suspended from the middle of the tower in order to be protected from debris and animals. Note the PET bottles used for protecting the sharp edges of the tower.

The busy construction site of the new water intake just next to the existing water tanks. When assembled, the water intake tower was lowered into the water and rammed into the lakebed. The submersible pump was suspended from the middle of the tower in order to be protected from debris and animals. Note the PET bottles used for protecting the sharp edges of the tower.

After a week of hard work the water intake and the pump were firmly installed in the lake bed. At the same time the solar panels were installed providing the much-needed power to run the water pump properly. The big benefit of the solar panels is that there is no more need to pay for fuel for the pumping of the clean water. The team also installed a new fence around the pump house and the tanks to protect them from unauthorized people, playing children and animals such as hippos. The successful implementation was largely possible thanks to a very motivated and interested EWB team and the hardworking local population.

The “Humanitarian Engineering in Practice” course was a great success. Not only was all the intended hardware installed, the participants learnt a lot about working in an African setting and gained important insights into Ugandan culture, especially in rural areas. The post-course evaluation revealed that the engineers’ perception and understanding of sustainable, long-term development aid changed substantially during the ten days spent in the field and thus one of the main goals of the entire project was achieved.

The importance of considering the circumstances under which engineering projects take place was one of the main lessons learnt for EWB. The course for “Humanitarian Engineering in Practice” was also an important event for Fontes Foundation and its entire team, with great personal and professional relationships formed. As many of the participants want to work in the field of development assistance in their future careers, Fontes Foundation was able to contribute to the building up of new capacities and the promising professionals in this sector.

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Michael PletscherHumanitarian Engineering in Practice

Sustainable Development – A Personal Perspective

by Andreas Koestler on 27/02/2014 No comments

Visit to the DR Congo in collaboration with UNICEF strengthens Fontes Foundation’s Director’s conviction that sustainable development is key, but it must be done in the right way.

In February 2014 Andreas Koestler, Director of Fontes Foundation visited the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for UNICEF for a supply chain analysis of hand pumps. The following diary entry of his visit provides important insights into the lack of sustainability in many development projects. But there is hope for the future thanks to committed and hard working local people.

The visit today was to a community more than twenty kilometres from the main road towards Lake Albert. Our focus today was hand pumps because they are still considered a sustainable technical solution to bring groundwater to the surface, making it accessible for the population. In the community we visited, as in many other regions, NGOs and International Organizations have invested millions of dollars to establish water supplies for communities – but the result is frustrating. While visiting a hospital and talking to the doctor we learned that there was a hand pump installed close by. However, it had only worked for two months in 2010 and had been out of service since then. The hospital remained without water. I am still struggling to grasp how health services are provided at this hospital with no water. The only answer the doctor could come up with was a shake of the head and a resigned “this is how it is”. Immediately one though came to my mind: How is it possible that such an admirable project of providing water to this hospital failed after only two months and has since not been revived? Walking in the hot sun, talking to local people and visualizing many of failed hand pumps seen during my field visits, I came to the frustrating conclusion that it is not the technical solution which is wrong nor is it lacking maintenance by the local people. It is the failed starting point taken by us as donors, by us as supporting nations of the UN, by us as implementers of water supply projects.

Totally isolated in a community of 6000 people only one hand pump out of three is working properly, installed in 2013. This hand pump serves around 450 people. What about the other 5550 children, youth and adults? Who made the choice to put in one well with a hand pump in this particular location, using 12’000 US Dollars but forcing the rest of the community to continue to collect partly polluted water at poor springs and seasonal rivers? Following the main stream of development now, a business concept is looked for to maintain this pump. How can you build a business on an isolated asset which requires spare parts every second or third year? This is like establishing a business for providing spare parts for a single car on a Pacific island which only has a diameter of 1 km.

Why are we not starting with a general approach staying in an area to provide safe drinking water for all? This would really be following up the Millennium Development Goals. This could be the starting point of many businesses. Because water supply to everybody means that everybody receives a service and a necessary good. This would also mean that everybody gets involved. Businesses are only started from individual initiatives where there is a demand and a market. Water supplies create many things: jobs, businesses and importantly a common understanding of resource accessibility for everyone leading to a common management of this valuable resource. As seen and experienced within projects, this sows the seeds of a democratic understanding of the management of a common good. It also teaches through specific actions the importance of the contribution of each individual for making necessary means available, the first step for a functioning tax system. Taxes mean sharing and managing a common load for the benefit of all.

Back to the failed hand pump at the hospital… You find a frustrated population, a medical doctor who has given up thinking and working for development. This doctor, like many other people, needs our help in better managing the resources available and importantly he crucially depends on our comprehensive understanding and thinking in supporting channels to consider the big picture instead of spending money on an isolated hand pump, which is lost in the wide landscape of north-western DRC.

There is hope for the future as we were able to see on the following day. As we were told by our guide Roger from Oxfam, about twelve hand pumps had been installed in the settlement of Djegu about two years ago. We picked one to visit some 50 metres beside the road, where women still were filling their yellow jerry cans. A young woman with laughing eyes immediately approached us, speaking to us in French – and there we were conversing about life and her future. She told us how the water committees function, how much money they have already collected, how they manage to maintain the pump, and even how they get help from Uganda just over the border for more difficult repairs. She told us that she attended at High School in Bunia and that she dreamed of going to University or complete a nurse training to become a head nurse. Only 21 years old, she was very focused and determined – and very impressively she even uses her time while preparing for her life’s way for meaningful and socially necessary activities such as supporting her community in keeping the water running.

When I remember her determined, sparkling, eyes I feel humbled and inspired to devote more of my time and energy to support my environment.

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Andreas KoestlerSustainable Development – A Personal Perspective

German Filmmaker Sven Kaemmerer Films Fontes Work

by Michael Pletscher on 17/02/2014 No comments

While we are still in the field to follow up our water and educational projects, we are accompanied by German film-maker Sven Kämmerer. Sven is capturing the work of Fontes Foundation to give an insight into our approach and its impact on the respective communities in Uganda.

Sven also compiled a blog with his reflections on his final days in Kampala (in German) https://www.startnext.de/let-there-be-water/blog/?bid=28598

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Michael PletscherGerman Filmmaker Sven Kaemmerer Films Fontes Work

Ongoing Success Needs Ongoing Support

by fontes on 13/01/2014 No comments

This year it is 10 years since our first water project was installed, and it is still providing safe water. Essential for this achievement were continuous support and trainings. This long-term approach has also been tightly integrated into the Potentiam Youth Development Centre in Kampala.

Providing safe drinking water has to be linked with long term educational activities in the villages in order to maximize the effects.

Providing safe drinking water has to be linked with long term educational activities in the villages in order to maximize the effects.

One of Fontes’ core values is the long-term approach of our projects. Experience has shown us that a project only will last long if the implementer is willing to invest his resources over a decent period of time and provide the beneficiaries with ongoing support and guidance. Regular visits for follow up and capacity building in small steps are key to ensure the success of our projects to empower communities in an enduring and sustainable way.

Many safe water projects in Uganda are unpleasant but illustrative examples of failed attempts to provide proper and long-lasting solutions to communities in need. On average, a water project in Uganda is failing 3 years after its implementation. Fontes’ first safe water project in Katunguru-Rubirizi, western Uganda, was implemented in 2004. For more than 10 years it is providing water on a reliable basis! These beneficiaries are undergoing training in managing the water systems on their own.

Education is the core of all development activities, but it takes time to see the results.

Education is the core of all development activities, but it takes time to see the results.

Since 2012 Fontes has been providing professional training for disadvantaged youth through the Potentiam Youth Development Centre in Kampala. Naturally, the long-term approach was one of our major guidelines when developing the concept of this project. Our empowerment programme gives the students skills in applied business, entrepreneurship and personal development and in addition, through our mentorship programme, follows up and motivates the students through training and for 18 months into their professional lives. With every graduation, the network of Potentiam-Alumni is growing so that successful former students of the centre create opportunities of employment for the “next generation” of graduates.

Fontes Foundation thanks all of you who supported our Christmas Campaign in 2013 and 2014. The Campaign is continuuing still and we want to include more donors into our “Fontes Family”. On top of this years agenda is the Potentiam Youth Centre. The youth empowerment project is our main focus, and in order to boost the success we are asking for support from our friends around the globe to advocate for the campaign in our name.

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fontesOngoing Success Needs Ongoing Support

A Capacity Building Session in the Fields

by fontes on 01/06/2013 No comments

On May 31st, the Fontes team had a staff capacity-building with the field staff from their water and education projects in Southwestern Uganda. The emphasis was on accountability issues like handing in valuable receipts or respecting the deadlines for the hand-in of accountability documents. All of this has been explained to them in a detailed and understandable way, which was very appreciated by the field staff.

The purpose of the capacity-building was to make the communication between the Fontes head office in Kampala and the field staff in the Katunguru area more smoothly. The increased capacities will make the work of both the field and the head office staff easier and more efficient in the future.

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fontesA Capacity Building Session in the Fields