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

fontesHow Management, Solar Panels & Seasonal Conditions affect Profit

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