Project Status

Project Type:  Borehole Well and Hand Pump

Program: Water for Sierra Leone

Impact: 25,000 Served

Project Phase: 
Under Community Care
Initial Installation: Dec 2015

Project Features

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Community Profile

2015 Monitoring, Evaluation and Resolution Program:  A water service commitment to 100 vulnerable communities (approximately 25,000 people).

Background of Program:

The Water Project has been active in Port Loko District and Waterloo, Sierra Leone, since 2010. Since inception, our program has focused on water provision, robust hygiene and sanitation training, Child Health Clubs and innovative sanitation facilities at institutions. We've watched Child Health Clubs lead community health trainings to slow the spread of disease during cholera outbreaks.  Communities have mobilized their own sanitation efforts because of the impact they have seen from school sanitation facilities. Faith communities have found relationship, purpose and partnership in work benefitting the common good of the area.

Clustering of past work, strong coordination with multiple country Ministry offices, desperate need for reliable water service and the absence of other NGOs led The Water Project and our partner to narrow our geographical focus in 2014 to Port Loko District. Port Loko District is approximately 2,208 square miles and is home to over 500,000 people.

The Water Project's focus is now expanded to new boreholes in areas where previous water projects are not enough to keep up with community demand for water service. We continue to rehabilitate wells. Our anchor into communities continues through the faith community, community led hygiene trainings and Child Health Clubs.

After other water NGOs pulled out of Port Loko District, The Water Project spent a good part of 2014 working to quickly co-develop a responsible monitoring program for those past projects, as well as our past work.  In addition to new work we're involved in this year, we're equally as excited to tangibly and provably express our commitment to ongoing community support and service through a Monitoring, Evaluation and Resolution Program focused on approximately 100 existing water points and their supporting communities.  Together with communities, we're focused on functional water projects resulting in reliable water service. 

Challenges and Importance of Program:

As you know, Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last year. In the middle of this, our teams (and your support of this program) have allowed us to be more committed than ever to the people of Sierra Leone.  Approximately 100 communities and their water projects have been actively supported, with an anticipated impact of more than 25,000 people. This has been among our most impactful initiatives in 2015 – and as a financial partner, this is among the most effective work you can be a part of. Our teams have been brave and selfless  - and we are so proud of them.

Until late 3rd Quarter 2015, Ebola was a daily threat in our area of operation.  In addition to substantial health risks, we encountered program delays as a result of Ebola outbreaks.  For example, as our team was providing service to a previously installed water point at a large regional hospital, they returned the next morning to find the entire area under quarantine. Unfortunately, this meant many of our tools were also under quarantine. This, along with substantial work needed to restore some water points post-quarantine has led to reasonable delays in our program.

During 2015, we were in weekly contact with our team in Sierra Leone.  Everyone remained safe.  The entire team repeatedly expressed their gratitude for your support of communities in Sierra Leone, and the update below is worthy of celebration!

2015 Activities, Impact and Learning:

In Quarter One, The Water Project and our partner launched activities to support these 100 communities.  Ebola was at it's worst, and our ability to enter and interact with communities was quite limited due to the outbreak.  However, we were able to do visual inspections of projects.

Phase One

During this first phase of this program, we quickly learned that a year of Ebola had negatively effected water point operation.

1. We found many wells were simply not working due to wells being dry. This is quite common with improved hand-dug wells, but "routine" maintenance in keeping yields/water levels at usable levels had not occurred. Wells need to be monitored several times a year – with an emphasis of checking well yield/water levels in the dry season, when water levels would naturally be at their lowest.   Then, based on water levels, these wells can be dug deeper to improve yield.  This can be labor intensive, but it’s a normal part of service and support for this type of water project.

2. We found many wells were not working due to breakdown. Ebola had a profound impact on social and community interaction. Spare parts are most often found in busy markets – the very areas that should be avoided during an Ebola outbreak. Hand-pumps have parts that are "consumable" – there might be cases of catastrophic failure, but most often breakdown occurs because of an inexpensive cup-leather.

3. We found many wells working, but with obvious issues. Overuse is a huge factor when moving parts become worn. If not addressed quickly, small issues can result in bigger issues.

4. We also found many wells were still working well – and those water points were in a constant state of use.

Because of the challenges of Ebola, Phase One was more of a drive-by visit to obtain a "big picture" of what this program would be facing.  While this work was being done, we began obtaining consumable part replacements, began building response teams and worked with our partner to develop monitoring surveys which would help us gauge the impact of Ebola, effectiveness of water committees and specific hardware issues related to water service in each of these 100 communities.

Phase Two

Quarter Two – early Quarter Three marked our first comprehensive visit to 100 communities.  Revisits occurred between late May and into July.  Our teams performed a monitoring evaluation of water point functionality, sanitation situation, water committee systems and the role that Ebola had in each community.

- 43 projects were found non-functional

- 26 projects were found functioning, but with issues

- 24 projects were found fully functional, with no issues

- 7 projects could not be revisited due to Ebola and geographic challenges

Based on this, the program began with over 43% non-functionality of water points during the worst health outbreak in Sierra Leone history.  Confident functionality was under 25%.

We’ve attached a few examples of what each of these surveys look like in the photographs below.

We can't stress enough the importance of this program based on this data.  Additionally, the way this program was rolled out is just as important.  During this phase of work and revisits, our teams made personal connections with almost all 100 communities.  Ultimately, water projects are about people, relationships and service. Our teams did considerable work to acknowledge, strengthen and build water committees in communities where applicable.  The community leadership aspect of this Monitoring program is critical.  Ebola scattered communities and community leaders.  In many cases, loss of life destroyed water committee leadership. We quickly learned this initiative was not only restoring water to tens of thousands of people, but was also doing the hard work of rebuilding community leadership and management of water sources and introducing a water service relationship between those communities and our teams.

Restoration of water points did become a significant focus of the program, of course.  Our teams began working with communities to dig many wells deeper – a very labor intensive and time intensive process.  Consumable parts were also replaced.

Phase Three

Between July and mid October, our teams performed their second monitoring visits of all communities.  As mentioned above, a substantial amount of work had been done based on water functionality results after the first visit.  This second visit would affirm impact of the program through up-time and functionality water points.

- 21 projects were found to be non-functional

- 75 projects were found to be fully functional

- Zero projects were found to be functional with issues

In terms of straight non-functionality, rates went from over 43% to approximately 20%.  What’s just as notable is the number of projects that were working, but had known issues (a red flag for future failure).  This number went from 26 to Zero in a matter of 2 months.  Confident functionality (no issues) rose from under 25% to 75%!

Among the projects still not functional were wells that needed a substantial amount of work to dig deeper, or needed complete pump/component replacements.  We found a few cases where other NGOs had actually taken out our pumps, with the promise of future installments of submersible/high-yield pumps.  Other water projects were found in complete disrepair due to cave-in.  These communities are now being considered for new water projects in 2016 and beyond.

As with Phase Two, our teams kept on schedule for large repairs and part replacements to keep increasing functionality rates.  Now, on our second formal revisit to most of these communities, we were also encouraged by the community mobilization and relationship building that occurred.  Our desire was for communities to begin to put value and anticipation on water service.

Up to this point, approximately 100 communities had now been revisited, twice.  Each monitoring visit resulted in 2-3 paper surveys for each visit.  This is a ton of paper, and the issue of data management came into play.  The Water Project began training on a mobile monitoring platform in September, and helped to train our team in Sierra Leone on this tool.  Instead of paper surveys being used, mobile monitoring means teams can be deployed with smart phones that have surveys already in queue.  Date sharing becomes instant, accurate, cost effective and efficient.

Phase Four

Each community received a third monitoring visit in December, utilizing mobile monitoring.  Additionally, our teams continued with repair of known non-functional water points into December.  While we are still awaiting final data from our mobile monitoring platform, our teams have confirmed that functionality is now at 99%.

Mobile Monitoring has now fully replaced paper surveys, and The Water Project is continuing to train our partner on this platform.  As we move into 2016, we are continuing to develop our efficiency of this monitoring program – while giving special attention to building a dedicated "resolution team".

Final Thoughts / Impact Summary

When we consider 2015, this Program is among our most memorable.  Through your support we: kept our promises to communities that other water orgs have forgotten or moved on from, built a scalable Monitoring, Evaluation and Resolution program that will carry into future years, and introduced an organization wide mobile monitoring platform.

In addition, your support resulted in:

- 3 formal monitoring visits to 100 communities, impacting approximately 25,000 people with ongoing, reliable water service.

- Movement from 69% of water projects non-functioning or functioning with issues to 99% functionality.

- This has resulted in known, restored water access to approximately 17,000 people in 2015.

- Introduction and full implementation of mobile monitoring, improving cost, efficiency, time and accuracy of data.

- Program foundation built for expansion in following year.

There are great challenges ahead of us in Sierra Leone.  Pumps will break again.  We know tragedy like Ebola is always possible.  Our focus must, and will be, on building local leadership working towards ongoing water service vs. just providing new water projects. Ongoing support is critical in allowing us all to do "the right thing" for those we serve.  Thank you for your partnership in standing with the people of Sierra Leone.

(Editor's Note: GPS coordinates listed are for Lungi, New York, TWP Project # 5037)

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Project Photos

Project Type

Abundant water is often right under our feet! Beneath the Earth’s surface, rivers called aquifers flow through layers of sediment and rock, providing a constant supply of safe water. For borehole wells, we drill deep into the earth, allowing us to access this water which is naturally filtered and protected from sources of contamination at the surface level. First, we decide where to drill by surveying the area and determining where aquifers are likely to sit. To reach the underground water, our drill rigs plunge through meters (sometimes even hundreds of meters!) of soil, silt, rock, and more. Once the drill finds water, we build a well platform and attach a hand pump. If all goes as planned, the community is left with a safe, closed water source providing around five gallons of water per minute! Learn more here!


Project Sponsor - Yakima Foursquare Church
Project Sponsor - Yakima Foursquare Church