Shining a light on water issues

3 March 2016

Proscovia washing

Before CAFOD partners repaired her local water pump Proscovia had to walk miles to collect dirty river water

This Lent, Proscovia from Northern Uganda has told us her story: how her village got a new water pump, so she could go back to school and finish her education.

Your donation this Lent can give other girls a brighter future. Donate now

Water and drought have an enormous impact on the lives of women and girls in the world’s poorest places. It’s a complex issue, and some of you have asked us some great questions about it. So here are our top five questions and answers to bring water into the light this Lent:

Why are there still places in the world with no access to safe water?

Charities and governments have been wrestling with this issue for many decades, and most importantly, the people themselves have been speaking out about it – people want water.

But it’s all too easy to blame ‘government corruption’, or ‘misspending’, as many of our national papers do. The issue of water access is problematic to say the least. Uganda is almost the same size as the UK, but with a far smaller public spending budget. Water is a huge issue there, and the Ugandan government invested in water in the late nineties. Water pumps were installed across many dry regions. The problem in the case of Karamoja (where Proscovia lives), it is not that there aren’t any pumps, but that many broke down.

Proscovia's pump lay broken for many years. Watch our video and find out what happened to turn that around.

Our downloadable background sheet has more about the region and our project there.


Why did no one in Proscovia's village know or find out how to mend their broken water pump?

In the 14 years that the water pump was broken, the people wanted to find out how to mend it. The trouble is, most people there live hand-to-mouth, or day-by-day – every day is about getting enough food and enough water to get themselves and their families through to the next day. They can’t afford to go to school and then to college to understand how to mend a pump. They also don’t have the time. During those 14 years, drought came every other year – so most people’s time is spent walking miles for water every day, taking their animals to pasture and farming their land.

It’s also easy to forget that people are hungry. People get so hungry that an hour of doing something can exhaust them. Hunger affects your ability to learn, to grow and to get anything done. If you are short of water and food, all you do each day is make sure you find them.

You can help change this, turn on the taps for girls like Proscovia today


Why did the agency who installed the pump in the first place not train locals to mend it and enable them to access spare parts?

The problem is one that’s difficult to foresee, but easy to judge in hindsight – governments and charities came up with a fantastic plan to genuinely change lives, but didn’t account for things breaking down. CAFOD’s Mark Chamberlain, who visited Proscovia’s village last year, described it like this: “When I heard about the water pump breaking, I was reminded of how water pipes burst in my own town. When they burst, no one on my estate knows how to mend them. All we can do is phone the council and then the council comes to mend them. In the case of the people of Karamoja and others around the world, they told government ministers and anyone that would listen that the pump had broken, but if there is no money to buy parts, or to even buy expertise, then the pump stays broken.”

The technical diagram of the India MkII pump

The India Mk II water pump

But now we’ve been able to change that, by training local people to mend the pumps (see below), thanks to your support. Also, the pump itself – the India Mk II – is chosen because of its reliability. It’s the most widely used pump in the world because of this.

A donation of £1,235 could pay for a life-changing water pump

It’s not just the know-how – it’s spare parts, and they cost money. In communities like Proscovia’s, who’ve now had their pumps mended by our partners, the people have formed local committees. These committees levee a very small tax on all the users of the pump, so there’s a fund when spare parts are needed. Mending pumps isn’t just looking at one part, it involves checking a complex system of parts. This can mean that the village needs to hire a winch to take the whole pump out of the ground.

This fund means the future of the water pump is in the hands of the people who use it – and because it’s held by local committees, it’s transparent and accountable to the community.


Will the pump be maintained now it has been mended and will it be inspected on a regular basis- preferably by trained locals?

Teko Anna, Proscovia's mother, mending their local water pump, after training from CAFOD partners.

Teko Anna, Proscovia's mother, has been trained in how to mend their local water pump.

The answer is a categorical ‘yes’! The beauty of this project is that all the skills and knowledge have been given to the community. They ‘own’ the pump now. Our partners trained a group of locals – especially women – to be mechanics, and these people maintain perhaps three or four separate pumps. After several years, they also train others to become mechanics. And this is what’s really wonderful about the project. Long after we and our partners are gone, the knowledge will still be there.

It costs £366 to train a water pump mechanic like Teko Anna. Donate to our Lent Appeal and help fund this vital work.

Will my donation will be spent wisely?

We work very hard, with our expert partners, to identify projects that will have the greatest impact, to the poorest people. We are stringent with projects and ask questions of each proposal until we’re satisfied that any donation will be spent very wisely. In this water project, the people it aims to help really are some of the poorest people in the world. They have very little, so water and basic food means so much. To have the dignity of being in control of such an essential part of their lives is also a huge gift.

Donate to our Lent Appeal

Back to top