On a recent trip to Uganda, SMI had lengthy conversations with local church leaders on how to bring sustainable wells to the surrounding villages in an optimal way. Through this iterative process an idea emerged that could lead to explosive growth of clean water wells that provide not just improved health in the form of clean water, but high financial benefit to the communities through the spread of microfinance opportunities. The concept is simple. Rather than just donating to the community a “Mzungu” well (the old model), SMI would create a “water club” where village members would join and pay an affordable price (16 cents a week) for membership and access to the clean water produced by the well. The village would purchase the well up front with a combination grant and loan from SMI. Under the model, the loan would be paid off within one year through the collection of dues. After the first year, the majority of the proceeds would flow back to individual club members in the form of savings accounts set up on their behalf at the Savings and Loan (SACCO) SMI helped to establish in Kiburara. A portion would also go into a maintenance fund to ensure that the well provides a sustainable water source.
In August, SMI began drilling its first well under this pilot in the village of Kabingo, where there is a church plant. The village is currently retrieving their drinking water from a polluted pond nearby. When SMI discussed the concept with village leaders in April, they were enthusiastic and said that two nearby villages would join as well, reaching 500 families. Not only will this project bring clean water to a couple of thousand people but would also result in 500 new savings accounts created after the first year of operation. We are seeking to make the Kabingo Water Club operational by January 2015. If the pilot is successful, it will be expanded to many new villages, leading to exponential grow in health and economic growth in the form of individual savings accounts.