One year ago, it was difficult to access reliable, safe drinking water at many villages in Namayumba Epicenter in Uganda. Today, the community has access to safe water as a result of The Safe Water Enterprise (SWE), a water filtration system implemented in collaboration with The Hunger Project (Uganda, Australia and Germany), Siemens Stiftung and the SkyJuice Foundation. The SWE is a community-driven program that produces safe drinking water which is sold at a reasonable rates to members in the epicenter community. The water is dubbed “Epi-Water”—a combination the words, ‘Epicenter’ and ‘Water.’
In September, the SWE Project successfully completed its first year of operation, and has provided the community not only with clean water, but with a health awareness campaign, trainings and jobs. In October 2013, the project won the “Best Innovator of the Year 2013” at the Annual Farmer Fair for improving the health of farmers and people in the community.
In a country where a quarter of all Ugandans still lack access to clean water and live below the poverty line, the SWE is making a significant difference. The core of the SWE is the drinking water facility–a man-sized filter consisting of hair-thin membrane fibers. The purification system produces safe drinking water from dirty rivers, lakes, rain water and wells, removing bacteria, viruses and solids. Water from these areas is pumped and routed through the filter, and customers receive the water in disinfected containers. Kiosks are located in a central area to help shorten the walking distance to get safe water.
The project is managed by a five-person, community-elected committee who were trained by the SkyJuice Foundation. The community-led model insures that communities have the capacity and skills to keep the project running after technical partner support is withdrawn. The committee includes two women, which helps demonstrate the role and importance of female leadership in the community.
Epi-Water is marketed and sold in a variety of container sizes to suit household and individual needs in more than 29 villages in the Namayumba Sub County. The project has a direct retail purchase system, by where community members are able to purchase safe drinking water in different container sizes and the prices are set at a rate that is customer-friendly, but also returns a profit.
Staff at the SWE have also take on marketing Epi-Water on local radio, and created an awareness campaign in surrounding communities that addresses the prevalence of lack of clean and safe water in the community. The staff and committee have visited more than 100 households to educate individuals about clean water.
In addition, the project has partnered with local schools to promote the drinking of clean, safe water and best sanitation practices. The SWE staff also participates in area meetings, and attend events with local authorities and Civil Society Organizations to promote clean drinking.
Nabagereka Cossy, Bukuku village Local Council Vice Chairperson, said that SWE has “made a big investment in our community,” and that incidences of malaria and other waterborne diseases, which used to affect the community, have greatly reduced. Before Epi-Water, some community members had to get their water from a nearby dam where animals grazed, exposing them to diseases.
In 2015, SWE is planning to scale up its efforts for larger distribution and more education and training.