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Lifewater Receives $75,000 Grant from Geisse Foundation

This past month, the John F. and Mary A. Geisse Foundation generously granted Lifewater $75,000 for a WASH Sustainability Pilot Program in East Africa. The grant will further Lifewater’s work to improve the sustainability of water points and Healthy Homes in remote, rural areas where safe water and sanitation coverage is very low.

The grant will support a new strategy for sustainability that includes broader and frequent monitoring of homes and water points for a year after they are established. The pilot program will involve three regions in Ethiopia and Uganda where Lifewater currently works. In each region, two Lifewater staff members will visit every community, every water point, and more than 90% of homes on a quarterly basis. Additionally, every water committee will connect with Lifewater staff each month (in person or by phone) to ensure any issues are identified and addressed quickly.

“This grant will help people who have recently received safe water, sanitation, and hygiene see the benefits of it for their whole lifetime and pass those benefits on to their children,” said Lifewater President/CEO Justin Narducci. “Now Lifewater staff can walk alongside rural families and communities for years; we will be there as long as it takes to ensure real, sustainable improvements.”

WASH sustainability in Africa

Sustainability Starts with Healthy Homes

Lifewater’s approach (Vision of a Healthy Village) is the culmination of 38 years of experience in water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and exhaustive research of best practices in Christian community development. It has proven to be a viable model in creating sustainable, scalable change.
That change requires working village by village, house by house, helping rural families adopt healthy habits. Families in the program become certified as Healthy Homes, which means they:

  1. Build and use a safe bathroom at their home
  2. Wash their hands at critical times
  3. Store water safely
  4. Maintain a clean compound
  5. Use a safe water source

These elements take months and sometimes even years for families to achieve on their own but they do so with the love, support, and encouragement of their neighbors and local Lifewater staff and volunteers.

The true mark of success is when a village population has 90% Healthy Homes, a safe water source managed by a water committee, and is open-defecation free. Lifewater calls this a Healthy Village and it is a seminal event in the life of the village because it marks a turning point in their physical health and economic trajectory.

Creating Sustainable Change

Leveraging the Geisse Foundation grant, Lifewater will be able to answer three specific questions related to sustainability:

  1. Will the changes last?
  2. How can we support communities that are struggling?
  3. What future program design modifications do we need to make in light of this information?

Lifewater believes this proactive approach supporting and mobilizing families and villages after the initial intervention will result in more sustainable changes.
A recent external study across several countries found that 15% of water points failed within the first year, and 25% within 4 years[1]. If a water point is going to function in the long term, a water committee is an essential component of the healthy village. For a more thorough discussion of how water committees can be effective strategies for sustainability in rural areas, and to see the results of Lifewater’s most recent study, read Lifewater’s Sustainability and Rural Water Development whitepaper.

“We know that the first few months or years after access safe water, sanitation, and hygiene are the most crucial in terms of sustainability,” said Narducci. “This is when families and communities encounter their first challenges, and whether they are equipped and willing to meet the challenge will determine the pattern for the future.”

A Foundation for the Future

The grant from the Geisse Foundation will help Lifewater improve its strategies and create lasting, sustainable change. By continuing engagement with households and communities after the project work is complete, Lifewater hopes to ensure safe water, sanitation, and hygiene changes continue to improve health and eradicate disease. Specifically, Lifewater hopes to find more than 90% of households, communities, and water points still functioning many years after they are first established. Furthermore, the extended support in communities means that the relationships established between Lifewater staff, church planting partners, and families continue to grow and bear fruit.

“We support Lifewater’s work because they are driven by a relentless desire to reach more people, more effectively every day, and this work will ensure a big step forward for sustainability,” said Ali Geisse, Program Officer at the Geisse Foundation. “We hope this work will serve to encourage everyone in the WASH sector to invest more in making the outcomes last for generations.”

[1] Banks, B. & S. G. Furey, “What’s Working, Where, and for How Long. A 2016 Water Point Update to the RWSN (2009) statistics,” Rural Water Supply Network (2016), available at http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/203.