Back in Mbarara!
In mid-July, I spent 3 weeks in Uganda carrying out interviews for my PhD research on water security. When we finished our field trial last September, we’d introduced to the Mbarara plumber’s association the Blue Tap technology and worked out what their needs are as sole traders. On my return last week, I spent 3 days with Jordan, our lead plumbing partner in Mbarara. We assessed potential customers for our technology, and I repeatedly heard customers are looking for water purification options in the range of £50-£100. Current technologies are expensive and aren’t reaching end-users that could really benefit from the confidence that chlorination can bring in ensuring water is safe to drink.
Mbarara is a burgeoning town of about 300,000 people – that population is set to dramatically grow over the next 20 years as more people move into the city and climb up the income ladder. It’s interesting to see that in Mbarara, despite most residents having municipal water access, several users still choose to construct decentralised water-provisioning infrastructure such as rainwater harvesting and solar powered pumps + boreholes. The cost of municipal water is relatively high and there is still the veritable threat of service interruptions, so users are building redundancy into their water supply by straddling both centralised and decentralised services.
Decentralised water services such as rainwater-harvesting and solar-powered ground pumps have the potential to provide very clear water. Points of contamination typically arise in the distribution of the water throughout the building, or during storage. This is where chlorine can really make a difference – by protecting water from contamination during storage.
Jordan’s customer base is a great mix of homeowners and institutions. Institutions are a very interesting potential customer base. Not only are they responsible for providing hundreds of people a day with water that is 100% reliable, they also tend to have access to funds which means they can afford water purification technology.
Our next team field visit to Uganda will be in September where we’ll run a full 3-day training course with the Mbarara plumber’s association on technology installation and management, chlorination and local entrepeneurship. I can’t wait to get back – every time I visit Uganda, I discover another piece of the country and the culture that I love.