Innovative solutions to improve rural water service in Zambia

Innovative solutions to improve rural water service in Zambia

A majority of local authorities in Zambia have neither adequate nor reliable data on the status of rural water supply services to their communities.

This lack of data makes it difficult to measure the quality of service provision and determine the needs for investment. If systems for monitoring supply service levels exist at all, they rely on paper-based manual data gathering and processing which is slow, error-prone and rarely upgraded, hindering planners and decision-makers.

This year, SNV Zambia commenced a project to improve rural water supply service functionality by introducing an innovative GPS-enabled smartphone intervention that will enable local authorities to develop water point inventories and keep up-to-date information in order to improve the quality and efficiency of water point siting, construction, maintenance and functionality in rural areas. The Field Level Observation and Mapping (FLOMAP) project aims to support local authorities in Kasama, Mpika, Chinsali, Kafue, Chibombo, Chongwe, Solwezi and Shibuyunji districts to use GPS-enabled smartphones to collect and process data on rural water supply and functionality and make the data available to other users. SNV in partnership with Akvo customised the mobile phone based field survey application, Akvo Flow, to enhance rural water service provision in Zambia.

This GPS-enabled smartphone application will help develop a coherent and efficient information system and SNV will support local authorities to replicate and scale the use of the system across Zambia, beyond the initial 8 project districts. From 21st to 23rd of May 2014, SNV Zambia with Akvo consultants conducted a training of trainers in Lusaka for 32 participants from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH), the 8 selected district councils, and strategic partners from the Lusaka Department of Water Affairs, Water Aid, KfW Development Bank and UNICEF. This training session aimed to train participants on how to use the Akvo Flow application to collect data. The SNV team then conducted the same training session for Chongwe district from 27th – 28th of May for 17 participants including 5 Area Pump Menders, and representatives from Chongwe District Council and District Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education Committee (D-WASHE).

We plan to conduct 7 more training sessions in the remaining districts. Once fully implemented, the data collected thanks to this project will be able to inform local authorities on the status of rural water points, display the distribution of improved water supply services so that inequalities of service can be identified and addressed, and identify areas where improved water sources are required.