Forming associations for hand pump mechanics in Uganda has enhanced the services they provide and ultimately improved functionality, a new study shows. One such association in Kabong district succeeded in improving functionality of water sources from 20% in 2006 to 96% in 2010.
A 2011 study on the effectiveness of community-managed rural water systems revealed that just 53% were fully functional. With a coverage rate of 65% this implies that only about a third of the rural population of Uganda has reliable access to safe drinking water.
Hand Pump Mechanics Associations (HPMAs) have been in existence in Uganda for several years but were under-performing, partly because they were not formalized. In 2007, SNV Netherlands Development Organization developed guidelines to improve HPMA performance.
Now the government, through the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and its development partners has decided to set up HPMAs in all districts in Uganda. They have set a target to set up hand pump mechanics /scheme attendants associations in 80% of the districts in FY 2011/12, and operationalise them in at least 30% of districts by FY 2012/13.
While the Ministry and its partners are now rolling out awareness raising and capacity building programmes for HPMAs, several concerns have been raised. One is about their legal status. The Functionality Working Group, which was set up by the MWE, recommends that HPMAs first register as Community Based Organizations (CBOs) as required by the Ministry but that they would also need to allowed to undertake commercial activities to ensure their sustainability.
IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre/Sustainable Services as Scale (Triple-S) is supporting the secretariat of Functionality Working Group.