What does this photo of a child eating a bowl of rice have to do with economic empowerment?
Clean water is an essential first step of economic empowerment, but in order to create sustainable change you have to go much deeper than just water. Although Drop in the Bucket is mainly thought of as a water charity, drilling wells is just the first step. What happens when the wells break? Just like cars, computers or almost anything else that gets a lot of use, well pumps are eventually going to break. A routine repair that costs just a few dollars could leave a well broken if the community does not have enough money to fix it.
Savings groups are a logical solution to make sure that funds are always available to cover inevitable repairs. Built on community participation and access to funds, they are key to ensuring clean water for generations.
Drop in the Bucket’s community savings groups program consists of a highly structured system of saving, borrowing and lending money generated from local contributions, which provides a financial incentive for the community to keep the wells working. At each project we train local workers in basic pump maintenance and repair. These workers can then charge a fee from the community for their service. The goal is to create a sense of ownership and independence of the well. After the community has saved enough money to cover any repairs, community participants are invited to submit their ideas to the group for new business ventures.
Loans are voted on by association members, must be used for income-generating activities and paid back with interest. At the end of each year, the interest is divided among the group members. This not only provides a fund to cover maintenance on the well, but also provides an opportunity for the villagers to achieve financial independence.
So what does the photo have to do with our savings groups? Well, the child is eating a bowl of seasoned rice and the reason she is so happy is because rice is a treat where she lives in Uganda. What makes this day special is because there is no special occasion. It’s not her birthday, or Christmas, it’s just a normal day but she gets to eat the rice she loves.
Her mother is a member of a savings group set up to support the well Drop in the Bucket drilled at Father Omoding Primary School in Serere, Uganda. Her mother borrowed a small amount of money to get her business started and is now doing so well that her daughter can eat rice on days that aren’t holidays. Her financial independence is what puts a smile on her face. Her daughter’s smile might have something to do with how great her mom’s rice tastes.