To keep water pumps in South African communities, it takes more than a village. Over the decades, there has been a significant challenge surrounding the preservation and repair of water pumps, especially into most remote areas. They have been much needed to serve the community because there were no other reliable skill of getting water for domestic use. It was great to deal when some organisation started installing various water pumps amongst the villages. Typically, they also needed an effective and environment friendly system of maintenance if these projects had been to be sustained. This is why they encouraged the community to have an active function in the programmers. For instance, in Zimbabwe, they encouraged user participation through water point committees to promote hand pump sustainability. In Kenya where it was previously accustomed that only men would repair the pumps, the task of operation and maintenance was placed in the hands of the primary users especially women. This proved to be an efficient and practical change.
These projects were successful to some extent in meeting the water demand of the surrounding community. On the other hand, they suffered a series of breakdowns which resulted in the entire program coming to a halt for several months till the local governments intervened. For instance, back in the 1970s, the women of lamarda and other rural African villages had started enjoying the benefits of having piston water pumps close to their homes. The challenge was that these first generation hand pumps were breaking down prematurely. In some cases, they stayed broken until the government maintenance team got around fixing them. The same scenario was experienced in Kenya and Ethiopia. In the western province of Kenya, the men dominated the task of mentioning and repair of the water pumps. Later they moved to the cities to look for better jobs leaving being the village mechanics job. It forced women to be responsible for maintaining and repair of these water pumps.
There various reasons for the widespread premature breakdown. Some of the pumps required heavy lifting gear to remove the rising main. Other needed trained mechanics and imported spare parts. Besides theses, some of them were even complicated and even difficult to use. This proves the theory that the first generation hand pumps were inappropriate for the environments. In spite of the fact that they were installed in good faith, some of them did not offer the best way of delivering a safe water supply to the communities.
In Zimbabwe, the history of having 480 breakdowns in twelve months was taken into account by researchers. They select some pumps to serve as case studies in the quest of determining the factors affecting the maintenance. Variance in technology proved to be one of the contributing factors to these breakdowns. In other instances, the high level of usage seemed to break down more frequently than those with lower usage levels. These experiences were shared across many communities in the rural Africa.
Community involvement in the hand pumps management resulted to significant implication on the maintenance system. A more organized system was developed for managing, repair, and maintenance of these pumps. There was the need to balance between giving technical support to pump and its users without creating an attitude of dependency. The professional responsibilities undertaken by the committees included corrective and preventive maintenance. In most cases, users took a small part in decision making. In Zimbabwe, the official policy emphasized the dominant role of the village development committee played a prominent role in waters apply management.
In most areas, it was women who took an active part in the administration of these water pumps. However, men dominance persisted because, in most of these committees, the caretakers or chairman was mainly a man. According to the African customs culture both in Ethiopia, Kenya or South Africa, providing water for the household was a woman’s responsibility. This implies that the availability of a convenient water supply was a daily concern for women. It so for this reason that we see women came up and took up the roles of mechanics
A pump break meant a long and arduous walk to the traditional water source. Given that women’s workload was already heavy, they still had to spend additional time in search of the water. They had to come up and take up these maintenance responsibilities. In western Kenya, women were trained and equipped with the necessary tools to repair the VLOM hand pumps. The performance of women hand pump mechanics became very familiar, and indeed they proved themselves to be highly motivated and very reliable. They established a decentralized maintenance system. The same sentiments are shared with women from Ethiopia and South Africa.
In lamarda, women became hand pump caretakers and installation of their afridevs. The new design features of these pumps had eliminated the heavy lifting, large screws and no tools were required for dismantling. These features made it easier for women to take up these roles more quickly and master the skills easily. However, their involvement attracted some addition la costs .these women mechanics were not paid for the energy and amount of time spent in repairing and maintaining these pumps compared to their male counterparts. They were expected to provide these services to the community on the voluntary basis. This made them struggle even more to meet their daily needs since the job was not paying.
It is clear that the policies formulated by the committees were meant to ensure that the water supply is maintained. Young people were encouraged to participate in these maintenance tasks to gain expertise and experience of living with the pump. These would promote the sustainability and durability of the projects. The evidence suggests that these programs had significant positive implication on the lives of the people I the rural African communities.