Rainwater Harvesting Unlocks Business Opportunities
The RAIN4sales project by RAIN (a brand of Aidenvironment) and its partner the Uganda Rainwater Association (URWA) in the Lwengo district of Uganda provides entrepreneurs with credit to install rainwater harvesting systems and training in business management. Awareness raising sessions introduce local communities to the business potential of rainwater harvesting.
Although rainwater harvesting has been introduced to various communities in Uganda, it has not been prioritized as an important business opportunity. The RAIN4sales project tests the “business case for rainwater harvesting installations and selling its stored (rain)water through local entrepreneurs.” So far it has provided support to four entrepreneurs for the construction of 50m3 rainwater harvesting systems.
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The entrepreneurs use the water for different economic activities and can repay the credit in quarterly or monthly installments from the income they earn. They utilize the harvested rainwater for their own domestic use (instead of buying water from vendors), sell it to communities for drinking, and use it for livestock watering and small-scale irrigation.
The entrepreneurs’ wives, too, have a story to tell. They used to spend a lot of time walking long distances to look for water. With the tanks at the doorstep, they can use this time on economically productive activities, such as crop farming and tending livestock, in addition to domestic work and caring for their children.
In a monitoring session carried out in May 2020 the entrepreneurs recommended that the project be scaled up. They reported many economic benefits from the project since 2018. They have been able to sell the water, irrigate fields, and improve their domestic hygiene. One entrepreneur started a piggery and reported improved coffee bean yields because of the better availability of water, giving him a 30% increase in income. Another entrepreneur improved the productivity of his kitchen garden, passion fruit farm, and apiary, and reported an increase in income of about 20%. The third entrepreneur, whose tank was constructed at a local primary school, mentioned a reduction of about 65% in the school’s water and general operating costs. This entrepreneur also said that the students’ nutrition had improved and that water from the tank had been used to make bricks for an extension to the school building. A fourth entrepreneur benefitted mainly from sale of water. Apart from erratic rainfall patterns which hindered the filling of the tank for some seasons, he reported an increase of about 15% in his income.
The insights obtained from the monitoring exercise throw up new challenges and present opportunities for the project. Some of the masons trained in the techniques needed to build the tanks need support to develop the skills needed to venture into the marketing and construction of water harvesting systems. They could then encourage and mobilize other communities to take up rainwater harvesting as a business. One entrepreneur pointed out that there are communities with water business potential but which lack guidance and mentorship on ventures in rainwater harvesting to address water scarcity problems and boost their economic performance. Community members still suffer physical hardship and mental stress from having to carry water long distances. This underlines the importance of promoting rainwater harvesting as a business, because it has a direct impact on people’s livelihoods. Another entrepreneur suggested that there is need to embark on empowering entrepreneurs with skills and knowledge to be able to make more informed decisions and choices about managing rainwater for their wellbeing.
However, households are too poor to be able to buy rainwater-harvesting systems (let alone other amenities) on their own. The entrepreneurs suggested that plans for scaling up include the provision of credit through community groups. These groups deal in savings and loans for various purposes, but not yet water, and provide an outstanding entry point into rural development in poorer communities. The groups could facilitate self-help in these communities by supporting joint initiatives by households.