In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 53 per cent of the population have no access to safe drinking water, despite a hydrological situation that guarantees enough surface and ground water resources to fully meet demands. DRC possesses approximately 52 per cent of Africa’s surface water reserves and 23 per cent of its internal renewable water resources.
The National Programme for Healthy Villages and Schools is a Government strategy supported by UNICEF and other donors, aimed at helping families gain access to safe drinking water, a hygienic environment, and improved hygiene behaviours and practices. The programme has significantly decreased the incidence of water-borne diseases, while also reducing the time and energy spent – mainly by children and women – in daily water collection. As part of this programme, the Government introduced manual well drilling in the DRC in 2009, with support from UNICEF.
By so doing, the Government aimed to:
- Offer an affordable alternative to mechanical well drilling in rural areas.
- Significantly increase the number of communities which have a safe water point, especially those in the most remote areas with no road access.
- Expand possibilities to produce drilling tools locally.
- Develop local human resources capacities and skills.
In this context, South-South Cooperation between the DRC and Chad was established to further professionalize the Congolese contractors in using the manual drilling method, benefitting from Chad’s long-recognized expertise in this area.
Towards a Solution
In June 2013, in the context of a partnership agreement, four engineers from Chad travelled to four provinces of the DRC to provide classroom training and on-the-job coaching in manual well drilling. The mission enabled the experts from the Congolese manual drilling sector to discover higher performing tools, which were better suited to local conditions when appropriately adapted.
Based on the success of this mission, a second phase of collaboration was developed to expand the exchange to more geographic areas and to cover additional topics. Specifically, the second phase sought to: (1) Analyse manual drilling potential in the DRC for the supply of drinking water in rural areas; (2) Support the Government to identify and select the drilling companies to be trained in the manual drilling technique; (3) Provide training in this technique, together with training in manufacture of drilling tools, business management, tendering, quality control, and social mobilization and marketing. The Chadian experts also advised DRC on the creation of local well drillers associations and a national federation.
Since 2009, the initiative resulted in 150 local entities (including NGOs and small companies) developing nearly 1,200 water points, used by nearly 1,500,000 people. It increased capacities of experts from the Congolese manual drilling sector through access to high performing tools, which they subsequently adopted to the local context in DRC. Local workshops started to innovate using locally available materials and developed specific drilling tools that were more suitable to the soil composition in DRC.
The engagement of engineers from Chad provided opportunities to advance manual drilling in the DRC, not from a technical perspective, but also from a legal perspective. The creation of associations and federations has been a great support for the country, as it has promoted dialogue between institutions and stakeholders to support the further development of this technology, strengthened the capacity of the Government’s controller, and promoted the development of national norms and standards.
In April 2016, the UNICEF country office team undertook a participatory assessment of the initiative, based on interviews with select village water user committee members, drillers and government representatives. Although the final scoring of the assessment was very neutral, subsequent discussion on the findings raised many issues for consideration and informed a future action plan.
The DRC/Chad South-South initiative has given rise to cross-country exchanges with neighboring countries in the West and Central African region which also became interested in practical learning with on-the-ground technicians. In May 2016, the Government of Chad and the Association of Professional Manual Drillers of Chad – with the support of UNICEF’s Chad country office and West and Central Africa Regional Office - organized a manual drilling study visit to Ndjamena for government officials and WASH actors from Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire.
For future attempts to replicate such a project in another setting, it is advisable to keep in mind that the model of one country must be adapted to the different social, cultural, and geographical context of another country. For example, to effectively adapt the Chadian model of manual well drilling to the DRC, the topography of the DRC, its religious context, and the impact of long years of war on its social organization all had to be considered.