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Handpump mechanics associations: an experiment

Published on: 06/03/2014

Handpump mechanics support water user committees by repairing pumps upon breakdown. But mechanics' charges are high and inconsistent, and their access to spare parts varies. As costs and delays increase, communities become less willing to pay for repairs, and mechanics leave the business. In the end, functionality suffers.

Handpump mechanics in all 111 rural districts in Uganda have formed associations to help members network, improve their skills and link to private sector water operators and local government structures. The Ministry of Water and Environment would like to see the associations fully operational in at least 30% of the districts by June 2013.

IRC in Uganda, through its Triple-S project has carried out an experiment to develop guidance for setting up hand pump mechanics associations (HPMAs) as viable, self-sustaining entities capable of maintaining rural water sources while generating income for their members. 

Through its Triple-S project, IRC in Uganda has carried out an experiment to develop association guidance.

The Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) is keen on ensuring that HPMAs comply with the objective of improving functionality of rural water services. The Ministry already developed guidelines on how local governments can increase and formalise cooperation with HPMAs. The guidelines provide direction on key questions like: how to engage the HPMAs using the District Conditional Grant; how to outsource major repairs to HPMAs; and how government will support HPMAs and empower local HPMs in an accountable manner, alongside other actors in the water and sanitation sector, and in cooperation with local governments.

The links below tell the story of how these associations have been set up. A Policy Brief presents lessons and recommendations from this experiment.