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Uganda: Domestic Rainwater Harvesting

Water is the elixir of life.

Considering this fact, domestic rainwater harvesting can have a huge positive impact on people's lives. It alleviates the drudgery of collecting water from distant and often polluted sources - and in some parts of the world, rainwater harvesting may actually be the only alternative for improving water supplies. In Uganda the concept of paying for water is becoming increasingly accepted, so investment in domestic rainwater harvesting has an economic incentive. While the level of access to safe water is reported to be high (roughly 60 percent in rural areas), the convenience of access is low, with water sources often hundreds of meters below the homesteads at springs in the valleys.

Domestic rainwater harvesting refers to the collection, storage, and use of rainwater at the household level. Given the variable but ubiquitous rainfall in most of the developing world, the dispersed nature of rural settlements, and challenges of serving urban areas, domestic rainwater harvesting is an ideal way of providing access to safe water directly at people's homes.

Relief International / EnterpriseWorks VITA (RI/EWV) with funding from the Gates Foundation is undertaking a 5-year learning and pilot project to determine if rainwater harvesting could be commercially promoted on a wide-scale across Uganda and regionally across Eastern Africa. Relief International/EWV uses an enterprise approach that works with the private sector to develop the right product at the right price point, and develops a marketing and promotional strategy that can result in a sustainable supply chain.

In order to determine if this approach would be feasible for domestic rainwater harvesting, a project was developed with two phases: a learning phase and a pilot project phase. The project is currently in its third year with the Domestic Rain Water Harvesting system currently being tested in 150 households across 12 rural villages in Uganda. The purpose of field testing is twofold: to monitor the technical performance of the product and improve the design in response to client feedback at an early stage; and secondly, to understand local acceptance for and impact of the product.

At the 2010 conference, our Relief International Technical Director Jon Naugle and Uganda Program Manager Tom Opio-Oming presented Relief International's Domestic Rainwater Harvesting Pilot Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of this session, Relief International unveiled the new Rainwater Bag, an innovative, low cost rainwater storage product that holds more than 300 gallons and will retail in Uganda for around $50.

In order to get more perspective on this groundbreaking project, feel free to watch the commercial launch of the flexible rainwater storage tank as Relief International unveils Rainwater Bag at World Water Week in Stockholm here:



The project is made possible through funding from the Gates Foundation.