Tanzania is one of the most arid countries in the world: on average, it rains on just eight and a half days a month. Coastal regions in the semi-autonomous province of Zanzibar are particularly severely affected: existing wells have been out of use for many years because of increasing salination of the groundwater.
In the more densely populated urban areas, precious groundwater is also often contaminated with microorganisms, because inadequate wastewater systems expose it to high levels of human pollution. In many places, it is predominantly women and children who collect water, and they often have to walk long distances to the nearest water point. Private sector mobile water suppliers operate, but the water they sell is of dubious quality and unaffordable for many people. Three representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany believe that this situation can change.
UST Umwelt Systemtechnik GmbH (UST), GeoConsult Ingenieurgesellschaft für Umweltschutz und Geotechnik mbH (GeoConsult) and Lithec GmbH (Lithec) represent very different sectors of the economy. Their expertise is in manufacturing water purification systems and wells, training teachers and experts and producing measuring equipment.
However, the three companies have combined their know-how in a bid to improve the supply of drinking water in Zanzibar. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting them as part of the develoPPP.de-programme, which is run by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The aim of develoPPP.de is to promote private sector involvement in developing countries and emerging economies by providing financial and technical support.
Two pilot project regions were selected for development of a scalable solution to Zanzibar’s pressing problem. The objective was to ensure that local populations in the Michamvi and Kijito Upele regions had long-term access to clean drinking water. Christoph Helf of UST explains his company’s involvement:
‘For an SME, accessing a market like this is a challenge.’ UST develops water disinfection and purification systems based on UV radiation. But, says Helf, ‘it made sense for us to be part of a consortium within the develoPPP.de partnership.The partners’ areas of expertise complement each other perfectly’ , he says, ‘and GIZ’s financial support is also an important element.’
Annette Fuchs is the CEO of Lithec. The company’s core business is developing measuring equipment to help the printing sector identify untapped potential for boosting productivity. But Fuchs has used the company’s existing technology to develop a device that can measure water contamination, avoiding the need for costly laboratory analyses.
Fuchs, who has a doctorate in engineering, says ‘Water is a massive global issue, and reliable quality is crucial. There is an incredible demand for clean drinking water right around the world.’ As part of the partnership with UST and GeoConsult, the project is now using her technology.
Working together, UST, GeoConsult and Lithec set up a pilot water desalination and purification plant. A solar powered mini-grid – a pumping station with two tanks – has been delivering between 7 and 8 cubic metres of clean, safe drinking water a day for the Michamvi region since February 2015 – equivalent on average to around 3 litres per person per day. This represents a marked improvement in the drinking water supply in the project region.
Groundwater in the other pilot region, Kijito Upele, is heavily contaminated with microorganisms, so the project partners built a further plant that uses special purification technology to treat contaminated groundwater and make it fit for human consumption. A robust operator model ensures that both plants cover their costs: integrating them into Tanzania’s water charging system ensures that the cost of the water is affordable for the population.
Regular briefing events keep local people informed about the construction work and the environmental and economic advantages and disadvantages of the scheme. These events are also used as an opportunity to raise awareness of issues including health and sustainable use of water resources.
The develoPPP.de partners are also keen to support local government agencies in successfully implementing Tanzania’s strategy for water management and improving the supply of drinking water. They have therefore been cooperating with the local agency, the Zanzibar Water Authority (ZAWA).
Installation of the first reliable groundwater monitoring system across Zanzibar will enable ZAWA systematically to gather data relating to water quality in the project regions. ZAWA has been able to model ground water quality, using indicators such as water conductivity, and observe local influences on quality.
‘I can see a number of advantages to cooperating with private sector companies’, says Hjafidh Hassan Mwinyi, who heads the ZAWA regional office. ‘The major advantage is their technical experience: water treatment is an area about which we know very little.’
Alongside the installation of new plants, know-how transfer was crucial to ZAWA. The German partners raised the awareness of the Zanzibar agencies of the risks of contaminated water and provided training for ZAWA staff. They also made contacts with the head of the Michamvi village council, Abeid Juya Haji. He reports that he and his colleagues were initially sceptical, ‘but as ZAWA and UST involved us in all aspects of the project, our trust gradually increased.’
Water sampling ensures that drinking water meets international quality standards, so ZAWA staff regularly submit samples to detailed laboratory analysis. As the water quality experts on the project, GeoConsult oversaw monitoring and provided the necessary training.
The project has enabled the German businesses to gain a foothold in Zanzibar as suppliers of technology and advisory services. In the long term, the aim is to establish a subsidiary and a local marketing structure to facilitate access to the East African market. Lithec’s Annette Fuchs sums up the benefits: ‘develoPPP.de opens doors. It gives us entry into a new market and the opportunity to research further possibilities.’
As well as developing the water management skills of ZAWA staff, the project is also providing training for experts in maintaining the two plants. Lecturers in hydraulics and drinking water supply have been trained at the Karume Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
The project has also run in-service training workshops around water resources and water loss so that teaching staff are equipped to train future experts in the complex theoretical aspects of hydromechanics.
Two newly developed curricula – in the areas of hydraulics and water supply and sewerage – are now being delivered successfully at KIST. A newly set-up laboratory enables students and staff alike to experiment and gain practical experience. Series of experiments and trials have been developed and integrated into the lab.
Annette Fuchs says, ‘The training component within this development partnership is a vital part of the product. And it really boosts local acceptance of the project when people can apply newly acquired knowledge for themselves.’
In the late 1970s, Ratiba Abdi Mohammed was one of the first women in Tanzania to embark on an engineering degree. She is now Professor of Civil Engineering at KIST.
She explains how things have changed since the development partnership began: ‘Before the develoPPP.de project got under way, our curriculum was top-heavy with theory. We’ve rewritten it and adapted it to the local conditions. Our new laboratory is particularly useful: practical and visual work means that the students learn far more than they would just by reading textbooks.’
Christoph Helf is convinced that the development partnership is of benefit to all those involved: ‘The project is having a very clear development impact. We’re not just pursuing a business objective: what we are doing is developing pilot projects that enable us to test this new market.’
Together, GeoConsult, UST and Lithec have created the best possible framework for long-term engagement with the market in Zanzibar, building a profile in the region, making crucial contacts, and introducing their technology and know-how to customers on the ground. In so doing, they have also markedly improved the quality of life for people in the project regions by giving them access to the world’s most precious resource – clean water.