Can marketing offer a solution to handpump sustainability?

Marketing evidently has a huge potential for change in BoP markets, especially with so many companies, both local and international vying for attention in such a crowded arena.

I’ve been working on developing appropriate technology in Sierra Leone, with the goal of starting several Social Enterprises based around sustainable water provision. In my view marketing approaches could dramatically increase the sustainability of the water wells and hand pumps we install. In many cases hand pumps are out of action within 1 year of being installed, and this often seems to be down to a lack of motivation from within the community to maintain the equipment. Wells put in by NGOs and governments are often part of big water access projects motivated by headline ‘development’ statistics and donor marketing. They rarely seem to be requested by the actual communities themselves. In other words the installation of wells is ‘push’ driven by the donor/NGO rather than being demanded by the community.

I wonder what would happen if NGOs and Governments, or even local Social Enterprises like ours focussed more intelligent marketing at beneficiaries? Could we create a strong emotional demand for wells, even though they are donated at no cost to the community?

I believe that sometime in our rush to install ‘life-saving’ products and systems, we often forget about the emotional needs that underline all human motivations…

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1 comment
  1. mo. said:

    Communism. It does not work long, don’t waste time and resources trying to make it.

    Few respect what cost them little/nothing, fewer will work for someone else for nothing without cause.

    There must be an owner, to be responsible. Assuming you want it to be free, find a church who wants one and teach them, they are the social enterprise that was founded on caring.

    Non religious. You could give it to the ‘city’ but the chief would probably charge for it until it breaks… Politics.

    Scout ahead using a trusted local to find someone who is already living there working and caring for less able. See if they want to be an owner. If that caring person thinks people will walk rather than pay a nominal amount, the well may always be broken. A private person could work to own, or buy it from you and charge by the bucket/day. If it breaks no money. It will be fixed shortly and that person will care what you say when you tell them how to maintain it. Concerned about the price, make two owners of two wells, the other close enough to walk to.

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