MASTER'S PRACTICUM: Implementation and Evaluation of Water Filter Distribution in Rural Uganda

Start Date: 
Jan 1, 2018
End Date: 
Apr 30, 2019
Collaborator: 
University of Michigan - Sustainability Without Borders
Summary: 

Background:

In Uganda, lack of access to clean water is an urgent public health issue. Currently, 24 million Ugandans do not have access to clean drinking water. Diarrheal diseases cause the 2nd most deaths among children 5 years old or younger, making contaminated water deadlier than malaria and HIV. These effects are mostly felt in the rural areas of the country, where many people who lack access to clean water must boil water over traditional cooking stoves. This process requires firewood collection, a time-consuming endeavor that falls largely on women and girls. As a result, lack of clean water keeps women and girls from going to school and being otherwise economically productive, and puts significant stress on forest resources.

Clients:

SPOUTS of Water is a Ugandan company that manufactures and sells ceramic filters that effectively eliminate 99.9% of water-borne bacteria. While SPOUTS’s revenue comes from sales, the company has an NGO arm that distributes filters to schools and relies upon social networks to distribute filters throughout school communities. SPOUTS targets communities for filter distribution that would be otherwise unable to afford filters. The current Sales and Marketing Director of SPOUTS, Becca Liebschutz, is an alumna of the U-M Program in the Environment.

Sustainability Without Borders (SWB) is a student organization in U-M SEAS that partners with communities and NGOs to produce bi-directional learning experiences, and to collaboratively design sustainable solutions to expressed development needs. SWB’s model is to engage with partners for four years, during which SWB members conduct needs assessments, collect baseline data, design and implement the intervention, do capacity building, and collect follow-up data to evaluate impact. SWB projects are all student-led.

Project:

This project is intended to be the first foot forward in a four-year partnership between SWB and SPOUTS. SPOUTS is committed to its filter distribution program, but lacks the capacity to conduct impact evaluations on a wide variety of metrics. Thus, the key aim of this project will be to work with SPOUTS to decide upon key indicators, design an evaluation methodology, and deploy the methodology for baseline data collection in tandem with the start of a new filter distribution program. The project team will also work to engage other students in this project in order to form a SWB team that will carry on this work after the 16-month Master’s project and to possibly engage with the medical school program efforts in Uganda that are relevant to this project.

Specifically, over the course of the Master’s project, the students should accomplish the following objectives:

  • Begin a filter distribution program with a new school community, in conjunction with SPOUTS staff
  • Deploy training modules for community members to learn effective filter use
  • Decide upon key indicators for impact evaluation
  • Design impact evaluation methods, and collect baseline data prior to filter distribution
  • Engage other U-M students to carry on the SPOUTS-SWB partnership beyond the end of this Master’s Project, including leading a follow-up trip to introduce new students to the project and collect additional data

Currently, SPOUTS measures impact by collecting data on filter usage. However, an impact evaluation should ideally measure the downstream effects of water filters on health, ecology, and livelihoods. Thus, students will work with SPOUTS to design a survey tool to effectively measure changes in outcomes that can be traced to gaining access to clean water. Further, the students will create a modified social life-cycle assessment method to evaluate the impact throughout the total supply chain of Spouts. Possible metrics include, but are not limited to, amount of money spent on charcoal, amount of time spent collecting fuelwood and water, sexual assault and gender-based violence experienced while collecting fuelwood and water, work and school time lost to diarrheal diseases, carbon emissions reductions, rate of adoption, and overall quality of life. This project will bring together an interdisciplinary team of students with skills in areas such as community engagement, survey methodology, environmental education, and data analysis and management. The result will be a roadmap for understanding the potential for water filters to transform community livelihoods and ecosystems. In addition, this project will be an opportunity for students to design and implement a rigorous impact evaluation study, which is an increasingly important competency in the international development industry, and contribute to the advancement of the social life-cycle assessment framework.  

This project will require team members to travel to Uganda to build relationships with SPOUTS and the target community, and to deploy the survey tool. Students will travel up to 2 times, for a period of 3 weeks to 2 months each time.

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