Lisa Boyd recently joined our African Programs Staff in Malawi and is working in the Water and Sanitation Sector. Since arriving, she has been partnered with two other staff members, working on a research project in Nkhotakota District as the starting phase of a pilot project on Area Mechanics (AMs). AMs are private citizens, generally selected by an NGO or district, who are trained to do operation and maintenance on community water points, thereby taking some of the work load off of the district government to repair such systems. Area Mechanic networks have been previously started in multiple districts throughout Malawi and have proven to be effective in a few districts in Malawi by raising functionality rates from approx 75 percent to around 90 percent, and are therefore an extremely promising tool at improving water system functionality rates.
Alyssa Lindsay, in particular, has been spearheading EWBs Area Mechanic plans based on her work in Mzimba District. One thing that she, and the rest of the EWB team members working in other districts, have found is that the existing AM networks are heavily supported by NGOs and are thus unsustainable in the long term. Jordan Daniow and MacMillan Chikoza, the two EWB staff members who Lisa has been working with, are therefore looking into the possibility of creating a purely business focused AM model in Nkhotakota District. Such a setup would allow the AM system to function independently, without ongoing support from an NGO or the district government, and therefore be more sustainable in the long run. The team is still unsure if this type of system is feasible, but if possible it would have a lot of potential for successfully reducing the time to complete repairs and increasing functionality rates. The current research stage that EWB is in will hopefully lead to a more concrete pilot project for privatization of Area Mechanics within the next six months.
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