Nandujja Nadina is a 30-year-old single mother with two children in Uganda. She used to make a living from various jobs like selling fire wood, operating a mobile beauty salon, and tailoring. But these strenuous activities took a toll on her health. She only earned about 68,000 schillings [$24 USD] a month, which was not enough to support her family and to meet their medical bills.
“Before Water.org and VAD came to my community, we faced huge water challenges. Those who operated commercial water taps sold a jerry can of water at 600 schillings [$.21 USD]. It would become much more expensive during the dry seasons, and the line of people waiting to get water was extremely long. Sometimes my family and I would spend a night without water or use the little water we had to last us a few days. I recall one day when the children and I woke up at 3:00 a.m., thinking that we would easily collect water and not find people at the source. But the line was so long that energetic young boys were fighting with the weaker people in the line, and overtaking them, just to secure water.
It was June 2010 when Water.org and VAD first held a meeting in my community. There, they introduced the pre-paid, cost-effective, water and sanitation project. I expressed interested in offering my small piece of land for the construction of the new *water kiosk. The mere mentioning of the word “water” meant so much to me because of the struggle I had been enduring to procure it.
In August 2010 the VAD field staff delivered the good news to me that my site was selected! Construction would start immediately after signing a land agreement demarcating the piece of land for public use. After the construction and the installation of the pre-paid meter system, I was trained in Kisenyi as a water kiosk operator in October. There, I acquired skills and knowledge in operating the new system. After this, I started working as the kiosk operator. Because of this I was able to forego my firewood business, which was very tiresome.
At first, operating the kiosk was not easy because I was often harassed by people who were involved in commercial water vending, and they saw me as a threat to their business. But I never lost hope because the VAD field staff made regular monitoring visits to our community, educating people on the advantages of the pre-paid meters, and encouraging me.
Today, I am a very happy woman! My water kiosk business has attracted many customers, and as a result of my good customer-care services, I receive an average of 80 customers per day. This number becomes even larger during the dry seasons. However, I can meet my customer’s demand because of the tank reservoir that is connected to my kiosk.
People vending water as a commercial business have reduced their prices in order to compete with my kiosk, but I still get more customers because of the free hygiene and sanitation education I offer to whoever buys water from me.
On average, I make at least a profit of at least 30,000 schillings [$10 USD] every week. I also have spare time at my kiosk also where I work on my sewing machine. People who never knew that I was a professional tailor now come for my services; and sometimes if I am not tailoring, I do women’s hair. This has diversified my family income, and I am able to make to approximately 250,000 schillings [$83 USD] per month. My health has also improved because all of my activities are now done while I am operating the water kiosk.
At the end of each month, I meet with water-user committee members and present the kiosk records. Through our collaboration, I have gained respect and trust among the committee members and the entire community.
I am very grateful for this project because it has brought happiness to my family and the entire village! Because we can now buy our water for cheaper without waiting in long lines each day, many families have been able to save money and lead a healthier, more secure, and better life.
*A pre-paid water kiosk is a public water tap with a little house around it to protect the tap and store some supplies. In the last few years, the Uganda National Water and Sewerage Corporation has piloted pre-paid water kiosks as a way to streamline the cost of water in poor urban settlements. The pre-paid technology ensures that community members pay a lower cost per 20-liter container of water and that the cost is constant, no matter if a drought or illness outbreak occurs. Water.org is supporting this effort because an increased number of kiosks will allow people to have water closer to their homes and to save time by people not waiting in lines at other kiosks and water points. The kiosks will also allow sections of communities that have not had a tap water in the past to now access tap water at a low cost.