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“EWB Australia’s skill set and knowledge, and their capacity building of local engineers is excellent, definitely a more sustainable approach. We had an EWB Field Professional as part of the entire process… tt was excellent! It was how we got the whole design set up. It was completely invaluable.”

– Kyra Marwaha, Cambodia Country Director of The Johanniter

Country: Cambodia
Program: Community Partnerships
Solution: Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
Outcome: Solar powered piped water system for Ratanakiri village

SDGs: 6,7,17

Impact: Two piped water supply system now supply two villages in Ratanakiri – almost 80% of village have ready-access to clean water within 10 months. and are now being managed by a local water management committee, registered with the Provincial Department for Rural Development.

In remote Ratanakiri in north east Cambodia, a community’s only water source was a distant stream, so every drop for cooking, cleaning and sanitation had to be carried home manually. The community identified the lack of a piped water supply as a real barrier to safe sanitation in their village. However supplying piped water in this area of Ratanakiri is not straightforward – the environment is challenging with a dispersed population, appropriate sanitation systems are not easily available, and technical expertise is lacking.

So when EWB Australia Field Professionals helped bridge a technical knowledge gap, in partnership with The Johanniter, Rainwater Cambodia, and Human and Health, it set in motion the steps to make piped water a reality for the people living here.

Kyra Marwaha, Cambodia Country Director of The Johanniter is a champion of the partnership philosophy, highlighting how essential it is to share information, and to be transparent and build relationships with other NGOs.

“There are technical working groups at the national level,” she says, “but how that plays out on the district level is where there really needs to be a focus, because that’s where the challenges are actually felt.”

The Johanniter with their local partner, Human and Health, were working on Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Ratanakiri and had come up with the concept for a piped water supply, but hadn’t secured funding nor engineering expertise to demonstrate feasibility.

“We really needed to have strong evidence behind what we were saying, but it was really hard to get that technical expertise. There are not a huge amount of engineers here in Cambodia,” Kyra explains.

EWB Australia Field Professional Nick Boerema was on placement with EWB Sanitation in Challenging Environments (SCE) project, and volunteered to do a technical engineering feasibility assessment to input to their funding proposal – his offer came at just the right time. With a specific focus on system sustainability, Kyra explains that Nick carried out a number of field assessments of piped water systems that hadn’t worked, and found that “they weren’t using solar pumps, rather they were using diesel pumps. The big problem with that is that there was no maintenance, and people couldn’t afford the fuel. There was a lot of thinking about how we can prevent this from happening, and having Nick at this time with that technical knowledge was excellent, as it would have been difficult to source elsewhere.”

Following technical assessment and design, a sustainable solar powered piped water system was proposed and successfully secured the necessary funding. In Kyra’s opinion EWB Australia’s Field Professionals not only bring technical knowledge but also a human centred design approach that considers the context and the community who will manage and maintain the system.

“This can be unusual especially when you seek out specific technical skills, as often they will come with just that skill set and they don’t have that more grassroots approach. It’s certainly not easy to find.”

With the continued support of RWC and a further three EWB Australia engineers – Ajay Chouhan, Lachlan Gutherie and Jimi Metcalfe – two piped water supply systems in two villages in Ratanakiri were completed in February 2018, and are now being managed by a local water management committee, registered with the Provincial Department for Rural Development.

“We had an EWB Field Professional as part of that entire process through RWC. It was excellent! It was how we got the whole design set up. It was completely invaluable.”

By the end of 2018, 231 out of 294 households had signed up for the system, and connected to water meters, paying for their water based on usage. Kyra is really pleased with the outcome.

“We are anticipating that everyone is going to sign up, because it has had a really positive response. This project has gone so well, and the government at a provincial and national level have been so engaged and supportive. When you are working in this sector, you have to be realistic. But it’s those little steps, it’s those small changes that you see that are worth it,” says Kyra.