SNV is working with the Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) in Kampot Province and the government of Chum Kiri District to establish water supply user groups, train locally based well repair agents, and to establish clear responsibilities for both major and minor repair needs.

"The NGO drilled the well, so I’m waiting for them to come back to fix it."
"The government used to provide me with a spare parts kit – I’m waiting for them to give one to me again."
"I have no idea how to fix the problem or who to ask for help."
"I don't know where to buy the spare parts I need to fix the well."

These phrases represent common feelings and perceptions in Cambodia when a well breaks down – even if the costs required to get the well repaired are just a few dollars. The national government has recently reported that in rural Cambodia there are over 500,000 wells already constructed. However, no one knows how many of these wells are broken or abandoned.

For many years now, PDRD Kampot has had responsibility for conducting well repairs in their province. However, the budgets allocated to well repair are sufficient for only around one dozen wells per year.  Considering that there are over half a million wells in the country, their activities represent a small drop in the bucket! However, technicians at PDRD Kampot and at all PDRD offices across the country have become experts in well repair. How can their vast technical knowledge be better utilised and have a greater impact?

For water supply functionality to increase across the country at scale, local technicians must be trained and spare parts must be readily available. SNV has recently supported PDRD-Kampot technicians to train 37 well repair agents from throughout the district.  In 2014, SNV worked with officers from the Ministry of Rural Development, development partners, and technicians from PDRD-Kampot to create a handbook on water supply repair.  This handbook served as a primary training tool and one copy was provided to each of the local repair agents to keep for future reference.

Over January and February 2015, PDRD-Kampot technicians trained three cohorts of local repair agents. Each cohort was trained over two days. The morning of the first day was used as an introduction and walk-through of the handbook. The afternoon session and Day 2 were used for hands-on training at pre-selected broken wells from the nearby community. PDRD-Kampot technicians guided the group of repair agents through the diagnosis of the breakdowns and the repair steps, referring to the handbook when necessary. The hands-on training covered both VN6 and Afridev hand pumps – the two pump types that are most common in Cambodia and endorsed by the national government.

Mr Pov Ram is a 49-year-old farmer and labourer from Kandal village, and was one of the 37 repair agents that received training. He wanted to participate in the training and become a repair agent because he noticed many broken wells in his community and he enjoys hands-on skills. “The life of the villagers depends on water.  In the past, many wells were broken and some were completely abandoned.  This happened because the people didn’t know how to repair the wells and couldn’t find anyone to provide the service,” he said.

Mr Ram said the training he received was comprehensive and empowering, as it included the field handbook, spare parts, repair tools, and enough time for practice. The handbook comprehensively includes a list of commonly needed spare parts, their estimated prices, contact details for local spare part retailers, and contact details for PDRD-Kampot technicians.

In Ram's village, there were about 40 existing wells, including five broken VN6 hand pumps.  All five hand pumps have now been repaired and he charged his customers between USD $2 and $15 to complete the repair, depending on the problem. Water user groups recently established in 2014 were able to collect money from amongst the users to hire Mr Ram to complete the repair.  He also stated that his small business can now provide some extra income for him and his family. “Now I am confident that I can provide repair services to the villagers and they now know me as their well repair agent.  They can contact me to perform well repairs in the future any time,” he said.

It is SNV’s vision that among the 37 trained well repair agents, most will remain active in their communities and go on to train others in the future to sustain their informal small businesses. By bringing well repair expertise from the provincial authorities to the local communities, SNV and its partners hope that well functionality rates will increase and remain high into the future.  SNV is also working with the Ministry of Rural Development to determine the effectiveness and results of the activity and advocate for the scale-up of such trainings across the country.