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More than one third of the global population needs basic sanitation. About 10 percent do not have clean water. Rotary International, one of largest humanitarian service organizations globally, and USAID, the world’s largest governmental aid agency, are partnering to make an impact.

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Rotary USAID Uganda Kkoba RC Primary School drilling

Drilling for safe water in Central East Uganda

Buikwe is one of 10 administrative districts in Uganda where Only 69% of residents have access to safe water, according to the Buikwe district local government. Rotary and USAID are partnering to improve safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices in communities, healthcare facilities and schools in the area.

In developing a joint framework of collaboration, the partners decided to take on complementary roles. With USAID’s Uganda Sanitation for Health Activity (USHA) already carrying out activities to promote sanitation and hygiene practices in three schools (Kkoba RC Primary School, Kituntu RC Primary School and St Mathias Mulumba RC Primary School) and at the Ngogwe Health Center III, Rotary is taking on the provision of safe water supply at the same sites.


Rotary USAID Uganda Nabisoigi Health Center
Drilling contractors contracted by Rotary at Nabisoigi Health Center. 7 July 2021.

In Buikwe, the collaboration occurs between the Rotary clubs of Kajjansi and Portbell, which are under the leadership of the Rotary Uganda Host Organizing Committee (an umbrella body overseeing all RCs involved in the partnership), and USHA’s grantees.

At the onset, the Rotary side carried out a validation assessment to verify the local needs and confirm the selection of the sites. The assessment involved meetings between Rotarians and members of the WATSAN committees—largely to secure their consent for surveying and drilling on their land.  The next step involves contracting firms to carry out hydrological surveys to identify underground sources of water and drilling. This is where USHA supports Rotary in the technical evaluation of proposals submitted by bidding contractors.

Several challenges emerged out of the hydrological surveys, according to the Rotary Uganda partnership program engineer Martin Twine.

In some schools, the surveys yielded no groundwater potential, which  meant that drilling had to be done on the land of the neighboring community. In other cases, successful surveys were done on private land but some residents refused to allow drilling on their properties. At St. Mathias Mulumba Primary School for example, two potential boreholes could not be drilled. In the first instance, a resident refused to allow drilling on his land out of concern that a borehole would reduce the value of his property which he intended to sell.  The second landowner demanded compensation in the amount of 5 million Ugandan shillings (approx. US$1,400) before drilling could take place.


Despite the challenges, drilling operations for seven boreholes went successfully ahead.

Beyond physical infrastructure, Rotarians and USHA are building the capacity of local water and sanitation (WATSAN) management committees, which are made up of local leaders who take responsibility for maintaining the water supply systems and promoting and enforcing good sanitation and hygiene practices in their communities.

Reporting by RI’s Mohamed Keita with contributions by Martin Twine, program engineer for Rotary for the Rotary-USAID Uganda partnership.  

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