March 1, 2013

PepsiCorps Volunteers Bring Expertise to Our Rainwater Harvesting Program

PepsiCorps volunteers recently spent a month in Rajasthan, India with our staff, community leaders, and our partner, Bhorukha Charitable Trust, working to refine Safe Water Network's Rainwater Harvesting program. Their objective was to address challenges to local sustainability and position the work to be scaled for greater impact.

The PepsiCorps team included senior managers from their businesses in the US, Lebanon and Turkey. With backgrounds in logistics, marketing, merchandising, finance and branding, their expertise and insights resulted in recommendations to improve system performance, reduce costs, and accelerate the rate of adoption through educational and marketing programs that promote the benefit of safe water usage.

Background

From 2008 to 2011, we established a rainwater harvesting program in 55 villages of Churu District in the western part of the Indian state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is considered one of the most water-stressed areas in the world, with desert-like conditions and home to India's poorest populations.

PepsiCorps Volunteer in Churu District Village

A rainwater harvesting cistern provides safe water for a family year round. During the brief monsoon season, families fill 15,000 liter household cisterns, storing water for months beyond the rains. Once empty, households fill their cisterns with water delivered by tankers.

The focus of the PepsiCorps project was to lower cistern construction costs, develop locally appropriate mason training and create a loan program for families to finance household installations.

Making a Larger Impact

The PepsiCorps volunteers examined the current program and made a number of recommendations to build upon on our success to date.

The team suggested an improved design of the catchment area tiles which they project will result in higher collection water volumes of up to 25 to 50%.

The team also looked at ways to reduce system costs and improve the return on the household investment by expanding storage capacity to leverage year-round access via tanker delivery. The volunteers provided several cistern capacity options that align roof area, annual rainfall and a household's ability to pay monthly loan installments.

A second group of volunteers looked at increasing the program's impact by examining how elements could be scaled by Safe Water Network's partners. The team identified capital as the key hurdle, followed by finding a micro-finance institution that could effectively administer household loans on a regional basis.

"Leveraging the expertise of a company like PepsiCo elevates our ability to execute on the ground," says Ravi Sewak, India Director. "The PepsiCorps program gave us the opportunity to step-back from the front-lines to evaluate what we've accomplished so that we can achieve greater impact going forward."

"Safe Water Network is mobilizing expertise from a variety of organizations and training local NGO's to solve this difficult global challenge of water scarcity," says Sheila Golden, founding member of the PepsiCorps program. "We believe strongly in the impact they are making in the water sector. Our employees also obtain pragmatic experience in these challenging environments."

The PepsiCorps Volunteer program is part of the PepsiCo Foundation's commitment to develop partnerships and programs in underserved regions that provide opportunities for sustained and improved health, environment and education. PepsiCo has also provided technical assistance to our operations in Ghana and in the development of Tool Kits for Safe Water Stations, a comprehensive set of manuals for organizations, entrepreneurs and operators of decentralized systems.

For further information on Safe Water Network's Rainwater Harvesting Programs in India contact:

Poonam Sewak
psewak@safewaternetwork.org