Liberia Rural Utilities Company (LRUC)

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Liberia Rural Utilities Company (LRUC)

Boston, United StatesLiberia
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Idea
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The LRUC project is not just about building water wells; it is about community involvement, installing and maintaining metered water well systems to regulate and monitor consumption, and creating a community intervention platform to bring multiple services, such as cellular coverage and healthcare.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we developed sustainable clean water infrastructure to help underserved communities not only succeed but thrive?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Health: 350 million people in Africa lack access to clean drinking water Poverty and Development: The WHO estimates economic returns of $3 to $34 dollars for every dollar invested in water and sanitation Sustainability: Most WASH intervention, especially in rural areas, suffers from a 30-40% failure rate Donor Culture: Communities are stuck in a cycle of asking for assistance, receiving aid, infrastructure breaking down, and asking again

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A Smart Well Utility Service Developing a robust, community smart well system that meters the consumption of water and generates profit for reinvestment in scaling and returns for the community. A utility company that maintains a natural monopoly over the service of water in rural communities. Financially, socially and environmentally sustainable. Tailored to the extreme conditions found in rural sub-Saharan Africa; including the traditional social structures, environmental conditions, lack of resources, transportation, and administrative oversight. Governance structure includes minority stake for the community, improving local empowerment, employment and responsible management of water resources.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Initially our company identifies a suitable rural village, one characterized by a relatively large population with a hub of market activity. We then conduct household surveys and community council meetings to gain feedback from the community to reinforce our assumptions for the business model. Through our partners, we then establish the smart waterpoints strategically throughout the town and a community kiosk. We test the system and train engineers and kiosk workers to maintain the system. We set up a community WASH council, ownership structure and set up a community fund to generate future returns. Successful operation provides the platform for our telecom, healthcare and data management partners to then bring further services.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We currently have 50 philanthropic community projects operating in Liberia through our nonprofit parent organization FACE Africa serving roughly 20,000 beneficiaries with sustained water service some for as many as 5 years of the 20 year lifespan of our projects. Our M&E department tests the impact of clean water in communities, including the quantity and quality of the water, changes in communicable diseases, child mortality rates and health, education attendance, and economic activity. With a sustainable social enterprise we will be able to develop an exponential growth rate as systems begin to break even after 4-5 years. With continued investment in a repeatable community model using widely applicable technology, we have the potential to reach over 160,000,000 rural households in the temperature regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Initially, we will prioritize the horizontal geographic expansion across Western and then sub-Saharan Africa as we focus on market penetration in rural areas and obtaining economies of scale. We will do this using an easily repeatable model. This will then give us the ability to influence government policy and generate significant returns on investment. Part of this investment will go to vertical evolution into decentralized Point of Use Reuse (POUR) water treatment systems. Finally, we hope to socially franchise this model to various other parts of the world.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our main source of revenue comes from the community itself. We reduce our price point to roughly 10% of daily income or $0.14/household/day. Our model achieves this by maintaining a relatively low initial capital investment and next no operating costs (no storage, no overhead, no electricity needed). Management costs can be spread over multiple community projects. These projects will break even and start producing profits for reinvestment.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our project exists at the intersection of nonprofit philanthropy and traditional for profit companies. Many utility companies do not have the capacity to extend services to undeserved populations as their infrastructure costs outweigh their ability to generate revenue from impoverished communities. This is why the need for nonprofit philanthropy work to reach these people but philanthropy is inherently unsustainable. Our competitors exist in either of these categories. Water.org and Water for People are both pursuing sustainable business models but do not work in our geographic region.
Team

Founding Story

In 2008, Saran Kaba Jones returned to her home country of Liberia; a nation ravaged by a deadly civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions displaced. Saran quickly realized that one of the major impediments to education was the lack of clean drinking water. and began FACE Africa to tackle this pressing need. In 2013, Dave accompanied Saran to Liberia. There he realized a common misconception that there is no economic activity in rural villages. Dave comes from the Mohammad Yunus school of social entrepreneurship and realized he could apply these principles to providing millions of people in Africa with clean water services.

Team

Emmett Wilson - Country Director, Medini Annavajhala - Partnership Coordinator (PhD student in Environmental Engineering at Columbia University), Henry Nsang - Lead Engineer (Master’s of Science in Environmental Engineering, Consulted for Jola Venture Inc.), Saran Kaba Jones - Co-founder of LRUC and Executive Director of FACE Africa, Dave Norman - Co-founder of Liberia Rural Utilities Company (Master's in International Business)

Comments

Md Saimum Talukder's picture

A very helpful project indeed that directly involves with and engages root level people!