Loans to Improve Community Access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)


Written by Kaitlin McGarvey, North America Fundraising Manager, VisionFund International

“I want the business to become a one-stop shop for anything needed for household water storage. I want to start selling pipes, water holes, sinks etc. I have already bought a piece of land that we are preparing as the major business site,” shares Georgina, a VisionFund Ghana client who runs a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) business.

Georgina's business strategy echoes VisionFund's commitment to improve access to WASH services in the communities we serve through the provision of Water Loans. We are doing this in partnership with World Vision.

The Link Between WASH and Economic Empowerment
The economic impact of hauling water is tremendous because it robs women and girls of 200 million hours every day. Providing people with close access to clean water is foundational to lifting people out of poverty.  In fact, World Vision, in partnership with Stanford University,[1] has found that the closer water is to people’s homes, the more economic opportunity that is provided to households, especially for women (Link).

The Water Loan Partnership
VisionFund is a mission-driven microfinance institute focused on serving the most vulnerable clients in order to improve household well-being. Our commitment to serve the most vulnerable clients has concentrated our portfolio on the rural poor, with an emphasis on women who make up over 70% of our global portfolio.  World Vision is the largest non-governmental provider of clean water, reaching one new person with clean water every 10 seconds - a majority of whom live in rural and/or fragile contexts.

Together, we aim to tackle the global water crisis, and improve access to WASH so that families can thrive. Here's how the partnership works.

World Vision will continue to build on their WASH expertise and extensive footprint by installing community water systems that are designed to accommodate household connections for both water and sanitation infrastructure.

Then, community members are able to apply for a Water Loan through VisionFund. Water Loans finance household water connections and latrines.  With these loans, clients can purchase pipes, sinks, toilets, water tanks, and other products that will bring clean water to their homes. They can also open businesses, like Georgina's, that provide these WASH goods to other community members.

Water Loans were built off the foundation of localized pilots, like this one in Uganda. We launched Water Loans in Ethiopia and Kenya where we've seen great success.  During FY 2022, we're expanding this partnership to Ghana, Uganda, and Zambia to reach even more communities and clients.

Pilot Findings
"Before getting the [water] tanks from VisionFund's [Water Loan], we travelled more than 5 kilometres to fetch water. Our children did not have time to do their homework or play like other children because they had to help fetch water after school and sometimes even before school, but we now feel equal to other Kenyans," Female Client, Bartabwa, Kenya.

Through a series of interviews with Water Loan clients in Kenya, VisionFund discovered that the Water Loans did successfully improve community hygiene. Access to clean water and hygiene training has reduced water-borne Illnesses, which has improved household health. One client explained that children in his community are now clean and healthy because they have clean water and a balanced diet from crops grown using the water.

Surveyed clients said Water Loans improved their lives in the following ways:

  • Children are now clean; they can shower and put on clean clothes 100%
  • Women have more time to spend in other economically-productive ways, including attending group meetings (70%)
  • Children have more time to study and play (60%)
  • Men have more time to engage in other economic activities (30%)
  • Clients can now grow crops even during the dry season (20%)

These results validate the importance of investing in Water Loans, which are transforming the lives of our clients and their children. VisionFund is eager to further expand this product in order to serve even more people through the development of water businesses and improved household WASH.