Jan 29, 2019

Where Credit Is Due

A Q&A with the director of the USAID Sustainable Water Partnership

Q&A with director of USAID Sustainable Water Partnership

In November 2018, Water.org and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Sustainable Water Partnership announced they would provide $4 million in microloans for a 37,000-person Cambodian community in the Stung Chinit watershed. The WaterCredit program works to provide water access, sanitation and hygiene to communities by offering microloans to families in water-stressed areas. WQP Managing Editor Amy McIntosh asked Eric Viala, director of the USAID Sustainable Water Partnership for Winrock Intl., for more information about the program.

Amy McIntosh: Why was the WaterCredit program started?

Eric Viala: One of the major barriers to safe water and sanitation is affordable financing. Many financial systems in developing countries don’t offer loans for water and sanitation to the poor. To address this barrier head-on, our partner Water.org created the WaterCredit Initiative. WaterCredit brings small, easily repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing and expert resources to make household water and toilet solutions a reality.

McIntosh: How are families and/or
communities chosen?

Viala: The Sustainable Water Partnership began working in Cambodia in 2017 with a stakeholder-driven Water Security Improvement process in Kampong Thom Province. The Stung Chinit watershed was selected because of growing water security risks and strong support from local leaders. SWP has performed a comprehensive water security assessment for the Stung Chinit watershed, where one of the four water risks identified was lack of access to water supply and sanitation. 

Our partner, Water.org, trains and guides local microfinance institutions to provide micro-loans to households. There is no selection process, as any household can apply. Some information is needed to meet the criteria to obtain the micro-loan.

McIntosh: What is the payback process like?

Viala: Water.org partners with carefully selected financial institutions to provide affordable water and sanitation loans to families in need. These microfinance partners establish water and sanitation loans in their portfolio of offerings. Water.org supports them by providing resources, education, connections with other practitioners and technical assistance to get them started. Borrowers use these small, affordable loans to put a tap or toilet in their homes and get access to local resources who can do the work. Preventing the accrual of debt is a priority. Water.org advises financial institutions on setting appropriate loan terms and repayment schedules for water and sanitation loan products. Every repaid loan can empower another family with safe water. Indeed, 99% of loans are paid back and 90% of borrowers are women. The average loan size is $341.

McIntosh: What technology will be provided in Stung Chinit?

Viala: The micro-loans are typically used to build simple pit latrines as well as piped (and metered) drinking water connections.

McIntosh: What type of education, if any, is provided to the families?

Viala: Recipient households are provided with simple designs for pit latrines and piped connections, as well as lists of certified local artisans. But households are free to choose other designs and providers. Some financial partners also educate clients on the importance and benefits of safe access to water and sanitation, the dangers of open defecation, and best practices for proper hygiene. 

About the author

Eric Viala is director of the U.S. Agency for International Development Sustainable Water Partnership for Winrock Intl. Viala can be reached at [email protected] or 703.302.6500.

Amy McIntosh is managing editor of WQP. McIntosh can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1025.