OffGridBox in Rwanda Kigali
Aqwalife and OffGridBox signed an agreement in February 2020, concerning the funding of one OffGridBox plus remote monitoring and assistance with setting up the business model.
The initial locations selected were at Musanze and Karongi. Due to COVID-19, the implementation of the project was delayed, as was the case with many other OffGridBox projects. Then, in early August, the project was restarted. It was decided to allocate one of the boxes that had already been installed but was still not operational. This OffGridBox is located in Ruhango district and became fully operational on 19 August.
SITUATION ON THE GROUND
Ruhango District is part of Southern Province, Rwanda. According to the 2012 census, the population of Ruhango district is around 320,000 of which 91.9% is rural. 52.4% of the population in Southern province is female and 62% of the population is under 25 years old. 64.5% of youths attained only the primary school level,20.1% attained the secondary education level,1.9% attained university and11.9% have no education.
In Ruhango district, the main source of energy for lighting used by private households is the kerosene lamp (65.8%).The percentage of households using electricity as source of energy for lighting is 8.6%. Firewood and candle are used at 4.7% and 2.6% respectively. A high percentage of private households (17.8%) use an unspecified source of energy for lighting (census 2012).
The EICV3 results indicated that 59% of Ruhango district households used an improved drinking water source. Improved drinking water sources include protected springs, public standpipes, water pipe into a dwelling/yard, borehole protected wells and rainwater collection as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Taking into consideration the water treatment capacity of the national utility-one cannot overlook the importance and need to access healthy drinking water. As we know from our water testing, this water is ‘improved’ but not purified, so it still has adverse effects on people’s health due to bacterial contamination.
Ruhango district is far from achieving the NSTl – National Strategy for Transformation-Phase 1 target requirement for the water and sanitation sector, which is to increase access to safe drinking water to 100% by 2024. As indicated in the lmihigo of the district, Ruhango plans to connect an additional 800 households (<1% of the Ruhango population) in the 2019/2020 year of Imihigo.
There is a team running the Ruhango OffGridBox which comprises Boxkeeper Branche Irahoza, 1 area coordinator, 1 biker, as well as a security guard, providing full-time employment to 4 persons. Production manager Danny Niyiteg has been given a more regional role since early January and is now operating out of Kigali.
Access to Affordable Clean Water
The OffGridBox in Ruhango is providing access to clean and affordable water by means of the hub and spoke model through the sale of purified and bottled water at shops, as well as the Lorentz SmartTap, which allows customers to independently fill up their own containers with affordable purified water.
Number of Shops/Customers Served
We have expanded our network of small rural and peri-urban shops where the bottled water is sold to 89 shops (up from 61 in our last report), all located in a 5-10 km perimeter around the OffGridBox. At the same time, we keep on monitoring the activities at each shop, and trying to increase sales at all locations. Shops that do not perform are taken from the list of distributors.
The SmartTap has seen a substantial rise in unique customers, from 43 in our last report, to 499 at the end of April. This number is still quite low, and efforts are currently being made to increase awareness of the existence of the SmartTap and the competitive pricing ($0.05 per liter). Especially during market days, the usage is expected to further increase. We will also experiment with providing jerry cans with dispensers to vendors who have a small shop in the market, so they can sell smaller quantities of water to their own customers.
Amount of Clean Water Disbursed per Month
Since initiation of the project (August 2020), 5,868 units of 5 liters have been sold through small shops, so a total of 29,340 liters of water. This has been done in 5 liter and 20 liter jerry cans. On top of this, 14,537 liters have been sold through the SmartTap.
It is important to note that also during this reporting period, Rwanda was in lock down part of the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby movement has been limited between districts and people were less able to leave their homes. Recently, these measures have been relaxed a little bit and we have seen sales go up again. In any case, our customers are happy with the service we provide to them.
Funding and Expenses
The funding provided by Aquatech consisted of $25,000 for the CapEx of the OffGridBox, $3000 for 200 PAYG kits, and $3,600 for remote monitoring and setting up the business. Until this moment, $25,000 has been spent on the OffGridBox (including shipment, transportation and installation). Furthermore, 9 months x $300 = $2,700 (up to and including the month of April) was spent on remote monitoring, training of the team – both on the spot and at a session in Kigali -, and business assistance by the Kigali office. We are still considering the business case of introducing power banks and lights to the community, since we are not sure whether the demand is sufficient. For the moment, we will continue our focus on expanding the water business and introducing more sales and marketing activities.
In terms of salaries, we have spent per month:
● Area Coordinator: 62,000 RWF
● Box Keeper: 40,500 RWF
● Guard; 22,600 RWF
● Biker: 32,000 RWF
This is a total of 157,100 = $160 per month since we reduced the team in January. On top of this, we should add around $50 per month for fixed expenses (land rental, internet connection for remote monitoring, etc), plus monthly COGs which add up to $75 (jerry cans, labels, glue); a total of $285.
So total monthly O&M costs for the project are now $300 for remote monitoring and business assistance plus $285 for wages, rental and COGs.
Total revenues since the beginning of the project have been 2,212,260 + 792,200 = 3,004,460 RWF = $3,058 (on average $349 per month, up from $295 in the last report).
We are opening a new project of home delivery and we will do more marketing of our AYACU water brand through local radio and city market radio. By increasing product awareness, we are trying to increase the market and reach customers who live in the center of town, and not necessarily close to the OffGridBox in Ruhango . We aim to use a motorcycle or tricycle which would facilitate the delivery of the purified water to customers further away and in a timely manner. We intend to use part of the funds reserved for power banks for this purpose.
Despite COVID, our network of shops as well as the number of clients are steadily increasing, and our clients appreciate our water services, both in bottled form and through the SmartTap. We will try to make more use of market days to attract more customers, possibly through engaging more market vendors, who would use their own water dispensers with 18.9L water bottles. The motorcycle delivery system described above should also help to increase sales. We will continue to improve sales skills among the team in Ruhango (BoxKeeper, area coordinator, and delivery person), and make sure they meet quality standards.
The Aquatech contribution still has $3000 (originally meant for power banks, but partly to be used for the delivery service) and $900 (3 months remote monitoring and business assistance) to be spent.
In terms of operational costs and revenues: the monthly O&M costs at box level are now at $285, versus $349 in revenues. This means there is a very modest surplus, since the Donor is still covering the remote monitoring and business assistance fees ($300 per month). From 1 August, these fees should be covered by the revenues, after which any remaining surplus will be saved up in the envisaged revolving fund to be used for further investments.