Small Water Enterprise in Rural Rwanda: Business Development and Year-One Performance Evaluation of Nine Water Kiosks at Health Care Facilities

Abstract

Small water enterprises (SWEs) have lower capital expenditures than centralized systems, offering decentralized solutions for rural markets. This study evaluated SWEs in rural Rwanda, where nine health care facilities (HCF) owned and operated water kiosks supplying water from onsite water treatment systems (WTS). SWEs were monitored for 12 months. Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient (rs) was used to evaluate correlations between demand for kiosk water and community characteristics, and between kiosk profit and factors influencing the cost model. On average, SWEs distributed 15,300 L/month. One SWE ran at a loss, four had profit margins of ≤10% and four had profit margins of 45-75%. Factors influencing SWE performance were intermittent water supply (87% of SWE closures were due to water shortage), consumer demand (demand was high where populations already used improved water sources (rs = 0.81, p = 0.02)), price sensitivity (demand was lower where SWEs had high prices (rs = -0.65, p = 0.08)), and production cost (water utility tariffs negatively impacted SWE profits (rs = -0.52, p < 0.01)). Sustainability was more favorable in circumstances where recovery of capital expenditures was not expected, and the demand for treated water was sufficient to fund operational expenditures. Future research is needed to assess the extent to which kiosk revenue can support ongoing operational costs of WTS and kiosks both at HCF and in other contexts.

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