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Base de données d'évaluation

Evaluation report

2001 ZAM: A Review of UNICEF's Borehole Drilling Programme from 1995-2000

Author: Graham, A.

Executive summary


Since 1995, borehole drilling (for WASHE as well as School Sanitation and Hygiene Education programs) has been subcontracted out to private drilling contractors using a competitive bidding process. This was done in an effort to reduce the high costs of drilling (previously in the region of 5,000 US Dollars for an average 60m deep, fully cased and screened hole) in order to address Donor fears about the cost effectiveness of such programs.

Purpose / Objective

- Review the historical data on boreholes drilled in the East and Southern provinces from 1995 to the present, and to determine average cost information
- Collect and analyze data on lost or unsuccessful (dry) boreholes and to determine the cost to the contractors, and to estimate the failure rates for each district
- Review the changes to the terms and conditions of the contract and to suggest improvements


Data was gathered from drilling companies that have had contracts with UNICEF in the past as well as from UNICEF's own records. A database (in Excel) was created to record pertinent data, both for successful boreholes as well as dry or abandoned ones. This was needed in order to make a value judgment about the efficacy of the contract document with respect to the non-payment of dry holes as well as other analyses, such as the trend in the average cost per borehole and cost/m for the thirteen districts covered. In addition to the collection of specific data relating to boreholes, additional information concerning views on the contract document was gathered through structured interviews with several contractors.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Over the period of review, UNICEF, through the support of its donors, has invested some 3.5 million US Dollars in the provision of approximately 1,200 drilled wells, complete with hand pumps, providing improved access to potable water to approximately 300,000 people. It is seen as a very successful program, with many schools, clinics and villages now having greatly improved water supply.

This has been achieved through the a partnership approach, which included the contracting out of drilling services, working through the District and village WASHE committees and with the support of local NGOs. It should be noted that although traditionally a formal relationship, the contracting of services to local drilling contractors has been seen by UNICEF as very much on a partnership basis. The reason for this is clear; if communities' capacities are developed, along with local NGOs and Government counterparts, the expectation is that, in the future, each District could manage drilling contracts without the need for UNICEF to be involved directly.

Success rates (successful vs. dry or abandoned boreholes) have steadily increased over the period as contractors have improved their techniques. The average success rate for drilling (in all 13 Districts covered) is 85% but this varies from District to District. In some Districts, the success rate is close to 100%, while in others, it is lower, due primarily to difficult geological conditions.

The average cost of drilling a 60m deep borehole equipped with 100mm diameter PVC casing and screen has greatly reduced from what was considered an unacceptably high figure of close to 6,000 US Dollars in the early 1990s to a more acceptable 2,800 US Dollars today. The cost per beneficiary of approximately 12 US Dollars for the provision of a hand pump water supply is half the global figure for the provision of potable water in rural areas. This reduced cost has had the effect of encouraging donors to return to funding this activity as well as allowing UNICEF to program a significantly larger number of units, with the result of greater numbers of people being served. Indeed the Japanese Government's recent announcement of its intention to fund rural water supply and sanitation with a grant of 4.4M US Dollars, to include the provision of boreholes in six districts, is evidence of this.

It is, therefore, clear that the approach taken by UNICEF to reduce the cost of drilling to an acceptable level, using competitive bidding and with some innovative approaches to contract formulation, is one that has had many benefits for the organization and its beneficiaries. It should also be noted that UNICEF has played an important role in terms of capacity building within the Zambian water well drilling arena. Various companies have benefited directly from the experience and technical support of the WASHE programme manager and have voiced their appreciation of his inputs over the years.

Although the number of boreholes drilled on an annual basis has dropped from a peak of approximately 300 in 1996 (perhaps the height of the 90s drought mitigation measures) to as few as 75 in 2000, there is good reason to suggest that the provision of borehole water sources is a cost-effective approach and that funding for such will continue. Assuming that the donor community will be encouraged by the figures presented in this report, the likelihood of continued and possibly improved funding for borehole drilling is high. This should be welcome news for the people of rural Zambia and the local drilling contractors alike.


In terms of Administration and documentation, there are several areas that need to be looked at in terms of making some improvements to the present arrangements. These are:

Administration and contract management - The systems and procedures for monitoring and filing contract information should be reviewed and improved to allow for easier access and retrieval.
Contract documents - Some changes need to be made to the current form of contract to a) better serve and protect the interests of UNICEF, and b) to encourage opening up of the competition as, currently, there appear to be only a few companies bidding competitively.
Approach to procurement of drilling services - UNICEF may consider that it is appropriate to change the procurement methodology in light of their experience with borehole drilling contractors in Zambia. There is, perhaps, an argument for moving away from competitive bidding towards preferred supplier arrangements, providing there is no conflict with UNICEF's standard procurement rules.

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Report information





Water and Environmental Sanitation


YW503 - 02

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