Our approach

We are continually looking for ways to improve what we do. We take a scientific approach to our work. We encourage innovation and try to act as a catalyst – proving concepts and then helping to roll them out widely. We do not impost solutions on our communities or our partners. Development work doesn’t exist in a bubble and we believe that the many of the learnings in other sectors around the world have relevance for our programmes. We strive to have a culture of openness where ideas and constructive criticism are welcomed. Our approached, outlined below ensures our programmes are sustainable and focused on impact.

A scientific approach
A catalyst organisation
An adaptive approach
Focused on impact
Ensuring sustainability
Access to water can be overcome if we continue our work with our values and ethos; like sitting together on one carpet – with no discrimination based on gender, caste or religion – we must value every human being, value the voices of people on the ground (i.e. village communities) and value every member of our team. Together, we can continue the work of WaterHarvest for many more years to come.
Om Prakash Sharma, Country Director, India, WaterHarvest

A scientific approach

Founded by scientists, WaterHarvest believes in applying a scientific rigour to our programmes. Our staff, trustees and ambassadors include engineers, geo-hydrologists, social scientists and other academics. We encourage robust debate and being challenged. We attend relevant conferences, keep abreast of scientific developments in the water sector and regularly host PHD and master students in the field. All this helps to make our programmes as effective as possible and prevents funds and opportunities being wasted.

A catalyst organisation

Our strength lies in taking an idea or concept, researching it, putting into practice, observing how it works, making changes and observing again until it is effective. This pilot phase creates a proof of concept that we can then share with others. Our culture of openness encourages others to copy and learn from our work. This includes governments, other NGOs and development partners.

An adaptive approach

We do not believe in a one size fits all approach and we do not impose solutions on the communities we work with. We work with the communities, listening to them and adapting modern science with the ancient wisdom of water harvesting that many of these communities have built up over many years. The adaptions we make to each programme are dependent on the communities, the physiography and topography of the region, the extent of the rainfall and the purpose they are designed to serve.

The projects we support are designed using participatory methods, involving people in planning and taking action for their own future. We believe that any support we provide must not encourage any sense of dependency among the communities where we work. Since the first projects we supported, villagers have made in-kind contributions to the work such as co-investment, donating land, or, more usually, their labour. This encourages a sense of long-term ownership and responsibility, rather than short-term dependency on handouts.

In order to sustain our water harvesting systems, we also support beneficiaries to form and run village development committees which manage natural resources responsibly and plan collectively for their community’s future. Community funds are set up to maintain ongoing repairs of the water harvesting structures which are built using affordable materials available locally. Beneficiaries also receive training to develop various skills such as farming, masonry and business. All of our projects are independently evaluated to check whether they have achieved the planned impacts.

Sitting on one carpet

We work closely with all the stakeholders across each programme including the local communities and both local and national government officials. ‘Sitting on one carpet’ is a core principal of our work – no discrimination based on gender, caste or religion. Our projects incorporate the development and strengthening of community based organisations such as village committees and self help groups. In addition, training in areas such as farming, natural resource management, hygiene and sanitation forms a core part of our programmes.

“WaterHarvest goes further than just providing safer water. Time saved by the women in collecting water helps to liberate them and the charity has enabled them to establish self-help groups. Recent sanitation work has improved the quality of life in each village, particularly for women and children.”

Deacon Glenda Sidding

Focused on impact

We evaluate the impact of each of our programmes before, during and after the programme. In order to evaluate the impact, we collect both quantitive and qualitative date. We collect quantitive data through a mobile app and qualitative data through interviews and case studies. The questions asked are carefully considered by a group of stakeholders including the field workers, a data analyst, the WaterHarvest India office and the UK programme committee. The questions take into account the Sustainable Development Goals and the corresponding measurement indicators.

The data is then analysed by data analysts and the programme committee. By analysing the data, we can see whether which interventions are most effective and what we can do to improve the effectiveness of the programmes. We share this data – through visualisations and spreadsheets – and discuss it with our partners and other stakeholders.

WaterHarvest ProgrammeSDG GoalSDG Indicator
Clean drinking waterSDG 6.1: By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for allSDG 6.1.1: Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services
LivelihoodSDG 6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supple of fresh water to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.SDG 6.4.1: Change in water use efficiency over time
SDG 6.4.2: Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources
EnvironmentSDG 15: Life on landSDG 15

Ensuring sustainability

Our relationship with partner NGOs and with village communities is not just based on the projects. At WaterHarvest, we try to continue relationships with all of our NGO partners and go back to the villages where we have worked before, to see a longer-term change in the communities. Our recent 2018 study on one of the watershed project works (carried out during 2004 to 2009) shows an increase in vegetation cover due to water harvesting works. This is proof of the sustainability of our collaborative solutions and that communities are continuing to benefit from them.

The approach outlined above means that our programmes are long term in focus, rooted in science and adapted to their local environment. This ensures that our programmes are sustainable and that funds and times are not wasted.

“What attracted me to WaterHarvest was the way in which, right from the beginning, the charity worked for the long haul – for a sustainable future.”
Tom Holder, volunteer and supporter of WaterHarvest