Using Project Management Skills

to Provide Safe Water to Villages in Niger



By Ida B. Harding, PMP

Los Angeles, California, USA




This article relates the story of a nonprofit founded to provide Niger, West Africa, with the most basic of all needs – uncontaminated water.  Written from the perspective of a humanitarian Project Management Professional, it tells a story in which inspiration and professional skills led to the creation of a volunteer-run nonprofit organization which has improved the lives of over 600,000 people.  The article will detail how the organization developed.  It also discusses the personal benefits that come with volunteering

Keywords: Nonprofit, volunteerism, project management, clean water, Africa, Niger



“Look, ya’ll!  A well!  A traditional well!”  It was off in the distance with about a dozen women and girls in colorful dresses milling around it, each holding a plastic container as she waited for her turn to fill it with the contaminated water from the well.  This was my introduction to women and girls in Niger and the start of a journey to give this gift of water to the people of Niger.

The Beginning

It’s funny how one event can change your life forever.  In April 2008, I attended a slide presentation on the book Water is Key (Gleick and Garcetti, 2007) and learned how women in Niger, West Africa, walk 4-6 miles each day to get water for their families and carry their heavy water burdens back home on their heads.  This concept was not unfamiliar to me, but I never truly understood what it meant until that night.

I did not even know that night where the country of Niger was located.  Bordered by Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya, Niger is the largest country in Western Africa and the poorest in the world, year after year, according to the UN Developmental Index.

But that night I learned more than its geographical location.  I learned that girls can’t attend school because their role is to help with water gathering or else care for the younger children while the mothers make the journey for water.  It’s not unusual for a five-year old to bear the responsibility of caring for the younger children who are too old to be wrapped to the mother’s back but too young to walk the distance.

Like clockwork, mothers arise before daybreak (“before the cock crows”, in their words) and leave for their daily walks, not knowing what may come.  Some of them are occasionally raped if found to be walking alone.  If they are unfortunate enough to arrive to the well “late”, there may be no more water left that day.  They must then walk even farther until another well is found.  And this water that women work so hard to get — it is contaminated, causing disease and even death.  The women know it.  They call it “bad” water.  But it is what they have.  Currently, 1 out of 7 babies die before they are five years old because of water caused disease.


Those of us listening that night were overwhelmingly touched by what we learned.  Sparked by the presentation, a small group of women decided to take action for the cause.  We formed a Task Force and set an initial goal to raise funds for five wells in villages in Niger.  And in just a few months, we had funded 10 wells simply by talking with women in our Founder’s home and by networking with friends!  From the outset, we partnered with World Vision, one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, to do our “boots on the ground” work and be our matching donor.  We created a Memo of Understanding with them, in which they agreed to match our monetary contributions and to do the drilling for us, charging us only $5600 to drill a well.  Now, almost 12 years later, they have increased that cost by only $500 to $6100.



To read entire article, click here


How to cite this article: Harding, I. (2020).  Using Project Management Skills to Provide Safe Water to Villages in Niger, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/pmwj91-Mar2020-Harding-using-project-management-to-provide-safe-water.pdf



About the Author


Ida B. Harding

California, USA




Ida B. Harding, PMP is a BOD Member and Director of Volunteer Management for Wells Bring Hope, an organization which drills wells in Niger, West Africa.  A Project Management Professional, Ida is a graduate of the PMI Leadership Master Class and has presented at several PMI Leadership Meetings.  She has been an active PMI member at global levels as well as the chapter level since she joined PMI in 1993.

At the global PMI level, she served on the BOD for the Education Foundation.  She also served on numerous PMI committees, including PMI BOD Nominations Committee, Professional Awards Member Advisory Group, Component Services Member Advisory Group, the Project of the Year selection team, and BOD of Association for Chapter Presidents (ACP), among others.  During her term on the ACP, Ida headed the Component Mentor Program and coordinated the 15 mentors across the globe for several years.  Since 2011, she has served on the planning committee for the SPA for the Mind, an annual meeting of graduates of the Leadership Institute program. Recently, she became involved in the PMI Global Accreditation Committee to do onsite university evaluations.

At a local level Ida has been an active PMI- LA Chapter member, serving twice as President, and won the “PMI Chapter President of the Year” award for both terms.  Before and after her presidency, Ida served in virtually every other chapter BOD role. She served as Trustee 2001-2019. In addition to her PMI volunteer work, Ida has also played active roles in several other volunteer organizations including Cancer Support Community, Lymphoma Research Foundation, Toastmasters, Venice Family Clinic, and California Special Olympics Games.

Now retired from paid employment, Ida’s first career was in higher education in Wisconsin. She taught courses in how to teach reading and how to diagnose and remediate reading problems. Later she worked as Assistant Dean of Students, managing the academic advising program.  In an effort to move away from academia, she got her MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Recruited there by IBM, Ida spent ten years working in project management and marketing for IBM and later in contract and procurement management for Federal Defense projects for a small family owned corporation.  In addition to her MBA, Ida has degrees in English Linguistics/Literature and Higher Education (M.A. and ab for Ph.D. at University of Wisconsin), as well as Elementary Education (B.S. at Georgia State University).

Ida can be contacted at ibeal@wellsbringhope.org. The website for her organization is www.wellsbringhope.org.