One Acre Fund — Scoping Grant for In-Line Chlorination in Rwanda (October 2022)

Note: This page summarizes the rationale behind a GiveWell grant to One Acre Fund. One Acre Fund staff reviewed this page prior to publication.

Summary

We're interested in supporting the development of new, cost-effective giving opportunities. We and One Acre Fund identified in-line chlorination (ILC), which improves water quality, in Rwanda as a program that may be highly cost-effective if implemented successfully.

In October 2022, GiveWell made a one-year, $451,212 grant to One Acre Fund to scope potential opportunities to implement ILC in Rwanda. The goal of the grant is to explore if ILC in Rwanda looks like it could be cost-effective at scale. If it does, One Acre Fund will share a proposal to pilot the program, which we'll review and decide whether to support. We'll follow a similar process to decide whether to support the program's further scale-up following the pilot.

We made this grant because of its:

  • Potential cost-effectiveness. We think One Acre Fund might be able to deliver the ILC program cost-effectively in Rwanda by leveraging its existing distribution platform in the country.
  • Information value. We expect the work supported by this grant to help us develop an estimate of ILC's cost-effectiveness in Rwanda, which will inform our future grantmaking decisions. We expect to learn about program costs, the number of water points eligible for ILC, and baseline water quality and treatment practices, among other cost-effectiveness inputs.

Our main reservations are:

  • Uncertainty about the likelihood we direct future funding to ILC in Rwanda. We have conducted a limited amount of research on market size and key cost-effectiveness parameters in Rwanda, so we're highly uncertain about the promisingness of the program. Our rough guess is that there is a 30% chance that we will recommend funding for a pilot in late 2023, and a 20% chance we will recommend funding for scale-up.
  • Limitations in evidence on the impact of chlorination programs on mortality. We're primarily interested in chlorination programs because of their potential to avert deaths in children. However, there are limitations in the evidence on the effect of chlorination programs on mortality. We're waiting for the results of a study that may inform our understanding. We may also recommend funding for additional research on this topic. It's possible we should have waited to make this grant until we have more information about this.

Published: August 2023

Table of Contents

The organization

One Acre Fund primarily works to increase farm profits of smallholder farmers in Africa. Its core model is a bundled program offering supplies such as seeds, trees, and livestock on credit; training on best practices to increase yields and sell products; and access to crop storage and insurance programs.1

We recently recommended a grant of $77,523 to evaluate One Acre Fund’s tree program, in which it provides seedlings and training to small-scale farmers.2

In late 2021, we initiated conversations with One Acre Fund to discuss our mutual interest in identifying and developing new program areas for One Acre Fund to explore implementing. We agreed on water chlorination in Rwanda (either through dispensers or in-line chlorination) as a promising opportunity because of One Acre Fund’s strong presence in Rwandan rural and peri-urban communities.3 One Acre Fund identified that in-line chlorination would be more appropriate in Rwanda because of current government policy.4

The intervention

In-line chlorination is a water chlorination system for automatically disinfecting water at shared water collection points with a storage tank fed by a pipe.5 A small device is attached to the pipe; as water passes through the pipe, it is automatically disinfected by the device before entering the tank.6 This automatic chlorination is a key difference from Dispensers for Safe Water’s chlorine dispensers, which require users to add chlorine to water themselves.7

Does in-line chlorination work?

We believe that in-line chlorination is effective at saving and improving lives.

Our full analysis of the benefits of water chlorination on mortality, including in-line chlorination, can be found in our water quality report. In brief, we estimate that the benefits of in-line chlorination derive primarily from three sources:

  • Reducing under-5 mortality: 38-47% of benefits8
  • Reducing over-5 mortality: 20-40% of benefits9
  • Developmental effects: 24-31% of benefits.10

The grant

We made this one-year grant to One Acre Fund to scope the potential for in-line chlorination implementation in rural areas of Rwanda. During the grant period, One Acre Fund will:

  • Hire key staff, including a Rwandan co-lead for the project and approximately 20 field staff11
  • Complete baseline household surveys, including data collection about household size and household water chlorination and sanitization practices12
  • Complete baseline water point surveys and mapping, to determine types of water points and water quality at those locations13
  • Connect with other organizations working on water access and water quality in Rwanda14
  • Initiate and strengthen relationships with key government stakeholders15
  • Determine whether in-line chlorination is feasible in Rwanda, and if so, share a proposal for a pilot16

Budget for grant activities

The budget for the grant is $451,212 and covers the fourth quarter of 2022 until the end of 2023.17 It breaks down as follows:18

  • In-field personnel costs: $211,147
  • Field costs (including supplies, transport, and mapping): $195,125
  • Program support by non-field staff: $44,940

The case for the grant

  • We think One Acre Fund could implement in-line chlorination cost-effectively in Rwanda. Based on our initial understanding of the water landscape in Rwanda, preliminary cost-effectiveness estimates, and conversations with One Acre Fund, we think that in-line chlorination could be feasible and cost-effective in Rwanda. In particular, we think One Acre Fund might be able to deliver the program in a cost-effective way by leveraging its existing distribution platform in the country.19
  • This grant will help us develop a cost-effectiveness estimate for in-line chlorination in Rwanda. We expect One Acre Fund’s scoping will provide key information needed as inputs into our water quality cost-effectiveness analysis, including: program costs, number of water points eligible for in-line chlorination, number of people using each water point, baseline water samples and self-reported baseline household water treatment and sanitization practices, and a general understanding of the other actors in Rwanda’s water treatment space.

Risks and reservations

  • We have conducted a limited amount of research on market size and key cost-effectiveness parameters in Rwanda. Because of that, we are highly uncertain about the likelihood we will decide to recommend a pilot and scale up. Our rough guess is that there is a 30% chance that we will recommend funding for a pilot in late 2023, and a 20% chance we will recommend funding for scale-up (conditional on supporting a pilot first).
  • Scoping activities could set unrealistic expectations about the program's continuity. Since One Acre Fund is planning to initiate government relations to evaluate project feasibility,20 this might raise government expectations that the program will continue into the future, even though it's possible we might not recommend funding for scale-up. However, we would guess this risk is low since One Acre Fund plans to progress slowly.
  • It’s possible we should wait until we have more information about the impact of chlorination programs on mortality. There are limitations in the evidence on the effect of chlorination on mortality.21 We may recommend funding for additional research in this area. We're also waiting for the results of a study measuring the effect of Dispensers for Safe Water on mortality in Kenya,22 which may inform our estimate.

Plans for follow up

In May 2023, One Acre Fund plans to provide initial data from household and water point surveys and mapping.23

In December 2023, One Acre Fund plans to provide final data from household and water point surveys and mapping, as well as a proposal for next steps.24 At this point, GiveWell plans to determine whether to provide funding for One Acre Fund to pilot implementation of in-line chlorination.

Internal forecasts

For this grant, we are recording the following forecasts:

Confidence Prediction By time​​
30% Conditional on our bar being 10 times as cost-effective as unconditional cash transfers, we will fund a one-year pilot of in-line chlorination in Rwanda. December 2023
20% Conditional on funding a pilot in Rwanda, we will fund scale-up of in-line chlorination in Rwanda. December 2024
10% Conditional on successful scale-up, we will fund expansion of in-line chlorination with One Acre Fund outside of Rwanda. December 2027

Our process

  • We held a series of meetings with One Acre Fund leadership in 2021-22 to discuss ways that One Acre Fund’s platform could be leveraged to implement other cost-effective interventions.
  • We identified water chlorination in Rwanda (either through dispensers or in-line chlorination) as a promising opportunity because of One Acre Fund’s strong presence in Rwandan rural and peri-urban communities.25
  • One Acre Fund identified that in-line chlorination would be more appropriate in Rwanda because of current government policy.26
  • One Acre Fund submitted a proposal to GiveWell for funding for an initial scoping period.27

Sources

Document Source
Evidence Action, "Dispensers for Safe Water" Source
Evidence Action, ILC Kenya pilot results report, 2022 Source
GiveWell, "Evidence Action's Dispensers for Safe Water program – General Support (January 2022)" Source
GiveWell, "Evidence Action's in-line chlorination program — General Support (July 2022)" Source
GiveWell, "Internal forecasts," 2017 Source
GiveWell, "One Acre Fund Tree Program," 2022 Source
GiveWell, "Planning Grant for Research on Tree Program (September 2022)" Source
GiveWell, "Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention," 2018 Source
GiveWell, "Water Quality Interventions," 2022 Source
GiveWell, “Tufts University — Expansion of Kenya Study of Water Treatment and Child Survival,” 2021 Source
GiveWell, Water quality cost-effectiveness analysis, 2022 Source
GiveWell’s non-verbatim summary of a conversation with One Acre Fund, March 13, 2018 Source
One Acre Fund, "Countries we serve: Rwanda" Source (archive)
One Acre Fund, "Countries we serve" Source (archive)
One Acre Fund, "Our Model" Source (archive)
One Acre Fund, "People and DEI Report 2022" Source (archive)
One Acre Fund, 2021 Annual Report Source (archive)
One Acre Fund, Tree Program Results for GiveWell, September 2022 Source
One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022 Source
  • 1
    • “One Acre Fund’s model is rooted in sound business practices. We supply smallholder farmers with everything they need to succeed and we are scaling up to meet the needs of more and more farm families every day for maximum impact.

      What do farmers need in order to grow more? First, they need quality farm products. Second, they need access to training on planting best practices and guidance on cultivating crops that are well-suited to their land. Finally, they need to store their harvest safely so their families can eat year-round, and they can sell any surplus when the prices are high.

      We offer quality products and services in deeply rural areas, along with affordable and flexible payment options. As our customers, farmers choose products that make sense for their farms.

      We support many staple crops, such as maize, beans and vegetables, which farm families rely on for food. We also offer commercial crops, livestock and trees, to help farmers diversify their incomes.” One Acre Fund, "Our Model"

    • "Services: credit, crop insurance, and cash crop purchase." One Acre Fund, "Our Model"
    • "In our full-service program, we work directly with farmers throughout the year, which generally includes:...Training farmers on effective agricultural practices and how to sell any surplus harvest." One Acre Fund, "Our Model"

  • 2

    “One Acre Fund launched our agroforestry platform ten years ago, and as of 2021 we now support 1.9 million farmers in planting ~40 million trees each year. After initially deploying a ‘tree seed kit’ intervention where farmers grew their own seedlings from seeds and transplanted them into the ground, 1AF now deploys a more adoptable model of nursery production of seedlings, which are then distributed to farmers and transplanted into the ground. Our tree-planting work spans nine country programs, each of which is tailored to local needs and context, but all programs adhere to the following general structure:

    • Production: We cultivate seedlings at scale, through centralized nurseries and a network of trained micro-nursery entrepreneurs.
    • Distribution: Seedlings are either delivered by truck to rural villages or farmers simply walk to their local micro-nursery.
    • Training: Farmers receive trainings on seedling planting and care. Trainers highlight the strong economic and environmental benefits trees can have on farmers’ livelihoods, and promote the habit of annual planting.
    • Stewardship: One Acre Fund follows up with farmers to evaluate survival and growth. Trees are eventually sold as timber; meanwhile farmers are trained on replanting and sustainable agroforestry.” One Acre Fund, Tree Program Results for GiveWell, September 2022, pp. 3-4.

  • 3

    "In 2021, in collaboration with the Rwandan government, we distributed 19.4 million timber trees for free to 1.4 million farmers countrywide, as well as more than 300,000 fruit trees through other channels." One Acre Fund, "Countries we serve: Rwanda"

  • 4

    Andrew Youn, Executive Director, One Acre Fund, email to GiveWell, April 29, 2022 (unpublished).

  • 5

    "In order to be eligible for an in-line chlorination device, a water point needs to have a tank, which is fed by a pipe. In-line chlorination is done by attaching a small device to the pipe; as water passes through the pipe, it is automatically disinfected by the device before entering the tank." GiveWell, "Evidence Action's in-line chlorination program — General Support (July 2022)"

  • 6

    "A small device is attached on a pipe near the point of water collection which dispenses chlorine into the water as the water is distributed." Evidence Action, ILC Kenya pilot results report, 2022, p. 1.

  • 7

    "Our model is simple: A community member goes to their usual water source, places their bucket under the dispenser, turns the valve to dispense the correct dose of chlorine, and fills their bucket with water as they normally would. The chlorine disinfects the water during their walk home; by the time they arrive, it is safe to drink." Evidence Action, "Dispensers for Safe Water"

  • 8

  • 9

  • 10
    • We refer to the impact of avoiding serious illness in childhood on beneficiaries' ability to be productive and successful throughout life as "developmental effects." We applied a formal method we developed to estimate the developmental effects of an intervention for which we have no direct evidence. This method uses seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) as its benchmark, since we have both direct and indirect evidence of its developmental effects.
    • See our Water Quality Intervention Report, "Development effects" section for more.
    • GiveWell, Water quality cost-effectiveness analysis, 2022, "ILC_long term" tab, row "percent of cost-effectiveness coming from development effects"

  • 11
    • “Project leadership: Dedicated project lead (already on staff) and operating manager (to be hired by Q2 2023) to drive and support all key impact activities. Enumerators & Supervisors: Data capture for all chlorination intervention outcomes, survey design, coding, analysis and communication of results for operational changes.” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2
    • Marisa Grimes, In-line chlorination Rwanda Project Lead, One Acre Fund, Conversation with GiveWell, November 1, 2022 (unpublished)

  • 12
    • “By the end of Phase 2, One Acre Fund would share with GiveWell a summary report of all findings from our scoping process. This data would be more thoroughly “ground-truthed,” including by physically visiting most eligible water points in the country. This report would include the following:
      • Our full results from desk research and field surveys, including:
        • Data on household water sources, consumption and sanitation behaviors, etc.
        • Market assessment of Rwanda’s water points, types, in-line chlorination status, etc.
        • Projections on baseline incidence of waterborne illness and the potential impact of chlorination.” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.
    • Marisa Grimes, In-line chlorination Rwanda Project Lead, One Acre Fund, Conversation with GiveWell, November 1, 2022 (unpublished)

  • 13
    • “A full systems map for Rwanda’s rural waterspace, including:
      • List of actors, mapping who does what
      • Overview of the local “political economy,” mapping who decides what
      • Overview of funding sources, mapping who funds what, as well as notable gaps
      • Overview of regulatory opportunities and challenges, including the Ministry of Infrastructure’s willingness to partner and the feasibility of attaining licensing from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA)” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.
    • Marisa Grimes, In-line chlorination Rwanda Project Lead, One Acre Fund, Conversation with GiveWell, November 1, 2022 (unpublished)

  • 14

    Marisa Grimes, In-line chlorination Rwanda Project Lead, One Acre Fund, Conversation with GiveWell, November 1, 2022 (unpublished)

  • 15

    “Our scoping process would comprise two phases of work:

    • Phase 1: Q4 2022–mid-Q2 2023
      • Complete thorough desk research
      • Conduct systems mapping for Rwanda’s rural water space
      • Launch initial field surveys to visit and test household water quality at eligible water points across Rwanda
      • Initiate project-level government relations with key actors
      • Recruit and hire a full-time operating manager for this project
    • Phase 2: Mid-Q2 2023–Q42023
      • Onboard and ramp up operating manager for this project
      • Complete field surveys of a full representative sample of household water quality at most eligible water points across Rwanda
      • Continue strengthening project-level government relations with key actors
      • If all indicators are promising, prepare groundwork for an initial pilot” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 16

    “If successful, the timeline above would position us to launch a one-year pilot in late 2023 or early 2024, tentatively consisting of ~100 in-line chlorinators. If this one-year pilot is also successful, we could begin rapid scale-up the following year, with potential to quickly establish thousands of chlorinators at all water points identified as eligible across Rwanda.” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 17

    One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 18

    One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 19"In 2021, in collaboration with the Rwandan government, we distributed 19.4 million timber trees for free to 1.4 million farmers countrywide, as well as more than 300,000 fruit trees through other channels." One Acre Fund, "Countries we serve: Rwanda"

  • 20 “Our scoping process would comprise two phases of work:
    • Phase 1: Q4 2022–mid-Q2 2023
      • Complete thorough desk research
      • Conduct systems mapping for Rwanda’s rural water space
      • Launch initial field surveys to visit and test household water quality at eligible water points across Rwanda
      • Initiate project-level government relations with key actors
      • Recruit and hire a full-time operating manager for this project
    • Phase 2: Mid-Q2 2023–Q42023
      • Onboard and ramp up operating manager for this project
      • Complete field surveys of a full representative sample of household water quality at most eligible water points across Rwanda
      • Continue strengthening project-level government relations with key actors
      • If all indicators are promising, prepare groundwork for an initial pilot” One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 21See our Water Quality Intervention Report, "What is the impact of water quality interventions on mortality?" section for more.
  • 22This is the Kenya Study of Water Treatment and Child Survival (KSWTCS), a follow-up to the WASH Benefits study, which is designed to estimate the effect of point-of-collection water chlorination on mortality rates of children under five years old. See GiveWell, “Tufts University — Expansion of Kenya Study of Water Treatment and Child Survival,” 2021
  • 23

    "By the end of Phase 1, One Acre Fund would share with GiveWell:

  • 24

    “By the end of Phase 2, One Acre Fund would share with GiveWell a summary report of all findings from our scoping process. This data would be more thoroughly “ground-truthed,” including by physically visiting most eligible water points in the country. This report would include the following:

    • Our full results from desk research and field surveys, including:
      • Data on household water sources, consumption and sanitation behaviors, etc.
      • Market assessment of Rwanda’s water points, types, in-line chlorination status, etc.
      • Projections on baseline incidence of waterborne illness and the potential impact of chlorination.
    • A full systems map for Rwanda’s rural waterspace, including:
      • List of actors, mapping who does what
      • Overview of the local “political economy,” mapping who decides what
      • Overview of funding sources, mapping who funds what, as well as notable gaps
      • Overview of regulatory opportunities and challenges, including the Ministry of Infrastructure’s willingness to partner and the feasibility of attaining licensing from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA)
    • A proposal for next steps" One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022, p. 2.

  • 25

    "In 2021, in collaboration with the Rwandan government, we distributed 19.4 million timber trees for free to 1.4 million farmers countrywide, as well as more than 300,000 fruit trees through other channels." One Acre Fund, "Countries we serve: Rwanda"

  • 26

    Andrew Youn, Executive Director, One Acre Fund, email to GiveWell, April 29, 2022 (unpublished)

  • 27

    See One Acre Fund, Water chlorination scoping proposal, September 2022