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Bringing Clean Water to Rwanda

December 12, 2023 Viega
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In 2019, Dan Rademacher, program manager for the Viega Trade Education Network (VTEN) was awarded the World Plumbing Council Education and Training Scholarship. The pandemic delayed his plans, but in June of 2023, Rademacher was finally able to make the scholarship trip to Rwanda. One of the goals Dan wanted to accomplish with this scholarship was to support the efforts of the Rwanda Plumbers Organization (RPO) and contribute to the development of the plumbing industry in Rwanda. They also planned to build a sanitation facility at a primary school, giving more than 800 children access to clean, potable water and hand washing facilities at the school.

In most developed countries, plumbing standards and infrastructure ensure that clean, potable water is available and that wastewater is treated correctly throughout the ecosystem. However, in developing countries like Rwanda, there are no dedicated plumbing codes or standards like there are in North America. Large projects require many skilled trades disciplines to complete the work, and sub-contractors are brought in from all over to perform the necessary work. Most often, these countries don’t have the licensed plumbers, tradespeople or infrastructure readily available to maintain systems or build plumbing out into the more rural communities.

The RPO in Rwanda has some people who work as plumbers but not in the same sense that we think of licensed professionals, which is what’s required in North America. There is a knowledge gap among technicians, but the RPO is trying to help people to understand this, and progress through official educational programs and establishing an apprenticeship program with professional licensure regulations. Without this, sometimes work is done incorrectly because individuals may not know when and how to use a certain type of material or best practices.

Building the Munazi Primary School Sanitation Facility

The Viega team in North America started fundraising for the sanitation facility that Dan and his team would undertake while in Rwanda. In 2021, the International Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) selected the Munazi Primary School to have new toilet and hand-washing facilities built.

The school’s previous 14 toilets — eight for girls, six for boys, none for staff or disabled students — are old pit toilets, most of which had doors that do not open and close properly — and there were no hand-washing facilities near the toilets. “We scoped schools: different schools, many schools, and after identifying all of the schools that were in need, we have chosen Munazi Primary School because Munazi Primary School does not have [functional] toilets,” RPO President and Founder Jean Claude Twagirimana said. “If you see the toilets that students are using there, it is a very big problem. We saw that Munazi is really in need of this support.”

With the support of Viega Global, employees from Viega in the U.S. and Canada launched a fundraiser and were able to raise more than $6,000 and with a match from Viega LLC, gave over $12,000 towards the project.

VTEN partnered with RPO to build the sanitation facility at the Munazi Primary School. The team dug septic systems and installed storage tanks. They installed in-wall systems for the toilets and also a system to harvest rainwater.

Munazi School Washrooms image4

Munazi School Washrooms (toilets and lavs) 2023

Training and Investing in the Future

The Rwanda Plumbers Organization (RPO) holds an annual plumbing event for journeyman plumbers, instructors, and plumbing engineers. The five-day event was held at the Rwanda Polytechnic in Kigali. Dan was accompanied by the United Association Director of Plumbing Services and World Plumbing Council President Tom Bigley, alongside (UA) Director of Training Ray Boyd.

The five-day event drew more than 130 attendees. Drawing on his 33 years of experience as a member of UA Local Union 41, including 28 years as a licensed plumber, and VTEN background, Dan led an educational workshop that included plumbing definitions, good plumbing practices, and the need for understanding plumbing codes and standards. Officials of the Rwandan government were very supportive of adopting a plumbing code for their country.

The Rwandan government also recognized that qualified plumbers would protect the country's precious water supply. Properly trained and licensed plumbers are essential for the development of Rwanda's infrastructure, which is important for Rwanda’s growth.

Viega and the VTEN program will continue to work with the RPO to establish plumbing codes and standards and help them launch an apprenticeship program. Viega plans to return to Rwanda in the summer of 2024 where Troy Locke, Manager, Customer Engagement, will lead the project team on a visit to the Munazi Primary School to ensure proper maintenance, operation, and service of the newly established sanitation facilities. Locke and his team will also be there to promote good plumbing practices and continue training efforts. Locke is looking forward to working with the local RPO plumbing workforce to foster further collaborations and seeking out the next project.

Clean water is a global initiative

Throughout Viega’s history, access to clean drinking water in buildings has been at the forefront of Viega’s work. Globally, the Viega Foundation is committed to creating the basic requirements for a healthy life: clean water, access to basic sanitation and safe hygiene practices. In addition to Viega LLC’s work with the RPO in Rwanda, The Viega Foundation is currently supporting three projects in India for water, sanitation and hygiene.

Viega Trades Education Network (VTEN)

Whether it’s on the job site or in a classroom, Viega understands the value training provides to the plumbing, pipe fitting, heating and cooling industries. With a new generation of tradespeople in training, Viega recognizes a need to offer training on whole mechanical systems for students. Viega’s VTEN program not only includes the necessary curriculum, but also the tools needed to complete each training. No other company provides resources and an all-in-one complete package to help students succeed in the trades industry. Learn more at  

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