RWSN is not a formal organisation, more of a shared idea. In 1992, the network was founded as the Handpump Technology Network (HTN) with a narrow focus on…. handpump technology. 22 years on, and this small group of engineers from the Water & Sanitation Program of the World Bank, UNICEF, Skat and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has become a much bigger family.
As of this morning we have 6,301 individual members, 23 RWSN Member Organisations (the newest are Yobe State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Nigeria and the German-based NGO, Welthungerhilfe) and we have an active team of thematic leaders from Skat, WaterAid and IRC as well as a tremendously supportive Executive Committee.
So where now?
We are just putting the finishing touches to the RWSN strategy for the next three years. RWSN has a vision of:
… a world in which all rural people have access to sustainable and reliable water supplies which can be effectively managed to provide sufficient, affordable and safe water within a reasonable distance of the home.
This is ambitious but there are discrete areas where RWSN Executive Steering Committee believe that the network can make a tangible contribution to delivering the Vision. In the 2015-2017, the four themes will be:
- Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion (was Equity & Inclusion)
- Sustainable Groundwater Development
- Accelerating Self-Supply
- Sustainable Services (was Management & Support)
Additionally, there is the cross-cutting topic of Mapping and Monitoring, which is expected to focus on member activity and interest in the service of the four themes.
Two main activity areas are identified in the strategy:
- Knowledge-Sharing and Networking: Facilitating knowledge-sharing and networking amongst rural water professionals and organisations
- Embedding Good Policies and Practice: Documenting experiences, developing codes of conduct, standards and guidelines and embedding them within countries and organisations
HTN started with a focus around establishing public domain handpump designs (e.g. for the Afridev) and for promoting handpump standardisation policies – of which more about very soon.
Today, the focus of RWSN is on a range of initiatives, including:
- embedding the Code of Practice for Cost Effective Boreholes into countries and organisations (already taken by Nigeria and underway in Kenya and Sierra Leone);
- professionalising manual drilling;
- tackling chronic problems around pump corrosion and iron contamination;
- getting recognition and policies to support the acceleration of self supply (already taken by the Governments of Uganda and Ethiopia and becoming well established in Tanzania, Malawi and Sierra Leone);
- Getting the handbook on the Human Right to Water & Sanitation taken up and used for rural water supply services;
- Improving access to water for those most marginalised in rural societies;
- embedding Life Cycle Costing Approach and the Technology Applicability Framework into organisations and governments so that only fully costed solutions that can be sustained or upgraded over time are implemented;
- Promoting the uptake of rainwater harvesting for self supply;
- helping to professionalise the way that rural water services are delivered;
- enabling research on groundwater to be available, understandable and usable to governments and implementers.
This is quite a list – and there is more. We can’t do this alone, but we have had great support so far – from national and local governments, NGOs, community organisations, researchers, engineers and funders.
If there is any particular topic that you are interested in – or you think we have missed, then please get in touch!