The closer you are, the more sustainable it gets

by Jochen Rudolph, African Development Bank (AfDB)

Through its Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) the African Development Bank (AfDB)  was the first donor to support the Senegalese initiative “PEPAM” (Programme Eau Potable et Assainissement du Millénaire) in 2004 and has maintained the close partnership ever since. Looking back at the PEPAM experience, we find that strong and sustained commitment to improving rural water supply and sanitation in Senegal has resulted in more facilities than were originally budgeted for being installed and, as a result, has improved the health and quality of life for a large number of beneficiary villages.

One explanation for this has been highlighted in monitoring and evaluation studies across various countries implementing RWSSI programmes, demonstrating the importance of involving communities in their management and upkeep. Indeed, the closer beneficiaries feel to the programmes, the more sustainable the water and sanitation actions are.

The current USD 51 million five year PEPAM programme drawing to a close in 2015 in Senegal focuses on improving conditions as well as on changing the behaviour and implication of beneficiary villages in the regions of Kaffrine, Tambacounda, Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor (a total combined population of 1.8 million). One way the Senegalese programme took into account the need to get as close as possible to beneficiaries was through the creation of 307 user associations, called ASUFOR (Association des Usagers de Forages), whose members are responsible for the distribution of water, collection of payments and basic maintenance, including contractual follow-up with suppliers. In addition, it put a strong emphasis on linking rural water and sanitation actions with knowledge building and empowerment of women.

Besides their daily mission to ensure the continuity of water service, ASUFOR groups organize the purchasing of pumps, generators and transformers for example and participate in network expansion and distribution point planning. ASUFOR favor the employment of women as water fountain operators, providing them with a source of regular income

Mr. Dame Diop, President of Water User’s Association, Ndiobene Mbatar, Senegal.
Mr. Dame Diop,
President of Water User’s Association,
Ndiobene Mbatar, Senegal.

Our association has an office and a committee. There are nine members including three women. At the end of the month, we collect payments and we pay the driver and other employees, we buy diesel and the rest of the money is deposited in the bank by our treasurer.

Mr. Dame Diop, President of Water User’s Association, Ndiobene Mbatar, Senegal.

ASUFOR members are also trained in hygiene practices and play an important role in raising awareness of potable water hygiene best practices. Ultimately, the programme has improved the health and daily life of beneficiaries, as attested by the local population.

I used to leave very early with the children. And when I got to the well I had to wait for hours to collect only a little water because there wasn’t much in it. The water from the bore hole is clearer and much better than the well water. Since the bore hole was dug there is no more diarrhea and illness.

Ms Yacine Diop
Ms. Yacine Diop, Mother of two, Ndiobene Mbatar, Senegal.

The PEPAM programme has exceeded its initial objectives. The status report in March 2014 revealed that the contracted suppliers had delivered all the facilities according to specifications, with 88% of the allocated budget. Two contract amendments were therefore drawn up to use the remaining funds to supply additional equipment in the five regions. In May 2015, 70 additional boreholes had been delivered and 19 additional standpipes had been installed.

Some of the credit for the achievement must go to the good governance and implication of the Senegalese government, which has led the sector dialogue and defined the nature of partnership with development actors and active engagement of the private sector. The PEPAM program is also characterized by regular joint missions between government and development partners, common procedure manuals and a government-led coordination unit.

Looking back at the achievements thus far, it is important to highlight some key lessons:

  • First, that monitoring and evaluation is crucial in order to ensure that projects benefit from continuous improvements. The history of development is awash with hits & misses in terms of design. The PEPAM experience shows that “hits” can be capitalised upon to ensure success.
  • Drawing from the above, that success of water projects is conditioned upon ensuring that beneficiaries are at the very heart of the intervention. The closer you get to them, the more sustainable the project is likely to be.
  • Project success is also closely linked to the implication of authorities. In the PEPAM case, the goodwill and efforts made by the government set the framework for success.

However, while the Senegal water and sanitation program is exemplary in its governance and its achievements, further actions are needed if the country is to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal number 6. According to JMP data, 33% of rural households in Senegal still lack access to improved water and 67% lack access to household latrines. It is thus important not to get complacent with success, but rather extract lessons learned to further improve the next project around the corner needed to address the sector’s challenges.

About RWSSI in the African Development Bank (AfDB)

As part of its ten year strategy to attain inclusive and green growth, the AfDB has escalated support for its Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI). The share of RWSSI programs in the AfDB’s total active water and sanitation portfolio has increased to about 41%, from less than 15% in 2002, underlining the strategic importance of socio-economic development in rural areas. Since 2003, the AfDB has approved 49 rural water supply and sanitation operations in 33 countries. These have already contributed to improved access to drinking water for an estimated 97 million people and improved sanitation for an estimated 70 million people.

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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