Les populations rurales peuvent-elles payer pour l’eau en temps de crise ?

Les co-auteurs de ce blog invité sont le Professeur Rob Hope (REACH Programme) et le Dr Guy Hutton (UNICEF). Une version de ce blog an anglais est disponible sur le site web du programme REACH.

Rendre l’eau potable abordable pour les populations rurales a toujours été un défi. La COVID-19 exerce des pressions urgentes sur les gouvernements, les prestataires de services et les utilisateurs d’eau en milieu rural qui ont des besoins prioritaires en eau pour se laver les mains à la maison, dans les écoles et dans les établissements de santé.

Le 23 juin, le programme REACH et l’UNICEF ont organisé un webinaire en partenariat avec le RWSN afin de présenter de nouvelles données sur l’évolution de la demande et des revenus de l’eau, et d’étudier comment mesurer l’accessibilité économique de l’eau dans le but d’améliorer les réponses politiques et programmatiques. Le webinaire complet est accessible ici.

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Nous avons identifié cinq leçons clés que nous présentons ci-dessous, en réponse à la question: Les populations rurales peuvent-elles payer pour l’eau en temps de crise ?

Leçon 1 – Cela est possible. L’expérience de la République centrafricaine (RCA) a mis en évidence un modèle de prestation de services professionnels qui a permis de fournir des services d’eau fiables pendant de nombreuses années à échelle, malgré la guerre civile et la stagnation économique. Des pays comme l’Inde sont en train d’étendre une plateforme de suivi pour améliorer les réponses, soutenue par des prestataires de services gouvernementaux établis sur place.

Leçon 2C’est plus difficile en temps de crise. Les pays sans données et sans réseau de prestataires de services responsabilisés sont confrontés à des choix plus difficiles. L’approvisionnement en eau, imposé par la loi, les politiques et la réglementation, est limité en l’absence de prestataires de services déjà établis au niveau local. Les prestataires informels, tels que les vendeurs, peuvent desservir des populations éloignées en temps normal, mais leur capacité à fournir de l’eau pendant la pandémie de la COVID-19 est limitée en raison des restrictions de voyage. Les règles doivent rester souples.

 

Leçon 3 – Les populations pauvres sont les plus vulnérables. Les données mondiales ont illustré les coûts plus élevés que payent les groupes aux revenus les plus faibles au Ghana, au Cambodge, au Pakistan et en Zambie, ainsi que les coûts importants liés au temps passé à transporter de l’eau, qui sont plus élevés pour les déciles aux revenus les plus faibles. La conception de tarifs mensuels plutôt que volumétriques peut éviter une contrainte de revenu liée à l’augmentation de l’eau pour les besoins d’hygiène. Les inondations et les sécheresses présentent un risque supplémentaire important. Le suivi des données est ainsi un outil clé permettant de fournir une alerte précoce pour cibler les ressources afin de limiter les dommages.

Leçon 4 – Assurer un financement durable. Une eau fiable peut coûter moins d’un dollar par personne et par an. Mais cela nécessite une subvention pour les prestataires de services locaux et les utilisateurs d’eau ont besoin d’un soutien pour maintenir les services en fonctionnement. Une large proportion des populations rurales ne paie pas l’eau aujourd’hui par choix ou en raison d’inégalités. Il a été noté que les gouvernements ne peuvent pas se permettre de ne pas assurer l’accès à l’eau pour les populations. Mais une “eau gratuite” causerait plus de tort, mettant en péril la capacité des prestataires à fournir et à maintenir des services pour tous. Il s’agit là de choix difficiles et les décisions dépendront du contexte.

Leçon 5 – Mieux reconstruire. La COVID-19 a mis en évidence les faiblesses connues de l’ approvisionnement en eau en milieu rural. Investir dans des prestataires de services locaux et responsabilisés est un élément clé de toute stratégie de durabilité. Les écoles et les établissements de santé sont au cœur de ce vaste réseau de services et constituent une priorité essentielle. Ces institutions partagent souvent des infrastructures hydrauliques avec les communautés rurales, et  pourraient constituer un élément central et stratégique de l’approvisionnement en eau pour tous.

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Le webinaire s’est déroulé en deux parties sur une durée d’une heure et demie. Tout d’abord, un aperçu du débat et des caractéristiques de l’accessibilité financière par le professeur Rob Hope (Université d’Oxford), présenté par Alice Chautard avant les présentations du Dr Guy Hutton (UNICEF), Andrew Armstrong (Université d’Oxford)et le Dr Sonia Hoque (Université d’Oxford). Cette présentation a été suivie par une session de questions-réponses facilitée par Alice Chautard. Le webinaire complet est accessible ici.

Si vous avez des questions ou des commentaires, n’hésitez pas à nous écrire : reach@water.ox.ac.uk et vous pouvez nous trouver sur Twitter @REACHWater @UNICEFWater @RuralWaterNet. Crédits photo: Mary Musenya Sammy et Cliff Nyaga.

External support programs to improve rural drinking water service sustainability: a systematic review

This is a guest blog by Meghan Miller. Meghan is completing her PhD in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has conducted both her masters and doctorate research through The Water Institute.

The Water Institute recently published a systematic review on external support programs (ESPs) that target rural, often community-managed water systems. ESPs are of vital importance to long-term functionality and sustainability of rural drinking water service, as all water systems fail eventually and rural water committees can lack the resources and/or capacity to rehabilitate the systems independently.

The purpose of the systematic review was to determine how ESPs in low-, medium- and high-income countries are described and measured. The aims of the analysis were to: create a typology of ESP activities based on ESPs for rural drinking water systems; identify barriers to ESP access and implementation; and determine how ESPs effect the sustainability of rural water systems.

So what do external support programs do?

The types of ESP activities described in the literature were: technical assistance, financial assistance, monitoring and regulation, communication and coordination, administrative assistance, capacity-building, and creation of policies and enforcement of regulations. Technical assistance, financial assistance, and capacity-building were described in the majority of publications included (66%, 57%, and 53% respectively).

Need for a typology of activities and precise language

The language used to describe ESPs was not consistent between publications about low-, middle-, and high-income countries. When ESP activities go underreported, knowledge transfer is limited and support for ESPs is reduced. Communication and coordination between ESP providers is further limited by inconsistent and imprecise language. We identified twenty-one terms that were used to describe ESPs. Some terms imply that support occurs at specific phases or with specific actors. Post-construction support, for example, assumes that projects have a single construction event. The terminology should reflect how and when support is provided. The better ESP terminology is defined, the better we can compare ESPs in different settings.

External support was the most commonly used term (27% of publications) and we propose using the term “external support programs” to describe the continued support for water systems. Based on our analysis we propose the following definition for ESPs: “the set of activities provided by NGOs, government, private and community-based entities to community-member managers to ensure continued safe operation of a drinking water system.”

What are the barriers to external support programs?

Barriers to ESPs were grouped into six categories: inadequate resources, inadequate ESP support, restrictive policies, lack of communication and coordination, little access to ESPs, and insufficient training of water system managers. The barriers to ESP varied by country income classification. Lack of communication within ESPs and between ESPs and stakeholders was most frequently mentioned in publications about high-income countries (36% of the publications); lack of communicate was often characterized by unclear roles and responsibilities, lack of trust between ESPs and stakeholders, inability to resolve disputes and misunderstanding of local context. Insufficient training of staff and insufficient resources for ESP wa identified as the most common barriers to ESP in publications about low and lower-income countries (57% and 45% of publications respectively).

Little comprehensive monitoring and assessment of ESPs

Twenty studies evaluated the effects of ESPs on water service levels. Most publications described ESP activities but did not undertake data collection to assess the programs. Without a rigorous assessment of ESPs, it is difficult to identify the most effective components of ESPs. Proper monitoring requires that stakeholders understand the activities and models implemented by ESP providers. Presence of ESPs and access to spare parts were used as the indicators of ESP activity by studies assessing the effect of ESPs on households and water systems. Better monitoring would include indicators that measure the six types of ESP activities, such as the frequency and attendance rate of water committee training events. Indicators should also measure the effectiveness of different providers – these outcome indicators should be developed according to the type and purpose of the ESP. Additional assessments of ESPs will help stakeholders identify which ESP activities and models promote sustainability. Support programs can then incorporate those that promote sustainability.

Majority of publications report on ESPs for point sources

The majority of publications addressed ESPs for point sources. The focus on point sources ignores water sources in community institutions and the implementation of more complex water systems. Community institutions, such as schools and health care facilities, have different water use characteristics and management structures than community drinking water systems and support to these community institutions will require adaptations to existing ESPs. Piped water systems, compared to point sources, are more complex, have larger one-time repair costs, typically require repairs more frequently, may require specialist technicians, and may require more expensive parts. Descriptions of ESPs in community settings and for more complex systems will improve knowledge about how ESPs for can be adapted to better serve community needs.

Further reading

The full article is available as:

Miller, M., Cronk, R., Klug, T., Kelly, E.R., Behnke, N., Bartram, J., 2019. External support programs to improve rural drinking water service sustainability: A systematic review. Sci. Total Environ. 670, 717–731. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.069

Figure: Model of the variables that affect and are affected by external support programs based on data from quantitative and qualitative evaluations of external support programs and review of the literature. Plus signs represent a positive relationship and negative signs represent a negative relationship. The dashed lines represent relationships that have been identified in the literature, but were not assessed in the ESP evaluations. Credit: Authors.

 

 

 

 

Rural water supply is changing. Be part of it.

The Rural Water Supply International Directory that is available to download from today aims to track the organizations and businesses fostering this change.

by Philip T. Deal, University of Oklahoma, USA

The Sustainable Development Goals are pushing the water and sanitation community to reach higher than ever before. After decades of fighting for the human right to water, universal coverage is the next, challenging summit to climb. “Access to an improved source” has been upgraded to “safely managed drinking water” – a standard that requires continuous service, good water quality, increasing coverage, and affordability. Considering that rural infrastructure often lags behind when compared with urban environments, accomplishing this standard can sometimes feel more like a cliff than a mountain. For these reasons, rural water supply requires new ideas – experimentation – innovation.

The 2019 RWSN directory of rural water supply services

The The 2019 RWSN directory of rural water supply services, tariffs, management models and lifecycle costs that is available to download (and in French) from today aims to track the organizations and businesses fostering this change. These entities are the catalysts to novel service delivery and management models. Some offer minor changes to technology or accountability mechanisms that increase functionality. Some create new financing opportunities that were not previously accessible. Some create a complex management system to maintain water systems over large geographical areas. Some could potentially fail. All are valuable.

The cases described in the Directory are meant to foster growth, learning, and inspiration. The successes, challenges, and failures depicted by one organization could spark a solution for another across the continent. Financing and life cycle cost discussions could become more transparent, uniform, and clear across borders. Networking opportunities and connections become easier – there may even be a neighboring WASH partner nearby that fits your needs!

This new Directory is intended to be an annual compilation. Current cases can be updated with new developments and research. Other innovations and businesses can be added. If a future reader thinks some other information should be included, there’s potential for expansion. We are open to your input.

Questions to Consider

When reviewing the cases within this directory, I would encourage any reader to think on the following questions:

  • What are some common management traits that you observe? What is similar or different when compared to traditional water and sanitation models?
  • What are the most striking innovations that can be observed?
  • What role does each case hold in their water and sanitation ecosystem? What are their responsibilities, and for what are they dependent upon others?
  • Which cases seem more conducive to scaling up?
  • What life cycle costs do various organizations consider their responsibility? What costs should realistically be expected to be covered by tariffs?
  • How would an organization react if international or support funding were reduced or lost? What would be the ramifications to the customers or beneficiaries?
  • What monitoring schemes seem to be effective in maintaining quality water services?
  • What information or data would you be interested in evaluating for these programs?

Bio – Philip T. Deal

At the end of 2015, I began my doctoral research on service delivery models at the University of Oklahoma. My first significant reference was, “Supporting Rural Water Supply”, by Lockwood and Smits (2011), which has often guided my thought process. Understanding how various management models can improve, disrupt, or maintain the status quo for water service has become a focus of my efforts. I want to know if each case is really sustainable, if there is measurable impact, and if equity is truly equal when applying these models.

Since I began, I have had the opportunity to investigate these types of questions in partnership with Water4 and Access Development in Ghana. You may notice this case was not yet included in the directory. This is because I have wanted to give excellent, data supported answers before I do. The team involved has been working diligently to measure and evaluate the level of service provided, the associated life cycle costs, and the effectiveness or their company. Keep an eye out in the next year for these results in multiple studies.

I would encourage all who would like to be a part of the directory in the future to do similar investigations. Challenge your assumptions and dig into the details. Determine what is working and what should be changed. Put resources into evaluating your organization. Then, be honest about it. It is not an easy or glorious task, but it keeps us accountable.

If you do not know where to start – RWSN is a great place to begin. Connect with experts, practitioners, and researchers that can provide excellent guidance. Sean Furey reached out for help on the Directory project in the fall of 2018 through a Dgroup discussion. Since agreeing to participate, I have had the opportunity to grow my knowledge base and network.  We hope this directory will offer the same opportunity to innovative and budding organizations across the world.

Cost effective ways to leave no-one behind in rural water and sanitation – Summary on the RWSN E-discussion

The e-discussion on the topic of “Cost effective ways to leave no-one behind in rural water and sanitation” has come to an end and we are very grateful for the 40+ participants who actively took part. A summary of the e-discussion can be found here. Additionaly, we as moderators want to share our own summary of the discussion in this short blog.

Authors: Julia Boulenouar, Louisa Gosling, Guy Hutton, Sandra Fürst, Meleesa Naughton.

As duty bearers for the realisation of human rights to safe drinking water, States have the responsibility to ensure that no-one is left behind. And the SDG framework clearly sets out the need for all stakeholders to work together on the challenge. This e-discussion was an opportunity for diverse members of the Rural Water Supply Network to share lessons and views on how this can be done.

Reminding ourselves of the challenge at stake: since the SDG WASH targets 6.1 and 6.2 were adopted in 2015, the sector has been thinking hard about how to finance the ambitious goal of providing access to safely managed WASH services for everyone, everywhere and forever. This ambition is even more challenging in rural areas, where coverage levels are lower and the unserved include remote communities which are harder to reach and often poorer.

In order to develop a credible financial strategy to achieve this ambition and leverage resources, governments and sector stakeholders need to determine the real costs involved (not only to provide first time access for a few, but sustainable services for all) and the sources of funding that are available and can be mobilised. It needs credible data on those aspects as well as on the population served and unserved, including the most vulnerable groups.

What we already know about the cost of providing WASH services: the costs of providing services rely on many factors and the WASH Cost initiative led by IRC has helped to identify 6 categories beyond capital expenditure to include among others, operation and maintenance, capital maintenance expenditure and direct support. We know that some of these cost categories are largely unknown and as a result, not planned, not budgeted and not financed. This is the case for capital maintenance expenditure and for direct support costs (generally referring to costs for local government to support service providers).

In terms of actual costs, a World Bank study of 2016 showed that $114 billion per year would be needed globally to cover capital costs and roughly the same for operation and maintenance.

What we know less about is the real cost of providing services to all, especially for those left behind (including those marginalised and those discriminated against) and this is because limited data are available. We also recognise that beyond the 6 generic cost categories, many costs are unknown and neglected and these include:

  • the non-financial time costs of WASH access,
  • the cost of taking time to properly understand demand, recognising gender differences and diverse perspectives,
  • the cost of strengthening skills and stakeholder capacity to fulfil their mandate, particularly service authorities and service providers,
  • the cost of corruption,
  • the time and cost of including people with disabilities and others who are socially excluded in services.

These can be seen as cost drivers rather than additional categories, but should be thought through, every time services are planned for.

Who is currently financing this goal and who should do more? Leaving no one behind is the responsibility of national governments. They need to mobilise funding through a combination of sources, including government (taxes), development partners (transfers) and users (tariffs). This is usually known as the “3Ts”. In some contexts, the private sector may have a role to play in investing in water services. However, results from countries that conducted to identify and track WASH financing with the UN-Water tool TrackFin, show that the main contributors for the sector are by far the users who are paying for their own services through capital investment (Self-supply) and through water tariffs (operation and maintenance). In that context, should we consider revising the “3Ts” to “3Ts and S” to acknowledge the importance of Self-supply in the mix of services? And should we also add a 4th T for time to recognise the extent of unpaid labour, especially that of women, on which rural water supply depends? And should we recognise the time used to travel to a place of open defecation or also the waiting time for shared sanitation?

In any case, given the magnitude of the challenge, governments should mobilise additional funding for the WASH sector and coordinate efforts at all levels to ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency, particularly in resource-constrained environments. Developing WASH plans at sub-national level could be a good way to strengthening governance and coordination, and maximise cost-effectiveness.

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What about serving those that cannot afford to pay? Those currently left behind include communities located in rural and remote areas who are often the poorest and currently rely on Self-supply. For those who cannot afford to pay and to address the issue of leaving no-one behind, various areas can be investigated:

  • Defining and measuring users’ affordability
  • Considering low-cost technology options such as Self-supply but only if accompanied by long-term support from local and national government (including through regulation)
  • Making sure the solutions are acceptable and accessible for all – taking into account gender, disability, and cultural preferences

This e-discussion has been useful at clarifying knowns and unknowns related to costing and financing services. Even though the issue of affordability has been touched on, many questions remain unanswered.

We think this discussion should continue and here are a few questions, which we still have in mind, but you might have many more:

  • Who are populations left behind in different contexts (including the marginalised and discriminated against) and how can we define and identify them?
  • What are the ongoing costs of reaching everyone (including the aspects listed above)?
  • If users are those paying the majority of WASH supply costs, how do we deal with those who cannot afford to pay?
  • What mechanisms can be introduced to set tariffs appropriately, whilst also covering the costs of long-term service provision?
  • What are the examples of supported Self-supply that have been successful?
  • What are the specific roles of local government in ensuring no-one is left behind?

Continue the discussion with us and post your answers below or sent your contribution to the RWSN e-discussion group.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Dominic Chavez/World Bank; Alan Piazza / World Bank; Arne Hoel / World Bank; Gerardo Pesantez / World Bank

Make the last mile the first mile: is business the key to fulfilling human rights?

This guest blog was written by Selma Hilgersom (Simavi). The original blog post is available here and is re-published with permission and thanks from Simavi.

Last week, I attended the AGUASAN workshop. This yearly event is organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and joined by a broad variety of WASH practitioners. The key focus of this year’s workshop were ‘service providers that take an inclusive business approach and drive the advancement of the human right to water and sanitation’. Within the conference, six cases of young and inspiring entrepreneurs were put forward during the week and participants teamed up to dive into the business cases and assess the human rights angle of making a business out of WASH.

If anything, the week has given me a serious mind exercise on the role of the private sector in development. I have a background in the field of water technology and supporting the development of innovative business propositions. I do believe that the private sector is key in addressing global challenges. Business comes with internal drivers to guarantee the delivery of products and services that meet the demands of costumers, as entrepreneurs depend on the success of their business to generate an income. This drives efficiency, cost-efficiency and the continuous exploring smarter ways of working.

So, if business has the potential to provide everyone in the world with well-functioning WASH infrastructure, why are we not collectively entrepreneuring into the most rural areas of this world and ensuring that the human right to water and sanitation is fulfilled? And why are NGOs still funded to do a job that business can do while making money out of it?

Let’s first set the perspective straight. I work for an NGO. I am not afraid to re-consider my role in a fast-changing world. I do believe business has an key role to play in accelerating development and strengthening (business) ecosystems in-country. Especially local entrepreneurship and equal North-South partnerships can go a long way in providing people with the basic services that they need. Especially the businesses that pro-actively include women and girls and effectively respond to the needs of all members of a given community, regardless of who they are and their circumstances, seem to have the exact same goal as many NGOs. And stepping away from the ‘beneficiary perspective’ and including people as ‘costumers’ creates a different perspective. Two sidenotes: let’s try to avoid the discussion whether capitalism is the system that ensures everlasting happiness here and at the same time acknowledge that disadvantaged people benefit from a system in which they are participating as more than just ‘costumers’ that are defined by their purchasing power.

The nature of business is to ensure that there is a profit made. And from my experience in start-ups, this is a challenge when starting-up a business. The question that comes to my mind is then how feasible it is to design a self-sustaining business model targeting consumers with the least purchasing power, especially in the beginning. And whether it is possible to focus on the lower-bottom of the pyramid; even if this comes with challenges. A few examples: geography (what if a village is located at a remote mountain), reaching relatively few costumers per community, having to invest a lot in demand-creation before WASH services and products are bought. Are there smart models that make this ‘work’? Or stable financing mechanisms that can blend different revenue streams to cover the high need with the limited profitability? And how do you create a business ecosystem with local entrepreneurs to serve the people who currently lack access to WASH? What is the role and contribution of the government?
There is a broader development perspective to this too. Including ‘impact indicators’ in doing business, which reflect the aim of development work, does require extra efforts that may conflict with business interests. But results in lasting positive change in communities. Think of delivering water in a community where people are at high risk of a specific disease; is this just solved by delivering water? Or does this require the provision of additional health information and working towards improved service delivery? Or in the case that women are not allowed to decide over their own bodies, does the delivery of WASH provide an answer to the broader challenges that exist in the community?

Even if we would imagine an all-inclusive model of the private sector that perfectly responds to the needs of people, there is still one discussion that was put forward more than once during AGUASAN: (government) systems are the enablers of the success and upscaling of any business. The central question is therefore how business models fit in existing local, national and global systems? This links into the very basis of acknowledging that people have rights, and that they should be able to claim them, wherever in the world that may be.
And this is not ‘just a remark’ – it links into the issue of rightly anchoring the responsibility where it belongs: who is (or should) take the responsibility for fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation, and what is the place of the private sector therein? What to do if there is no profitable business case for providing WASH? Maybe the consideration is whether the ideal business model, if it would exist, would silence this discussion: does access to WASH equal that human rights are fulfilled? Even if this is done independently from the government, and in a profitable way? And if so, is it possible (capacity wise) to reach the 2.1 billion people (!) that still do not have safe and sustainable water delivery? Should the private sector be made responsible for fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation, if governments fail to do this?

I am not afraid of profit. I believe that businesses and NGOs both play a vital role in development. I believe in systems that are driven by (young) entrepreneurs and create a broad-range of value to consumers and are self-sustaining. There are many examples in the world where the private sectors makes a huge difference in the lives of disadvantaged people. I refer to the two amazing female entrepreneurs of Pad2Go who want to break the barriers women face in Nepal due to their menstruation (and with whom I had the honour to work with during the week). I am incredibly happy that many entrepreneurs are positive towards cooperation with NGOs. However, I also believe that this comes with a joint dream and a joint responsibility.

Often, the cooperation between NGOs and the private sector is defined by the roles ‘taking care of the business’ and ‘taking care of development’. I advocate for a more integrated business case, where investing in business and investing in development are one and the same thing. Could we agree that the success on the broader impact indicators is equally important as the development of a sustainable business model? And not from a ‘charity perspective’, but from the believe that this will increase the integrated value proposition of businesses. And thereby open up new markets and potential (impact) costumers. And a call to NGOs – can we move beyond the output, outcome and impact indicators, and join hands with those who will remain long after the funding of our NGO programmes has run out? And create built-in incentives to be as successful as we can? And not be guided by pre-set targets?

One of the things that stayed in my mind after AGUASAN is the presentation of human rights superstar Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, who challenged us to “make the last mile the first mile”. Let’s do that. Together.

Edit from the author: I had some discussions about the extent of ‘pushing (Western) values upon local communities’, and whether businesses or even NGOs should be involved in this at all – or that we should limit ourselves to basic product or service delivery. I can write another blog on my thoughts on this. As this blog has a slightly different focus, I refer to Simavi’s aim to ensure that disadvantaged people in low and middle income countries are enabled to practice healthy behaviour based on their own free and informed decisions and free from coercion and violence. By doing this through supporting civil society to claim its rights with and through local organisations, development is no more than amplifying positive changes that start locally.

About the author

Selma holds a master degree in ‘Human Geography’ and ‘Policy and Organisation’ with a specialisation in transnational advocacy and business and innovation. She has worked in international organisations to promote and support the development of new business models, sustainable innovations and the uptake of new water technologies. Currently, she coordinates programs of Simavi in Tanzania and Nepal that aim to ensure that disadvantaged people, and especially women and girls, can live healthy lives

 

 

From Colombia to Kyrgyz Republic and Uganda: how we help countries adopt state-of-the art information systems for better management of rural water services

How many countries have you worked in where an up-to-date national information system for rural water services is used for decision-making?

SUSANNA SMETS (World Bank/RWSN Sustainable Services) & ANTONIO RODRÍGUEZ SERRANO (World Bank/RWSN Mapping & Monitoring (re-blogged from the World Bank)

How many countries have you worked in where an up-to-date national information system for rural water services is used for decision-making?

How many well-intended monitoring initiatives did you encounter which are no longer being used?

Your answers are likely to be “few” and “many”, as government-led information systems to support planning and decision making for fragmented rural water services are not easy to develop, institutionalize, and sustain.

It is widely recognized that information systems are a key building block to achieve sustainable rural services delivery – a top development priority given that 8 out 10 people without basic water services live in rural areas, leaving 628 million people unserved. The good news is that a customizable, tried and tested solution already exists, so that countries can leap-frog a cumbersome development process and – more importantly – go through a fast learning curve when adopting and institutionalizing the Rural Water and Sanitation information System or “SIASAR” as their national rural sector monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system.

Following the initiative of the governments of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using the innovative open-data platform “SIASAR”. Different actors are using this tool for decision making, strategic planning, rural water performance monitoring, and for taking appropriate actions to prevent services from deteriorating, ensuring that water keeps flowing from the taps and communities receive timely support. SIASAR has been supported by the World Bank since its inception in 2010. In particular, Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), a multi-donor trust fund housed within the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, provides funding to SIASAR.

Following the initiative of the governments of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using the innovative open-data platform “SIASAR”.

With its adaptability and multi-language capability, SIASAR has now been introduced in the Kyrgyz Republic (in Russian and Kyrgyz languages), and a pilot has also been planned in Uganda. Within the context of the Kyrgyz Republic’s national rural water program, supported by the World Bank-supported Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, SIASAR has now gradually been introduced as the sector’s M&E system, covering data on system status and service provider performance for almost a third of its 1800 remote and mountainous villages. This will help to target investments and achieve the Kyrgyz Government’s vision to reach universal access by 2026.

With support from GWSP and the World Bank’s office in Colombia, the South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility helped bring Kyrgyz and Ugandan delegations together in Colombia. This knowledge exchange allowed them to receive peer-to-peer advice on how to introduce, roll out, and use SIASAR, and to learn about effective policy instruments, regulations, and institutional arrangements for sustainable rural water supply and sanitation service provision.

With support from GWSP and the World Bank’s office in Columbia, the South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility helped bring Kyrgyz and Ugandan delegations together in Colombia.

Specifically, the delegations learned about Colombia’s differentiated policy and regulatory instruments for rural areas, including tariff policies, water quality and environmental regulations, technical standards for water supply and sanitation, financing modalities for investments, and of course the SIASAR information systems for evidence-based decision making. Through field visits, the responsibilities of local and regional governments in rural service delivery in Colombia were better understood. The three-way translation between Spanish, English, and Russian put in place and the excellent collaborative spirit by all parties helped to overcome the communication challenge. These delegates took away important lessons on the adaptation process for SIASAR, such as:

  • SIASAR implementation and scale-up requires dedicated human and financial resources at the national and regional levels, including both sectoral and IT experts.
  • A clear roadmap for SIASAR adoption is necessary, bringing in multiple partners to support implementation. Anchoring in national legislation and fostering linkages with other national statistical information systems is critical.
  • SIASAR can cater analysis to the need of different actors and increases transparency and accountability of service provision.
  • SIASAR has helped to inform and influence investment programs to close the urban-rural service gap, accompanied by a range of measures to support rural service providers.

Depending on where they were in the adoption of SIASAR, the Kyrgyz delegation was keen to grasp the process of institutionalization, while the Ugandans were exposed to the range of capabilities and practical first steps that have now led to a first pilot, supported by the Uganda Integrated Water Management and Development Project (IWMDP).  

Seeing solutions in action can be a great motivation. The knowledge exchange with Colombiastimulated learning and encouraged officials from Kyrgyz and Uganda to try and adopt solutions to their own circumstances. A guide is now available that can help any country go through the process and prepare for the steps of adopting SIASAR.

SIASAR has proven to be an effective tool for improving the monitoring, evaluation, planning, and coordination of water supply and sanitation services in participating countries in Latin America and beyond. Through knowledge exchange activities like this and future GWSP technical assistance, we hope to support more countries in adopting the system and joining the initiative, while we commit to continuous improvement of the capabilities of the system. 

How a radio talk show is promoting WaSH in Northern Uganda

This is a guest blog by Justine Olweny, a Ugandan WASH entrepreneur and resource centre founder. You can find out more about his activities here.

“YOT KOM LONYO” (meaning “Health is wealth”) is a WaSH campaign radio program talk show conducted every Thursday from 16:00–17:00 hours East African Time. It encourages the involvement of local entrepreneurs, school leaders, pupils, politician, district technocrats, and partner representatives on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) promotion discussions. It has promoted the utilisation and ownership of WaSH products among the communities of Kitgum District.

The weekly talk show was started in September, 2018 and has so far covered 7 WaSH topics within 22 episodes.This involves the engagement of eight stakeholders within the region being represented in at least two sessions. This talk show was motivated by the need for community ownership in safe WaSH infrastructures created by difference agencies, including the government.

Mightyfire 91.5FM has a total coverage of about 1,500,000 listeners in Northern Uganda. It has made significant progress in reaching out to the majority of refugees from South Sudan in the local language Acholi, which is spoken by them. The intention was to prepare for the rainy season, which often leads to an increase in the prevalence of waterborne diseases, including cholera, through the production of short radio spots to promote hand-washing with soap before eating and boiling drinking water to avoid illness.

This 6-month partnership between Mightyfire 91.5FM and Water Access Consulting is a pilot project to explore the possibilities of promoting hygiene and sanitation products and services led by the communities of Kitgum District. It was inspired by the webinar From Beneficiaries to Business: Promising findings from customer-centered approaches to sustainable water services.

Achievements:

  • Improved pit toilets (DuraSan and the SaTo pan supported by the “Sanitation as a business” programme of Water for people Uganda) are being constructed by landlords, while demand for improved pit toilets has increased together with the services provided by the pit-emptying gulpers team of the Municipality.
  • The radio programme materials were developed in accordance with the context, with compelling radio programmes that engage listeners in good hygiene practices, and with references to Lifewater mWaSH and UNHCR WaSH manuals.

Learnings:

  • The materials and topics discussed are generated by the audience themselves, for example during a school Q&A session, and during interviews
  • The audience pay a lot of attention to jingles, and they memorise short spot messages instead of the entire radio talk show
  • It is very motivating for both parents, elders and pupils to listen to their recorded debate play over the radio.

What do you think? How can we create more WaSH service demand using media? Do you have any examples of good WaSH campaigns in the media, that have contributed to behavior change in WaSH? Please share your experiences below.

(Photo credit: Water Access Consulting Archive)

The Top 10 RWSN Blog Posts in 2018

The RWSN Blog provided us again with some exciting posts in 2018. From sustainable water resources and community management, to solar-powered water pumping, to (manual) borehole drilling, and to rural water services – the range of topics offers diverse and insightful perspectives on rural water supply issues.

Here are some of the most popular blogs in 2018:

  1. Sustainable water resources management in Sri Lanka: present situation and way forward
  2. Three common myths about solar-powered water pumping
  3. “The borehole is not a madman” 3 reasons why Community Based Management demands a rethink
  4. Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond
  5. Borehole drilling supervision in Malawi: why it is essential, not optional
  6. For rural Tanzanians, water has a social value too
  7. Tracing a path to sustainable rural water services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  8. Still barking up the wrong tree? Community management: more problem than solution
  9. Sharing experiences of data flows in water and sanitation – some reflections from AGUASAN Workshop 2018
  10. Achieving Professional and Sustainable Drilling in Madagascar? Yes, we can!

Find more blog posts

Find the newest blog posts here: RWSN Blog

Write your own Blog posts on rural water supply

Feel free to send your text and one or more pictures (if possible) in an e-mail with the subject “RWSN Blog Post” to ruralwater@skat.ch

 

The Politics of Water 3: Area Mechanics in Malawi

by Naomi Oates, re-posted from University of Sheffield

Competing narratives surround the role of ‘area mechanics’ in Malawi

In November 2017 I started my ‘politics of water’ blog as an outlet to share experiences and findings from my research in rural Malawi on water governance and service sustainability.

The first instalment describes my initial impressions of Balaka District while the second explores the relationship between extension workers and rural communities.

This might have left you wondering – what about everyone else?


Area Mechanics receive hands-on training in water point repairs (Author’s own)

Water services in Malawi are decentralised, at least in theory.  This means two things. Firstly, district councils, together with district water offices, are mandated to develop and monitor water infrastructure in rural areas.

Secondly, communities are expected to maintain and repair their water points with minimal external assistance. For more serious problems, local ‘area mechanics’ are their first port of call, followed by the district water office.

In reality, district water offices are severely under resourced, there are currently few area mechanics, and the effectiveness of community-based management varies considerably. However, where they are present, area mechanics are thought to play an important role in keeping water points functioning.

Area Mechanics: volunteers or entrepreneurs?

So what is an area mechanic? This sounds like a simple question, but the answers are complex and contradictory.

The area mechanics Thoko interviewed in Balaka for her MSc research tended to consider themselves, foremost, as volunteers working for the greater good of the community. After all, they were selected from the local community and have strong social ties with the people they serve. An area mechanic may be a relative, a neighbour or a fellow churchgoer, even the village headman himself. Trustworthiness was emphasised by communities as an important criteria.


This training manual describes area mechanics as ‘artisans in advanced hand pump repair operating on a payment basis’ (GoM 2015)

The depiction of area mechanics as volunteers has been echoed in my own conversations with extension staff and NGO workers, but in combination with another term – entrepreneur. According to national policy, area mechanics are meant to operate as independent businesspersons. They are given training and a few basic tools, after which they are expected to make a small profit to sustain their operations. They are also encouraged to sign written contracts with communities to clarify payment for services.

This model is clearly aimed at economic viability and is meant to incentivise area mechanics by providing them with an income. Arguably, the model has failed to gain traction locally because it ignores the social context in which area mechanics operate.

A third view is that area mechanics are integral to formal water governance arrangements – in other words part of, or plugging a gap in, the government’s extension system. This may not be stated explicitly, but is implicit in the use of government issued ID cards.

To give another example, area mechanics are sometimes (but not always) introduced to communities by a government representative in order to establish their legitimacy. Several of the area mechanics Thoko spoke to wanted their role to be formalised to enable them to negotiate fees with communities, or conversely in the hope of receiving material and financial support from government.

The ambiguity of water mechanics

Despite appearances, none of these narratives is mutually exclusive, and they may be employed at different times depending on the context. As one extension worker explained to me:

“Area mechanics are entrepreneurs by design and should make communities aware of that. They are supposed to have a signed agreement. The area mechanic needs to be paid, a little.”


Area mechanics often prefer working as a team – two heads being better than one! (Author’s own)

He then went on to clarify:

“It is not payment as such but a token of appreciation. It is up to them if they want to work for free. However they shouldn’t deny assistance to a Water Point Committee just because they don’t have money.”

The ambiguity surrounding area mechanics can be confusing and could be viewed as a failure of policy (or its implementation). But, in my view, that conclusion would be overly simplistic and misses the point.

The co-existence of these different narratives, or interpretations of policy, leaves room for negotiation and pragmatism. These are arguably important ingredients for success, especially when adapting policies to local realities. In short, the role of area mechanics in Malawi’s water governance system is not yet set in stone.

In addition to my PhD fieldwork this blog draws on previous work by the authors under the UPGro Hidden Crisis project. Check out our report on the political economy of rural water supplies in Malawi.

RWSN at the UNC Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy

The Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, organized by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC), is one of the most important conferences for WaSH professionals. This year the conference has not only explored the interactions between drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene, water resources and public health, but put also a strong emphasis on rural water supply in developing countries. Researchers, practitioners and policy-makers had the chance to present and lively debate

by Sandra Fuerst and Sean Furey (Skat Foundation)

The Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, organized by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC), is one of the most important conferences for WaSH professionals. This year the conference has not only explored the interactions between drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene, water resources and public health, but put also a strong emphasis on rural water supply in developing countries. Researchers, practitioners and policy-makers had the chance to present and lively debate on following topics:

  • Measuring Progress Toward Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Targets
  • Water Scarcity
  • Rural Water Supply
  • WaSH Equity and Inclusion
  • WaSH in Emergencies

At this year’s conference, the RWSN and its partners have convened two side events, providing water professionals an interactive space for engaging on cutting-edge topics of rural water supply. These sessions translated the “virtual RWSN DGroups into real life discussion groups” as Stef Smits (IRC), the chair of the first side event, phrased it. The participating water experts shared their experiences and developed exciting ideas with their peers for challenging rural water contexts.

Universal and Sustainable Rural Water Services: Different Perspectives, Common Goals

In the first side event, participants were invited to understand two major concepts to apply them later through group discussions in a case study of an WaSH implementation organisation, HYSAWA, Bangladesh, presented by their Managing Director, Md. Nural Osman.

Md. Nurul Osman (HYSAWA)

Sara Ahrari presented the NGO perspective of how organisations, like Simavi, use monitoring and data systems to promote Social Accountability and the holding duty-bearers to account when it comes to the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation. Miguel Vargas-Ramirez from the World Bank and Ellen Greggio from WaterAid presented then the development partner perspective on how data and monitoring can be used to raise the capacity of governments and service providers to deliver sustainable rural WaSH services, particularly rural water supply. This included on-going work to develop benchmarks for rural water service delivery, which WaterAid is testing in Myanmar.

After the break, Elisabeth Liddle from Cambridge University, and Prof. Rob Hope from Oxford University, gave the research perspective on how data and monitoring is enabling them to generate deeper insights into why rural water supply systems fail and how to develop new ways of making them more sustainable.

After the concepts have been introduced, the participants applied them in smaller groups to the HYSAWA case study in Bangladesh. This case study was presented by HYSAWA (Hygiene, Sanitation and Water Supply) to come up with suggestions and advice on how his organisation can improve the quality and sustainability of their rural WaSH interventions. The audience debated questions around:

  • Who is responsible for monitoring and data collection? Who is accountable and feels responsible for what? Those who design the system?
  • Who is responsible for the service provision of water in rural areas? And who needs to be hold accountable for that?
  • What are the drivers to feeling responsible?
  • What are the services that needs to be done?
  • How do the processes need to be managed?

Stef Smits (IRC)

Stef Smits summarised the debates during this session on three levels:

Who? The answer that communities and local governments should be accountable for the service provision of water in rural areas seemed to be too easy as in fact it is not clear at all. The role of service providers in many contexts is not very well defined, also not in legal terms. Accountability is often spread over several layers. For example, minor operation and maintenance (O&M) services can be done on community level, while major O&M services can be provided through public services. Then the levels of accountability also need to be differentiated between service provider and service authority. This first differentiation will help to define who is responsible for what and will help the service authority to hold the service provider accountable. As soon as the roles of different stakeholders are clearly defined, it can be defined more specifically who needs to collect the data. The collection of data then needs to be spread over different levels, from household, community, service provider to authority level.

What? The debate started around the functionality of rural water supply devices and has shown that there is not a simple answer of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to functionality. Functionality needs to be distinguished between functional devices and functional services (i.e. O&M services). This led to the question how functionality should be measured and which other indicators should be taken into account. Should we bring water quality in as an indicator? Clearly, financial indicators are necessary. As the trend to use indicators and monitoring tools is increasing among service providers and governments in rural areas, it becomes increasingly necessary to define clear indicators for universal rural water services. Based on that development, we can start to understand rural water as a systemic issue.

How? The identified need to define clear indicators on different levels, raised the question of how the process of developing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems should be managed. Even though governments were identified to lead this process, NGOs could support to trigger it. However, if a NGO has developed a working M&E systems, it cannot be simply handed over from a NGO to the government, without a well-planned transition phase. It also needs to be taken into account who “the government” is and on which level the government operates. Data and M&E systems will at the end always need a sector development approach.

Pipe Dream or Possible: Reaching the Furthest Behind First in the WASH Sector? – RWSN Side Event 2

The second side event was convened by RWSN (Simavi, Wateraid) with London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and World Vision. During this session, the participants developed human-centred solutions for “Reaching the Furthest Behind First” and “Leaving No One Behind” in the WASH sector.

I7.jpg

The participants worked in several groups on different case studies of extremely vulnerable people (i.e. disabled pregnant child) that are exposed to extreme hazards in their environment (i.e. arsenic contamination of groundwater).

In several steps, the participants developed possible solutions based on their field of expertise: In a first step, they illustrated the social, cultural, physical, political and legal barriers that the imaginary persona faced, regarding their social inclusion. Then they created inspirational ideas of possible solutions to these barriers. The different options were heavily discussed before choosing one or more solutions. To illustrate the actions and stakeholders needed to implement these solutions, a story board was created by each group. Finally, the persona, storyboard and possible solution were presented in pitches to all participants.

IMG_20181101_111922-v2

 

The two side events have been great examples of how the RWSN works as its best: “Taking concrete examples and bring them together with key concepts from research and practice. This is the richness that RWSN provides: Linking practical questions with conceptional frameworks (Stef Smits)”.