Editor’s Note: This post was authored by Sarah Dobsevage, Director of Strategic Partnerships at WaterAid America. In her post, Sarah, who heads up WaterAid’s partnerships with foundations and corporations in the US, describes her organization’s work with drought-prone communities in Burkina Faso, particularly around training local people to develop the skills needed to address WASH problems.
It hasn’t rained for eight months.
It’s 120°F. And it hasn’t rained for eight months. The rivers and boreholes have run dry. Searching for water, people are forced to dig holes in river beds with their bare hands. Twelve feet down and there’s still no water.
Nearing the end of a seemingly interminably long dry season, people living in drought-prone areas of West Africa are working hard to find enough water for their families to drink, cook and bathe. Keeping their livestock alive becomes a daunting challenge.
These Sudano-Sahelian communes are characterized by a brief rainy season, typically from June to September, that is increasingly unpredictable in duration and quantity of rain. Annual rainfall ranges from 12 inches in the North Region of Burkina Faso, to as much as 50 inches in the South-West.
In contrast, during the dry season, temperatures soar, rivers evaporate and groundwater levels drop – just when people need water the most to survive the heat. A few scattered boreholes serve both people and livestock, putting too much pressure on water supplies. As groundwater levels fall, even the deeper boreholes may not have sufficient water to last communities until the end of the dry season.
Training new water experts to tackle sustainability
Making sure that drought-prone communities have access to water year-round is no easy task, but it can be done. In 14 communities across Burkina Faso, WaterAid is not only investing in additional boreholes, new sand dams and improvements to existing wells, but is also (more importantly!) investing in local people -- giving them the skills they need to become water experts adept in effectively managing their own precious resources.
Like most of their peers, the majority of the soon-to-be experts in whom WaterAid is investing are illiterate. Even so, they are learning how to monitor rainfall using rain gauges and measure groundwater levels in wells using tools such as dip meters that make a sound when they hit water. The skills they learn encompass traditional methods and modern technology -- from GPS and cellphones, to graphs and maps etched in the dust. The emphasis is on straightforward and sustainable solutions; we prioritize simple ways of gathering information that can help people plan their water usage for the long term.
In addition to using dip meters to collect groundwater data, we are also employing a more advanced technology, where water loggers are inserted into boreholes. Water loggers automatically record water levels every two hours, providing a real-time dashboard on water resources and usage.
Together, this information will enable communities to pre-empt threats, observe annual changes and spot emerging data patterns, all which affect their village. Water experts can then help the community make informed, collective decisions about how much water can be used, at what times of day and in what quantities.
It’s a simple yet effective way of safeguarding access to this vital resource for everyone, every day of the year. When water levels are low, for example, the community may decide to temporarily halt non-essential activities that use water, such as brick-making; alternatively, they may choose to begin rationing water.
These decisions aren’t taken lightly. Monitoring and Documentation committees chaired by the town’s mayor are set up at the commune level and include community representatives, local government authorities, and staff from both WaterAid and WaterAid’s local partners. Each committee boasts a technical unit, charged with controlling and validating data, identifying any weaknesses, and offering technical support to the community when needed. Communities are also aided by regional agricultural directorates that further assist with data interpretation. Working together, community assemblies provide a forum to collectively share and analyze the information from all sides, and make joint decisions governing water use.
While it may sound complex, this multidimensional approach helps to overcome some of the most common challenges communities face, such as the inability to plot, monitor and/or interpret data that might otherwise be too technical, and low literacy levels, especially among women.
At the same time, WaterAid is also teaming up with the local and national governments, making sure that data collected at the village level can be fed into government records that will help build a national picture that informs future interventions.
We all know that water is at the core of long-term development. That’s why we’re especially grateful to the continuing support of the Margaret A Cargill Foundation, which enables WaterAid to train new water experts in some of the hardest to reach communities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Though the climates are tough, the rewards are great. Never has it been so important to support local leadership in making sure that they have the skills and tools they need to effectively manage the water resources that are vital to poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability.
For more information please visit www.wateraid.org.
This Sunday, March 22 marks the 23rd annual World Water Day. In celebration of the Day, we have rounded up several events taking place around the world and online. Details are included below.
Friday, March 20th
On Friday, WaterAid will announce the winners of their SH2Orts 2015 film competition, which asked amateur filmmakers to submit short films about what H20 means to them. Up until the announcement, the public can view the shortlisted entries and the film with the most views will receive the People’s Choice award.
Launch of the United Nations World Water Development Report 2015 – New Delhi, India
The 2015 World Water Development Report, “Water for a Sustainable World”, will be launched during the UN’s official celebrations for World Water Day in New Delhi, India.
#WWDHang Twitter Chat: DIGDEEP – 2 pm EDT
In celebration of World Water Day on Sunday, DIGDEEP will be hosting a Twitter chat. To join, use the hashtag #WWDHang.
Sunday, March 22nd
UN-Water, the organization behind World Water Day, is organizing a ThunderClap, which will blast out a timed message via social media in celebration of the Day. To participate, UN-Water is asking supporters to write on a piece of paper what water is to them using the hashtag #WaterIs, take a selfie or video, and then tag the post with the hashtag and upload it via Facebook, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram. On World Water Day, everyone’s messages will be blasted out simultaneously.
Monday, March 23rd
World Water Day Summit -- United Nations, New York City, 10 am EDT
On Monday, MagneGas Corporation, in partnership with the Jack Brewer Foundation and the U.S. Federation for Middle East Peace, will host a World Water Day Summit. To coincide with this year’s World Water Day theme, ‘Water and Sustainable Development’, this year’s World Water Day Summit will provide a high-level platform for dialogue surrounding sustainable development and global efforts to manage clean water. Featured topics include waste water and irrigation challenges as well as sustainable innovations for water procurement.
Tuesday, March 24
The Role of Water and Sanitation in Achieving the SDGs – United Nations, New York City, 6:30 – 8:30 pm EDT
The Permanent Missions of Sweden and the Republic of Benin to the United Nations will be hosting this evening reception, co-organized by a number of World Water Day partners, including UN-Water, WaterAid, and the Stockhom International Water Institute. At the time of this posting, featured participants (tbc) include Yoka Brand, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Dr. Fed Boltz, Managing Director of Ecosystems at the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.
The grant will enable the UK-based NGO to repair more than two hundred and fifty non-functioning water points in the four countries, address water quality issues, and train people in local communities to use technologies such as GPS and cellphones to monitor groundwater levels and maintain clean water supplies on a year-round basis.
The grant also will be used to ensure that health facilities in trachoma-endemic portions of Mali are equipped with basic water infrastructure. Trachoma is an infectious disease caused by poor hygiene and sanitation that can cause blindness.
When people fall ill in rural areas of West Africa, health facilities near their homes often lack access to clean water. The recent Ebola outbreak in the region highlighted the hidden crisis faced by health workers and patients and the urgent need to address lack of clean water in the region.
"We look forward to working with WaterAid on this innovative and sustainable clean water program in West Africa," said Steven M. Hilton, chairman, president, and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "Our partnership will reach some of the most vulnerable people in the world, working with local communities to create long-term technological solutions for safe, clean drinking water."
"Hilton Foundation Gives $6.9 Million to Sustainable Water Programs in West Africa." WaterAid Press Release 03/04/2015.
Editor’s Note: This post comes from the Water Point Data Exchange, an initiative aimed at creating a standard for water point data collection to allow for better information sharing across organizations working in WASH. The Exchange invites those working in the sector to provide feedback on their draft standard, available here. The public comment period will be open through March 15.
No challenge in eradicating water poverty is as pressing as improving sustainability by ensuring continuous high-quality drinking water service provision. High failure rates in the WASH sector squander scarce financial resources. Further, broken water systems can cause harm to millions of people in the Global South who have invested their own time and resources and come to depend on these systems. Despite knowledge of this issue for decades and increased attention over the past few years, there is still a severe lack of understanding about the true nature of this challenge. Limited available data on water points has stymied efforts to better understand and improve sustainability. Facing these challenges, the water sector is at a pivotal point in history where data can play a vital role in the eradication of water poverty.
The amount of water point data is increasing as more organizations and governments monitor their water point functionality over time. Unfortunately this progress has been accompanied by increasingly numerous unique methods through which data is collected, stored and shared. As a result, new data is creating new “data islands.” These emerging monitoring efforts will have limited impact on improving programming and sustainability as long as the data remains inaccessible on organizational servers, in PDF reports, and in proprietary monitoring systems. Unless these different data sources can be harmonized, the learnings will be small and piecemeal, with the true potential of this information remaining untapped.
The Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) plans to harness this momentum by working with the water sector to create a standard for water point data sharing. To learn more about efforts to develop a framework for sharing this data, view the webinar, hosted by Global Water Challenge, on February 5:
Based on this standard, WPDx will create an effective central hub for the standard-compliant data and will engage the WASH sector to make full use of this dynamic hub, both for sharing and utilizing data. Ultimately, this initiative will transform a growing body of disconnected data into improved water services for millions.
To make this initiative work, we need your input! The WPDx Working Group is inviting water access experts from around the world to provide feedback on the draft standard, available at https://collaborase.com/wpdx. This public comment period will close March 15, so please share your feedback soon. It will only take a moment, and no registration is required. Click here to review the draft standard and share your feedback now.
Imagine a day in which your access to clean, drinkable water ceased and you could not shower or bathe properly and you had no one to help you. For more than 783 million people around the world, that day was today. In 2015, more than 2.5 billion people will also lack access to basic sanitation in the developing world.
A new initiative led by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) is aiming to dramatically reduce those numbers, focusing specifically on women -- who often bear the brunt of the impact from lack of access to safe water; and in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa walk up to four hours per day, on average, to carry clean water back to their villages and families.
“As part of DRI’s Global Water Knowledge Campaign, this Initiative builds on more than 20 years of water research and training our scientists have done in West Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President. “By raising support to provide women throughout these developing countries with access to adequate water sources and access to training we will ensure their family’s well-being and allow them more time to contribute to their villages.”
The DRI Sustainable Water Initiative is a unique, international collaboration with WaterAid, Water for People, and World Vision. Collaboratively, these three world renowned organizations currently have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in more than 41 countries. Since 1981, WaterAid has helped 21.2 million people gain access to safe water. In 2013, Water for People raised more than $14 million to support their “Everyone Forever” campaign, providing water and sanitation services in more than 15 countries. Currently, World Vision’s WASH programs reach one million beneficiaries per year.
“The knowledge and experience of these organizations working together (in the WASH sector) will be transformational for the regions being served,” said Charles Creigh, DRI Foundation Chair. “Through a generous challenge-grant investment from two long-time DRI Foundation leaders this global campaign plans to support DRI faculty and students helping to advance our knowledge of water related issues and improve people’s lives and well-being.”
Dr. Braimah Apambire, who will lead the new Initiative and serves as director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability, explained that funding will go directly to supporting provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation; creating and implementing WASH education materials for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa; training of WASH staff; applied water research; and ensuring that WASH projects are sustainable and scalable in developing countries.
The impact of unsafe water, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is felt around the world, with both human health and economic implications, Apambire explained.
In places like sub-Saharan Africa a significant percentage of the population is at risk of dying from preventable illnesses, many of which are linked to WASH issues. More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that's over 1,400 children per day. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa.
In economic terms, 5.6 billion productive work days are lost every year due to complications arising from water-related diseases and the burden of fetching water.
Helping to manage and raise awareness for the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative will be Global Impact, a well-known leader in growing global philanthropy. Global Impact works with approximately 450 public and private workplace giving campaigns to generate funding for an alliance of more than 120 international charities. Since 1956, Global Impact has generated more than $1.7 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people.
“One organization working alone is not enough to make the sustainable difference that is needed in the WASH sector,” said Scott Jackson, President and CEO of Global Impact. “All of these stakeholders working together will help ensure access to clean water, which does more than save a woman’s life – it ensures her future.”
For more information about DRI’s Sustainable Water Initiative visit - https://dri-water.charity.org/
Editor’s Note: This post is authored by Cor Dietvorst, Programme Officer at IRC. In his piece, Cor discusses the monitoring requirements surrounding India’s Swachh Bharat program, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in October 2014 with the aim of ending open defecation in the country by 2019. He compares India’s sanitation monitoring initiative with other large-scale monitoring efforts with which IRC has been involved in Bangladesh and Indonesia. This post originally appeared here on the IRC blog.
According to some media the Indian government has unleashed “toilet police” or “toilet gestapo” into the country.1 In fact, the central government has instructed local officials to take photographs of new toilets to prove that they have not only been constructed but are also being used. If states don’t upload photos by February 2015, the water and sanitation ministry has threatened to withhold funding from a new national sanitation programme.2
Open defecation free by 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission on 2 October 2014. His aim is to attain a 100 percent open defecation free India by 2019. Since the launch, over half a million household toilets have been constructed.3
By implementing “real time monitoring” the government hopes it can correct past mistakes caused by ineffective monitoring and wasted investment in sanitation. The 2011 census revealed that 43% of government funded toilets were either “missing” or non-functional.4 Now the government wants to show that its investments in sanitation are delivering lasting results.
The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is appointing around two dozen additional staff including two joint secretaries and four directors to strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the Swachh Bharat Mission. An Expert Committee for innovative sanitation technologies and a national telephone helpline for rural water supply and sanitation are other new initiatives that will support the Mission.5
Local officials charged with monitoring toilet construction and use need to download an app on a mobile device. The app allows them to upload photos as well as the personal data and geo-coordinates of the beneficiaries to a public website. Progress is slow though: as of 14 January 2015, data of less than half a percent (2,383) of the newly constructed toilets has been recorded. Data collected before 2015 does not include toilet use.
How do other countries carry out large-scale monitoring?
Compared to examples of large-scale sanitation monitoring in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the toilet use indicators collected in India -- is the toilet in use, is it clean and is water available -- are rather limited.
The BRAC WASH programme in Bangladesh uses benchmark indicators developed by IRC for questions like: do all household members use toilets, do they use them at all times, and are there provisions for handwashing and pit emptying.6
In Indonesia IRC has helped design a monitoring system for the SHAW (Sanitation, Hygiene and Water) programme, where every three months 20,000 community volunteers visit more than 300,000 households. For SHAW monitoring is not merely an accountability tool as it is in India, but a way to motivate and encourage people to improve their sanitation facilities and hygiene behaviour.7
India's decision to track toilet use as part of its new monitoring initiative is a major step forward. From its neighbours, India can draw valuable lessons on how to monitor sanitation as a sustainable service that benefits all.
2 Letter to Principal Secretary/Secretaries in charge of Rural Sanitation all States and UTs. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, 05 Dec 2014
3 Unused rural toilets to face public scrutiny, The Hindu, 01 Jan 2015
4 Tiwari, R. The case of the missing toilets. India Today, 02 Oct 2014. See also: Hueso, A. & Bell, B., 2013. An untold story of policy failure : the Total Sanitation Campaign in India. Water policy ; 15 (6), pp.1001–1017. DOI: 10.2166/wp.2013.032. and Hueso, A., 2014. The untold story of India's sanitation failure, Addendum. Community-Led Total Sanitation.org, 11 Mar 2014
5 Nationwide monitoring of use of toilets will be launched from January, 2015, PIB, 31 Dec 2014
6 IRC - Monitoring at scale in BRAC WASH
7 Baetings, E., 2014. How are you and how is your loo?
The investment by the USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance will fund the installation of more than ten thousand low-cost chlorine dispensers, providing clean water to an additional 3.2 million people by the end of the year. Launched in 2012 and supported by the humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, the alliance has committed $44.5 million over five years to scale up ten proven, cost-effective, and sustainable social ventures working to effect systems-level change in Africa.
In Uganda, just 10 percent of the population has access to piped water, and approximately twenty-three thousand people die of diarrheal diseases annually. Such diseases are among the leading causes of childhood death on the continent.
Evidence Action's chlorine dispensers are placed at local water sources to enable users to easily add a precise dose of chlorine to their water, making it safe to drink. Dispensers cost approximately 50 cents per user per year at scale, and Evidence Action finances operations through carbon credits it receives because its chlorine dispensers make it unnecessary for people to boil water using fossil fuels.
"USAID and Skoll Foundation Announce Joint Investment in Evidence Action for Clean Water in Uganda." Skoll Foundation Press Release 02/04/2015.
According to the company, women around the world spend a collective two hundred million hours a year collecting clean water for their families. The company’s Buy a Lady a Drink campaign aims to make clean water more accessible and promote awareness of the global water crisis by inviting consumers to purchase limited-edition chalices inspired by traditional handcrafted objects from three of the developing countries where Water.org operates, including textiles from India, baskets from Ethiopia, and pottery from Honduras. Proceeds from the campaign will help support the nonprofit organization.
In addition, Stella Artois and Water.org have enlisted a number of creative artists to produce films and photography for the campaign. They include Grammy Award-nominated directors Frederick Scott and Nicholas Jack Davies and photographer Chris Ozer, who traveled to India to film and photograph real stories of women who have been affected by the water crisis.
"Water.org’s current success shows we can make a difference in solving the water crisis," said Stella Artois global vice president Debora Koyama. "As a key ingredient in our beers, water is a natural resource Stella Artois aims to protect and preserve."
"Stella Artois and Water.org, With the Support of Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White, Launch “Buy a Lady a Drink” to Help Stop Women’s Journeys to Collect Water in the Developing World." Stella Artois Press Release 01/22/2015.
Learn how you can support coordinated data-driven decision making in the WASH sector. Join the Water Point Data Exchange for their webinar on the ongoing sector-wide efforts to support the sharing of water point data across diverse stakeholders in WASH.
The one hour webinar will take place next Thursday, February 5 at 11 AM ET. Click on the flyer below to learn more and register for the event.
Editor's Note: This guest blog post was authored by Shauna Curry, CEO of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). In her post, Shauna highlights the capacity gap that exists in the WASH sector due to a shortage in skills and the scarcity of local water and sanitation professionals. She describes the central focus that CAWST has placed on human resources and capacity building for WASH and suggests a number of ways in which funders in the sector can work to narrow this gap.
Two recent reports by the International Water Association and UN-Water draw attention to a WASH capacity gap crisis.
These reports mark a major step forward to illustrate what many in the WASH sector have experienced first-hand: a shortage in the skills and number of local WASH sector workers undermines the success and sustainability of WASH interventions and stands in the way of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The first of the two reports was released in late September by the International Water Association, "An Avoidable Crisis: WASH Human Resource Capacity Gaps in 15 Developing Economies". More recently, the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) report was released.
Millions of WASH practitioners are needed
The IWA report notes that the Millennium Development Goals sparked spending on WASH infrastructure, technological innovation and institutional reform. But human knowledge and skills have been left behind.
"This investment has not been accompanied by the necessary focus on the size, competencies and enabling environment for the human resource base needed to design, construct, operate and maintain such services" the report says.
The IWA study found that 787,200 trained water and sanitation professionals are needed, in 10 of the countries studied, to reach universal coverage. That sampling suggests that across the developing world, there is a shortage of skilled WASH practitioners that numbers well into the millions.
Beneath the capacity gap is a funding gap
Meanwhile, the latest GLAAS report illuminates the funding shortfall in addressing the WASH capacity gap, with less than one per cent of WASH aid commitments in 2012 directed at education and training.
We cannot expect to narrow the WASH capacity gap unless we address the funding gap. The lack of in-country expertise is a direct outcome of the chronic under-funding of WASH skills training.
Capacity-focused interventions drive action and innovation
Over the past 13 years, CAWST has exclusively focused on building the capacity of the WASH sector. We have seen first-hand the direct and immediate impact of providing WASH capacity-building services to over 800 WASH organizations in 68 countries. We have also seen a wide-spread multiplier effect of this strategy, as 3.3 million people have been trained by other organizations using our education and training materials.
Capacity development is a powerful tool to enable entrepreneurship – in the sense of taking initiative to respond to local needs and conditions. Providing practical knowledge and skills that project implementers and decision-makers can apply immediately increases WASH project quality and sustainability by developing the ability, confidence and motivation of practitioners to start, strengthen and grow projects. Such practical knowledge and skills can range from basic technical skills in point-of-use water treatment approaches and technologies, to hand pump repair, as well as softer skills such as building effective facilitation skills and WASH education program development.
When knowledge and skills reside locally, people take action in innovative ways, and train and mentor others.
Training isn't enough
Training activities are often seen as secondary, rather than being a core strategy to achieve results. Complicating the matter, the limited ability to evaluate the quality and impact of training has obscured the ineffectiveness of many WASH training efforts.
Over the past decade we have learnt that combining training with ongoing technical and implementation support, along with subsidies for organizations that can’t afford it, provides an "on-the-job" practical approach to capacity building. Ongoing technical support can be anything from a phone call, Skype conversation or email to discuss technology options and implementation hurdles, to a multi-day onsite visit to improve project monitoring, among other forms of support.
Providing ongoing coaching, mentoring and professional development supports implementers as needed at each stage of their development and helps them overcome challenges.
Capacity development must be measured at the outcome level, consistently year after year
Designing effective training and education programs is difficult. Evaluating their impact is even harder, which may be one of the reasons funders shy away from supporting this much needed arena. CAWST suggests measuring what people do with the training, not how many people are trained.
In recent studies undertaken by CAWST, Cambridge and Cranfield of over 100 WASH capacity building organizations, only 1/3 reported capacity building results. For those who report, the majority of the results are at the output level, rather than at the outcome level. CAWST’s key performance metric is "number of people with safe water" (vs "number of people trained"). This metric keeps CAWST focused on ensuring that knowledge and skills reside locally, and that our capacity development activities result in action.
We must also recognize that the impact of building capacity often goes well beyond short term outcomes as people are empowered, take their skills to the next project and pass on their knowledge to others.
Funders can lead the way
WASH funders have the potential to be game-changers in narrowing the capacity gap. As we’ve seen with the sanitation sector, which has received renewed focus and increased funding in recent years, WASH funders can build similar momentum to take on the capacity gap.
What can funders do to close the gap?
- Digest and understand the data. The "capacity gap" can seem harder to define and address than infrastructure, but the growing body of evidence is showing that the WASH capacity gap will continue to hamper WASH progress until we tackle it head-on.
- Focus on skills and knowledge, alongside infrastructure, that will increase local capability to identify, implement and sustain WASH solutions that are appropriate to the local context.
- See the WASH capacity gap as an area where funders can lead, and do so proudly.
- Look for and replicate capacity development approaches that create enabling environments for entrepreneurship, innovation and sustained impact at the scale needed.
The IWA and GLAAS reports draw attention to the large capacity gap and are a call to action to address the need. They illustrate the crisis, but also provide strategic recommendations for our sector. Without a focus on knowledge and skills, WASH infrastructure and service delivery will fail.