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Editor's Note: In this post, Millie Adam of the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) discusses the benefits of providing capacity building support when investing in WASH initiatives. This post originally appeared on CAWST's website, to view the original post please click here

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A growing list of reports argue for increased emphasis and investment in capacity building for international development. That’s a good thing. Why then has that increased attention largely failed to catalyze funders and implementers to make greater investments in capacity building?  

Capacity building is too often treated like a minor add-on to an infrastructure project, thought of as an added cost, or not budgeted or planned for until partway through a project when the gap in capacity becomes glaringly apparent.

Changing this mindset requires a paradigm-shift. Capacity building is a fundamental part of development that doesn’t simply take funds away from “real”/tangible results, but rather helps achieve targets and maintain outcomes.

To deliver sustained water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to all by 2030, significant and meaningful investments in capacity building are needed from funders and implementers, in parallel with hardware investments.

The need for capacity building is clear and well-documented. Less so a clear case that lays out the benefits of investing in capacity building. There are five key benefits to investing in capacity building that should motivate donors and investors to ensure capacity building is a significant part of any initiative they are supporting.

1. Universal WASH coverage by 2030 is not achievable with current human resources.

The scale of the need alone makes the case for capacity building. As outlined by the IWA’s report An Avoidable Crisis: WASH Human Resource Capacity Gaps in 15 Developing Economies, “There are not enough appropriately skilled water professionals to support the attainment of universal access to safe water and sanitation”. Furthermore, the current formal systems for training will not produce enough people by 2030, so the human capacity gap threatens the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

As the UN-Water Means of Implementation states, “Investment in capacity-building has been a major challenge facing many countries and has to be addressed if the Goals are to be met.”

The UN-Water GLAAS 2012 report (chapter four) reported that less than 20 per cent of respondent countries consider the supply of skilled labour and technicians adequately developed to meet the needs in rural sanitation.

2. Capacity building increases the quality of implementation.

WASH practitioners often run into problems they are unable to solve on their own, thus hindering or halting a program; or they unknowingly implement incorrectly. Building the capacity of field workers increases their ability to:

  • Evaluate options and select appropriate technologies
  • Properly construct and install technologies
  • Work with the community to create demand and change behaviour
  • Be active, informed participants in the WASH sector who strengthen and scale-up programs or approaches.

If field workers are doing the above things well, then people will have access to high quality, locally appropriate WASH technologies that they want and use. Further, decision-making around WASH becomes a discussion with local stakeholders as opposed to a decision handed down from above, ensuring that WASH programs continue to serve the needs of end users.

A 2010 Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) technical paper, “Case Study on Sustainability of Rural Sanitation Marketing in Vietnam”, points to the importance of capacity building of practitioners. The case study looked at rural sanitation marketing in Vietnam and found that initial success of trained promoters and providers led others to build toilets for sale; the quality of construction and user satisfaction both declined.

3. Capacity building makes interventions more sustainable.

Programs need to be driven at the outset by local organizations on the ground: those who have the mandate to provide WASH services to their communities, who understand the local context and challenges, who take ownership of the services and who will still be there long after the rest of us have moved on. In many cases, those with the mandate don’t have the skills and knowledge they need to do the best job that they can and want to do. Building the capacity of those organizations translates to:

  • Better decisions
  • Higher adoption and sustained use
  • Ability to overcome challenges and adapt to changing circumstances
  • Ongoing delivery and maintenance of services for the long term
  • Disaster resilience
  • A slow but pragmatic exit strategy for those of us who aren’t local organizations.

The WSP technical paper on rural sanitation marketing referred to above concluded that the approach may not be sustained and expanded in the long term without institutionalized capacity building for promoters and providers (among other things).

Similarly, building capacity at the community level increases correct, consistent and continued use of WASH technologies. A key conclusion from the recent Cochrane review on water quality interventions was that interventions that achieved a higher compliance led to greater health impacts. In contrast, some technologies that performed well in controlled test settings achieved lower health impacts. From this, we can infer the importance of not only choosing appropriate technologies, but also building the capacity of local actors to effectively operate and maintain these technologies over time.

4. Capacity building can reach the hardest to reach.

The SDGs compel us to reach the poorest and those in vulnerable situations, which the MDGs did not reach in equal numbers. There is growing evidence supporting a renewed focus on those who are hardest to reach, such as UN-Water arguing that targeting the poorest 40 per cent of the population yields the biggest gains.

The 2014 GLAAS report argued that current funding isn’t going to those most in need. “If plans exist for reducing inequalities in access by targeting disadvantaged groups, the outcomes are commonly left unmonitored,” the report says. “Less than half of countries track progress in extending sanitation and drinking-water services to the poor.” The report went on to add that “the vast majority of those without improved sanitation are poorer people living in rural areas. Progress on rural sanitation — where it has occurred — has primarily benefitted the non-poor, resulting in inequalities.”

In many cases, unserved people are dispersed, living in challenging conditions or have no legal tenure. In these situations, large scale infrastructure solutions either aren’t appropriate or aren’t affordable. To reach these people with WASH services, we need a variety of technologies and approaches and we need to work with different types of organizations; both require increased capacity across a range of players.

  • Capacity building enables many small projects using a variety of technologies and approaches that can be adapted to those challenging situations
  • Capacity building enables the organizations with the best likelihood of success to participate in WASH services (including small, local organizations, and those who might not focus on WASH, but who have strong relationships with vulnerable groups and who best understand their complex context)
  • Capacity building enables the vulnerable or disadvantaged to actively participate in WASH programs and services

5. Capacity building addresses the gender gap.

One of the guiding principles of the Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development is that “Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water” and that to implement this principle, we must “equip and empower women to participate at all levels”. A reality check from the GLAAS 2012 report: “Half of the GLAAS respondent countries reported that women make up less than 10% of the professional/managerial staff”.

We all know the critical role of women in water. Building their capacity to fully participate not only works toward closing gender gaps, but also leads to better results for WASH programs.

According to an ADB gender equality results case study, significant participation of women (>40%) in preconstruction and postconstruction training on how “to plan, construct, manage, operate, and maintain water supply schemes and sanitation facilities […] equipped women with necessary skills and knowledge. This enabled them to engage more effectively in committees taking decisions related to the operation and management of water supply systems, undertaking maintenance with support from trained VMWs, and raising monthly tariffs.”

The 2012 GLAAS report profiles Ethiopia’s health extension programme. It was launched in 2003 in response to a lack of trained health workers; by 2009, there were 30 000 health workers. Women who have more than 10 years of formal education and who want to work in their communities are trained on family health, hygiene and environmental sanitation, and health education. “The success of this programme is a result of investment in training by donors, widespread acceptance within communities and investment in information systems on family health, demographic data and use of services.”

In short, capacity building is a good investment.

Failure is costly, and without capacity building projects are more likely to fail. The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) found in 2007 that an average of 36 per cent of hand-pumps across 21 countries in Africa were non-functioning. That represents a total investment of between $US1.2 and $US1.5 billion over 20 years. The topic is covered in this Triple-S Briefing.

Capacity building lays the groundwork for well-implemented WASH services which should increase adoption, extend the life of interventions and improve quality of implementation resulting in larger health impacts.

We all seem to recognize that capacity building needs to happen, and yet we consistently fail to put enough resources toward it. Our hope is that laying out the case for capacity building will help those who know it needs to happen argue for its inclusion and resourcing, but also that it will refine the way we do capacity building to ensure that we are in fact realizing the above benefits.

In CAWST’s experience of supporting 970 implementing organizations in 78 countries, the benefits don’t end there; we have seen how capacity building catalyzes action and then empowers people to take further actions, as well as how it provides opportunities for those with new skills, knowledge and confidence.

Editor's Note: In this post, Okey Umelo, Media and Communications Officer, and Patrick England, GSF Portfolio Support Analyst, at Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) discuss a new field guide for practitioners of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) – an empowering approach for improving sanitation and hygiene through collective behaviour change. This post originally appeared on the WSSCC site, to view the original post please click here.

This week, the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) and the GSF-funded ‘Fonds d’Appui pour l’Assainissement’ (FAA) in Madagascar launched a new handbook on accelerating and sustaining the end of open defecation.

The handbook was launched during the GSF Learning Event in Antananarivo, Madagascar, inaugurated by Madagascar’s Minister of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Roland Ravatomanga.

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A community celebrating the creation of their ‘model latrine’ for others to replicate during a FUM session in Madagascar. Credit: WSSCC

The ‘Follow-up MANDONA’ (FUM) handbook is a field guide for practitioners of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) – an empowering approach for improving sanitation and hygiene through collective behaviour change, rather than external subsidies or prescription. FUM aims to systematically engage communities after they have been initially ‘triggered’ and committed to ending open defecation.

‘Mandona’ is a Malagasy word which means ‘to push’. FUM brings the entire community together for a self-analysis of their sanitation situation, which then helps them immediately create models that prevent the ingestion of faeces. The approach harnesses the power of Natural Leaders to replicate these models across the community, which includes helping those that are least able, in order to advance to ODF status. By focusing on sustainable behaviour change, FUM is also a useful tool for addressing issues surrounding ‘slippage’, which relates to returning to previous unhygienic behaviours.

FUM was developed and refined by MIARINTSOA NGO, a sub-grantee of the FAA programme. Given the success of FUM in Madagascar and elsewhere, the GSF and FAA created the FUM handbook to provide a practical guide for how CLTS practitioners can implement the approach in their own contexts.

Download ‘Follow-up MANDONA: A field guide for accelerating and sustaining open defecation free communities’ (English/French)

The weeklong global event where the handbook was launched brings together implementing partners, WASH experts, and high-level government representatives from GSF-supported programmes. These actors are exchanging ideas and sharing best practices for achieving improved sanitation and hygiene behaviour at scale.

During the launch, WSSCC Executive Director Chris Williams highlighted how FUM is engraining the sustainability of sanitation and hygiene behaviour change in Madagascar and beyond. “Once a village, or an entire commune, has reached ODF status, the story isn’t over. In fact, the work continues. This important publication documents the innovations that Madagascar has put together to systematically follow-up with villages.

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WSSCC Executive Director holds up the Follow-up MANDONA handbook at GSF Learning Event opening ceremony. Credit: WSSCC/Okechukwu Umelo

FUM has become one of FAA’s most important tools for empowering over 1.6 million people to live in open defecation free environments on their own terms. Due to its success in Madagascar, FUM has recently become a core strategy for national sanitation and hygiene programmes in Uganda, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.

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Community members in Nigeria agreeing to trigger their neighbours and help those who don’t have the means to build their own latrine. Credit: WSSCC

Kamal Kar, the Chairman of the CLTS Foundation, which has extensively supported the FAA programme to develop their CLTS approach, emphasized the importance of the handbook in sharing proven approaches to practitioners around the world: “I am glad that the Malagasy NGO, MIARINTSOA, with the help of the FAA programme, WSSCC and the GSF, has systematically documented their experience of post-triggering follow-up from their implementation of CLTS over the last 4-5 years. Publication of this Follow-up MANDONA handbook is indeed a step forward towards country-wide scaling up of good practice of CLTS in Madagascar and beyond.”

“I must say that the emergence of thousands of ODF villages in Madagascar, starting with my multiple support visits to the country since 2010 to strengthen the approach, is a brilliant example of quality CLTS implementation with its central philosophy of local empowerment. I believe that this handbook will be useful in understanding and ensuring post-triggering follow-up in CLTS for sustained behaviour change.”

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Eugène De Ligori Rasamoelina, Executive Director of MIARINTSOA NGO, which developed and refined Follow-up MANDONA. Credit: WSSCC

Editor's Note: In this post, Andy Narracott, Deputy Director for Global Water at Evidence Action discusses how we can scale up cost-effective water access, sanitation, and hygiene programs.

Recently Jan Willem Rosenboom, a WASH senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote a candid post on just how hard it is to reach scale for water and sanitation projects.

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Dispensers for Safe Water installation in Zomba county, Malawi. Photo credit: Evidence Action.

We agree. We are a long way off from “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all,” especially in rural areas. To meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs need to plan for scale from the start and have a clearer focus on "what works." Likewise, donors need to invest in scalable projects and let go of those that never will, as sexy as they might look.

We at Evidence Action have a unique mission to scale up cost effective global development interventions that have been proven to work through rigorous evaluation. I lead our Dispensers for Safe Water program that serves 4.5 million rural people with chlorine essential for safe drinking water. Dispensers for Safe Water was also a beneficiary of an early multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010.

We are now operating in three countries and are achieving sustained usage of ~60%. We are the largest safe water player in these three countries by a wide margin. We are also recovering 100% of our field costs from carbon credits rather than resorting to user fees that would screen out a huge cohort of people who are very rural and very poor.

We have learned a bit about how to successfully transition from a randomized controlled trial to operating at scale over the years, and I’d like to share some key lessons:

1. Standardizing operations is essential. We've standardized operations focused on expansion into a simple five-step process. These five steps describe the way we move into a new area, from a first engagement with government officials, right through to ongoing chlorine delivery. Over time, the five steps transformed our pilot into a replicable model ready to roll out in new geographic areas - and one that is highly scalable. We know what resources are required for each step - both human and financial resources. And we have introduced the kaizen of our work: to continually look back and see what we can do better next time.

2. Relentless focus on controlling costs. Think scrooge hunched over a table under candlelight counting coins. But joking aside, when it only costs $1.40 a person/year for a continuous supply of chlorine that kills 99.9% of harmful pathogens in water, we're talking reduction in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and diarrhea averted. Every operational improvement and every innovative idea is tested against the basic equation of whether we can increase our user adoption while staying extremely cost effective—providing value for every penny spent.

We have been able to reduce the cost per person of chlorine dispensers, which continually decreases as we scale and reach more people. For example, we will purchase 1.5 million liters of liquid chlorine this year from local suppliers in East Africa. This allows us to negotiate even harder for lower prices. 

We have tested whether it’s more cost effective to deploy a larger number of motorbikes for the chlorine supply chain that reach remote areas easier but can carry less chlorine, or a fewer number of cars that can carry more chlorine but have a harder time reaching remote areas. We have calculated what the dispensers density point is by which motorbikes become more cost effective, and we can plan and manage our supply chain accordingly.    

This focus on continuous measurement and improvement - the kaizen of our work - forces us to continually find more efficient ways to achieve each of the five steps at a lower cost.

3. Investment in scaling is essential. Obviously, this is not a golden nugget of wisdom but the simple truth. Just as it takes time to reach a breakeven point in a business, it takes time for a development intervention to be sustainable. We have made the hard decision to pause our rapid growth to explore new lines of revenue as one of our revenue areas, carbon credits, has declined as carbon markets have fallen. Proven development interventions need financial backing to get them through the valley of death, even more so than the tech startups of San Francisco. Concomitantly, if donors are serious about reaching scale they need to pull the plug on those projects that will never scale cost effectively, no matter how sexy some pilots seem.

With a clear mission focused explicitly on scale, with standardising operations, and a relentless focus on cost reductions and economies of scale, we think scale in WASH is not only possible, it is essential.

Editor's Note: In this post, Heloise Greeff, Doctoral Researcher, Water Programme, at the Computational Health Informatics Lab and Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, discusses how we can pro-actively monitor the condition of handpumps and ensure that millions of people can access a reliable water source. This post originally appeared on the REACH program's site, the orginal article can be accessed here.

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Predictive health monitoring is widely used in engineering applications to detect damage to infrastructure as early as possible. Forecasting failure rather than merely detecting failure once it occurs helps to reduce the downtime of systems. Ideally, predictive maintenance can be used to avoid downtime completely. With this approach already widely used in many fields from commercial and military jet engines to patient monitoring in health systems, it is now being extended to monitoring the condition of handpumps in rural villages.

The handpump remains a reliable and low-cost method to access groundwater, making it a critical component of rural water supply for around 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Community handpump models, such as the Afridev and India MK II, are designed to lift water from deeper sources than traditional rope and bucket systems which can only be used in shallow wells. However, high water demands result in continuous usage and frequent breakdowns. Unfortunately, practical challenges in the supply of spare parts combined with a lack of local skills and resources result in an estimated 30% of handpumps in Africa not working at any given time.

The use of predictive maintenance in handpumps has the potential to limit interruptions of weeks or more which are common across rural Africa. A broken handpump in a remote village can force women or girls to walk up to 20 kilometres to find alternative sources which may be contaminated or expensive. Reliability and sustainability of water supplies are important to ensure healthy communities, societies, and economies in all regions of the world.

The Oxford University ‘Smart Handpump’ was successfully introduced in 2012. Proof-of-concept for the remote monitoring of handpumps used a simple microprocessor, accelerometer and global system for mobile communications (GSM) components. The Smart Handpumps provide hourly data on usage.

In 2014 a preliminary analysis used high frequency accelerometer data to show that these patterns contain useful information. High-rate waveforms from the accelerometry data can be processed using robust machine learning methods that are sensitive not only to the dynamics of the whole system but also the subtle interaction between the user and the pump. The small changes in pump dynamics and the subtle reactions of the user become a prominent signal in determining the deterioration of pump mechanics and imminent failure. This same signal can also be used for monitoring the level of the shallow aquifer at the pump location.

By retrofitting a simple and inexpensive device to a standard pump handle, the Smart Handpumps are able to pro-actively monitor the condition of handpumps and ensure that millions of people can access a reliable water source.

In February 2016 we visited 33 different handpumps across the Kwale County in southeast Kenya. We recorded 103 different users extracting approximately 5,059 litres of groundwater using the handpumps. These data will be used to produce a low-cost predictive maintenance system that is scalable across large rural regions. The development of a prototype hardware system is being supported by UNICEF, funded through a competitive tender process, as part of their Product Innovation portfolio.  Field testing will be conducted in partnership with UNICEF country programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa.     

By monitoring the heartbeat of thousands of handpumps across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it is possible to give millions of people access to a reliable and secure water network. The handpump network has existed for many years and despite being neglected remains the most reliable method to access groundwater in remote locations as the world advances to achieving universal drinking water security.

Take a look at the video to see our work in Kwale County in Kenya in action:

 

Editor's Note: In this post, Jan Willem Rosenboom, senior program officer in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses designing and scaling effective sanitation programs. This piece was originally published by Devex, and the full blog post can be accessed here

A school teacher leads a community-led total sanitation activity in Ethiopia.

Photo by: Plan International / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

If you invest even a little bit of your time in keeping on top of developments in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, you will have seen at least some of the blogs, reports and articles reminding us all that the world failed to attain the Millennium Development Goals’ sanitation targets — by a wide margin.

The Sustainable Development Goals give us a second chance to get it right, but they seriously up the ante. Instead of “merely” providing half of the unserved population with access to improved sanitation, as the MDGs required, the SDGs tell us we can only declare success once every person, every school and every health facility has — and uses — safely managed sanitation facilities.

We have 15 years to get it right. Given the below-average results we obtained in the past 15 years, it is clear that we should ask some hard questions and examine the evidence emerging from the field, in the hope we can do much better in the next 15 years.

Pilots never fail, and never scale

Anywhere in the world, if we look hard enough, we can find successful, innovative projects changing people’s lives for the better — and not only in sanitation; this is true for every sector.

The assumption that successful pilots will — by some unexamined magic — lead to sustained scale up efforts is mostly false and, as a result, we seem stuck with repeated small-scale successes, rather than impact at scale. In the past I have labeled this observation “Rosenboom’s law on pilots:” Pilots never fail, and never scale.

Intuitively, this makes some sense. For pilot (or demonstration) projects, we select the most responsive communities, with the most supportive leadership. We use the best front line workers we can find, and there is frequent follow up from the (international) organization supporting the pilot. This is a recipe for success.

Making the transition from pilot to scale, however, changes everything. This requires political buy-in first of all, supplemented by — often limited — program funds. Limited budgets, front line workers with less training and experience, less follow-up, average motivation and support: over time, the conditions for success move from “outstanding” to “average,” and so do the results.

Successfully working at scale means planning for scale from the beginning and understanding better “what works” in program design and implementation. Some of the investments of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s WASH team set out to learn how this could be done.

Continue reading the full blog post on the Devex site.

Editor's Note: In this post Andy Narracott, Deputy Director of Global Safe Water, discusses how we can ensure equitable and sustained access to safe water.

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There has been huge progress made in improving access to safe water. This year, the number of people without access to an improved drinking water source fell below 700 million for the first time in history. This means that more than 6.6 billion people, or 91% of the global population, has an improved drinking water source, up from 76% in 1990. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 427 million people gained access to an improved drinking water source, an average of 47,000 people per day, every day, for the last 25 years.

‘Access to an improved water source’ refers to a water source—such as a well or spring—that, by nature of its construction and when properly used, adequately protects that source from outside contamination, particularly fecal matter.

This might seem like great news, and in many ways it is. But measuring whether people have access to water alone is not enough; it is a static measure that only gives a very high-level indication of progress towards one dimension of what it means for people to have safe water in the home.

This measure does not take into account how sustained this access to safe water is over time. What happens when the hand pump breaks or the new well runs dry?  Measuring a snapshot in time does not account for whether there is access to safe water in the future.

It also does not account for the actual use of safe water systems. Uptake by users of safe water products is notoriously low when it is reported at all. It is also often only measured by unreliable recount. And lastly, measuring access does not say anything about the quality of the water that is actually consumed by users in the home. In fact, there has been no explicit requirement that the water should be drinkable at the point of use.

Imagine a rural and largely poor community in Malawi. Individuals there have to fetch water at water points that can be miles away. This is back-breaking work when you consider that a full ‘jerrican’ weighs the same as the maximum baggage allowance on most airlines. By the time the water is brought home and stored for later use, all it takes is a dirty cup or child's hand to make the water unsafe to drink. Yet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) count this as a success so long as there is a well or other protected source within a certain distance.

Infrastructure, such as a well or a pipe, is not sufficient to ensure sustained access over time, good quality water, and consistent use by the most marginalized communities. Research has shown that increased access alone makes no impact on diarrhea rates, which is the second biggest killer of children under 5.

We think that the new WASH Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are more useful. They place an equal focus on a continuous supply of water, of good quality, at an adequate price. Where urban water networks exist, this is an achievable set of goals. But in rural areas, in the home when water sources numbers in the thousands and are widely dispersed?

With technology like Dispensers for Safe Water, this is possible.

Evidence Action has a network of 27,000 chlorine dispensers across 5,500 square miles, in three countries currently serving 4.5 million people. The dispensers were rigorously tested in randomized controlled trials and are served by a robust chlorine distribution and maintenance supply chain that ensures 98% uptime across three countries in even the most rural areas.

Dispensers are salient to users because they are installed directly at the water source. Evidence Action is focused on achieving high levels of usage by making water chlorination the norm through local community promoters. Dispensers are also highly cost-effective compared to other interventions, and they are equitable, targeting communities with the least access to consistently safe water.

Water is central to equitable development, and we welcome this renewed global focus on ‘safe water as a service’ that takes into consideration a sustained supply of water, of good quality, at an adequate price.

Editor's Note: In this post, Charles Nimako, Ghana Country Director at Safe Water Network discusses innovative approaches around financing and partnerships to improve access to sustainable safe water. 

At least 8 million people in Ghana lack reliable access to clean water every day. As the world raises the bar for development with the Sustainable Development Goals, shifting our indicators from number of water points to sustainable access over time, our government recognizes the need for innovative approaches to fill the gap.

Charles Nimako, Country Director, and Kurt Soderlund, CEO, Safe Water Network, talk with Hon. Sampson Ahi (MP), Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Water Resources, at the opening session.

Charles Nimako, Country Director, and Kurt Soderlund, CEO, Safe Water Network, talk with Hon. Sampson Ahi (MP), Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Water Resources, at the opening session.

Safe Water Network’s recent Beyond the Pipe forum in Accra focused on innovative approaches around financing and partnerships, two key areas Safe Water Network Ghana has prioritized in improving access to sustainable safe water. These topics brought such influential guests as Hon. Sampson Ahi, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ekow Coleman, Senior Investment Officer from the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund and Mr Kwasi Osei, Managing partner of Prizm Capital Partners.

My opening presentation put a spotlight on the Ghana Water Enterprise Trust, a proposed funding mechanism that Safe Water Network will develop with government and private sector stakeholders to address the financing gap for off-grid community water systems, and improve financial stewardship for our increasing portfolio of water Stations and subStations.

The Trust will be developed in two stages – first as a mechanism under which Safe Water Network will continue to own and operate water Stations, under the original Build-Operate-Transfer agreements, and manage them as a portfolio under improved operational oversight; and second as a Trust that will eventually grow into an independent, Ghana-based entity to secure significant amounts of capital with blended sources of financing.

Trust structures, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and pooled funds have been used to attract capital to scale interventions in different sectors around the world.  Our PPP initiative will come to life with a pilot in Danfa, located 20 kilometres outside Ghana’s capital, Accra. This community is a strong candidate for a market-based decentralized service that will expand the existing infrastructure given the relatively high population density; an average per person income of GHS 12 (USD 3) per day; access to grid power; rapid urbanization; and experience in paying for water. I look forward to reporting back on the Danfa pilot, which is scheduled to kick off in Q3 2016.

It will take time to structure the Trust in a robust way, with accounting and control systems that can be audited regularly, and a diverse governing board. The lively discussion among our 80 forum participants highlighted important issues like how  the Trust would affect local ownership and  how the Trust would structure contractual agreements with outside organizations for financial, operational and management responsibilities during the second phase. Participants also discussed how Safe Water Network would manage its brand, H2OME, under the Trust.

Safe Water Network and its advisors and partners will work through these issues over the next year. Each forum builds on the previous year’s discussions, but of course the lessons come from the practical, hands-on work we do all year round. The issues we address are focused on Ghana but general lessons are applicable elsewhere, such as India where Safe Water Network has just launched its 126th iJal water Station.

We’ve been hosting the forum in Ghana for four straight years, and it continues to grow as a leading platform for the market-based approach for community water supply. This year’s Forum was a timely event, taking place just a few days ahead of World Water Day, which this year celebrated the impact of water on jobs and livelihoods. Water solutions that work are essential to all livelihoods — restaurant owner, farmer, schoolteacher and doctor alike – and we celebrate the power of these solutions every day.

We look forward to celebrating the power of water that works throughout the year. In August, we will host a session at Stockholm International Water Week on practical solutions for small water enterprises in India, showcasing tools that allow a broad range of stakeholders, from entrepreneurs to government, do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

If you’d like to connect with us on how to get involved, please contact Joseph Ampadu-Boakye, Program Manager. 

Editor's Note: In this post, Brian Banks, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Global Water Challenge at the Global Environment & Technology Foundation, discusses five key ways that funders can use the new Water Point Data Exchange to improve the impact of their WASH investments.

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With the recent launch of the new web platform for the Water Point Data Exchange, many funders are wondering what this means for them and how they can use it to increase the impact of WASH investments. For those who aren’t yet familiar, the Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx) is the global framework for sharing water point data. Launched in May 2015, this framework is based on the information that is already being collected around the world, ensuring that there is no additional burden on data providers to share information. To date, WPDx has brought together nearly 250,000 records around the world spanning almost 100 years of investment. The new web platform makes it easier than ever for funders to access this data and use the information to improve the impact of their investments. Here are five ways you can start to use the new WPDx platform today:

  • Identify partners and local experts
    • By using WPDx to find who else has implemented projects in a certain area or country, you can easily identify partners for collaboration. This can help to avoid duplication and increase impact through partnerships that leverage the unique skills of different stakeholders. Information on who is working where can also be filtered by date so that you can identify what stakeholders have developed expertise over time in a specific location, or even those that were there in the past. Connecting with these partners can facilitate the sharing of lessons and challenges, allowing your funding to build off of the investments that have come before. You can see an example of the different groups that have shared data over time for Tanzania here.
       
  • Explore the sustainability of different types of investments
    • WPDx allows you to see what types of investments have worked well, and what types of investments have been less successful. This could even be as simple as comparing how well different types of technologies have provided water over time in a certain area. You can also use the WPDx data as a starting point, and compare the impact of different types of policies on sustainability, or even the durability of investments in areas with different geological and socioeconomic conditions. The recent integration of WPDx data into the World Bank’s “Spatial Agent” application allows you to easily and beautifully layer WPDx data directly onto thousands of different data sets. This makes it possible to draw an incredible wealth of lessons about what works well at the click of a button. You can download Spatial Agent here.
       
  • See where needs are the greatest
    • Through the data available in WPDx, funders can target investments to where the needs are greatest and define the type of investment that might be most effective. Does the region you want to fund have a low functionality rate? If so, perhaps your investment will go further by supporting governance, asset management, and maintenance capacity than it would drilling another borehole. Are almost all water points working in a certain area? That might suggest that additional hardware could achieve a lasting impact. You can see a breakdown of functionality by province in Afghanistan here.
       
  • Share your data (and track it)
    • Funders are making massive investments in water infrastructure. While those investments will certainly create change on their own, sharing the information about that infrastructure can allow for an even greater impact. By providing governments, NGOs, researchers, and other funders with information about water points constructed as a result of your investments, all development partners can work better together. Encouraging grantees to share water point data with governments and through WPDx is a quick and cost-effective way to multiply the influence of your funding. As an added benefit, you can subscribe to updates on these water points, and get a notification any time data about them is updated, even from different sources!
       
  • Engage with governments and other stakeholders
    • WPDx should be the start of a conversation, not the end. Discuss the information you got from WPDx with governments, service providers, NGOs, and other funders, and get their perspectives. Ultimately, WPDx is most effective when used as part of a broader engagement with all partners. 

This post originally appeared on Philanthropy News Digest. You can find the original article here.

The IKEA Foundation has announced a €12.4 million ($13.9 million) grant to Water.org in support of efforts to provide access to safe water and sanitation to a million people in India and Indonesia.

Announced on World Water Day, the grant will enable Water.org to significantly scale its WaterCredit program, which helps families secure small, affordable loans that are then used to access safe water and sanitation facilities. To that end, Water.org partners with microfinance institutions, which provide loans to individuals or families so they can install a water connection or toilet and then makes additional loans with the repaid funds. As of June 2015, the program had helped more than 2.6 million people in nine countries gain access to safe water and sanitation. The IKEA Foundation launched its partnership with Water.org in 2013 in Bangladesh.

"By supporting the development of game-changing approaches like WaterCredit, the IKEA Foundation is helping drive the critical innovation needed to end the water and sanitation crisis," said Water.org co-founder and CEO Gary White.

"IKEA Foundation believes that every child deserves a healthy start in life," said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes, "so we are supporting Water.org's innovative program to help families in Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia access safe water and better sanitation facilities, giving them improved health and a life of dignity."

"IKEA Foundation Announces New Grant to Water.org on World Water Day." IKEA Foundation Press Release 03/22/2016.
"IKEA Foundation Commits $13.9M to Expand WaterCredit." Water.org Press Release03/22/2016.

Editor's Note: How can we assess the impact of a WASH investment? In this post, Guy Norman, Head of Evaluation, Research and Learning at Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), gives us a snapshot of the findings from their recent pilot analysis of the impact of WSUP’s work in Madagascar.

Providing improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to a community doesn’t just have an impact on health, it can be expected to have multiple positive impacts, including creation of livelihoods. For a slum-dweller, employment and a steady income are life-changing things! And jobs created are likely to have a ripple effect in the local economy—more jobs mean more money circulating around the community.

But assessing the total impacts of a WASH investment by an organisation like Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) is far from straightforward. For example, we would expect an improved water supply to have positive impacts on a wide range of things including health, livelihoods, time required to collect water, local environmental quality, the water utility’s revenues, and indeed the national economy. What’s more, a given investment may also have negative impacts; for example, an improved water kiosk may reduce the profits of an existing water supplier. So any assessment of total impact needs to consider a wide range of potential impacts, and needs to “subtract” possible negative impacts from the positive impacts.

Moving towards achieving this, WSUP has recently contracted PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to pilot their Total Impact Measurement and Management (TIMM) framework in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. TIMM is a framework for doing precisely this type of analysis.

More detailed findings of this pilot analysis will be published soon, and this blog gives a “sneak peek” at findings around the impact of WSUP’s work in Antananarivo on employment.

The Antananarivo pilot of the TIMM approach

The pilot focused on a subset of WSUP’s activities in Antananarivo over the period 2012−2015:

1. Water kiosks and laundry blocks: support for construction, including creation of management arrangements;

2. Setting up small community-based organisations (known as RF2s) for street cleaning and drain clearance;

3. Helping the water utility (JIRAMA) reduce its levels of non-revenue water (NRW) (i.e. water for which no payment is received, either because it physically leaks from pipes or because it’s supplied but not paid for, as a result of inefficient billing for example)

Very briefly, the TIMM approach, as applied here, involved first generating a model of the impact pathways. This included many boxes and arrows (WSUP investments in boxes on the left, outcomes in boxes on the right, many intermediate boxes in the middle, and lots of “causality” arrows linking everything together). Data to “calculate” the model comprised existing WSUP data on project outcomes, including householder survey data, some limited additional data collection, and international data derived from a literature review.

Overall findings

The estimated net impacts of WSUP’s investments in the three activities indicated above are shown in the wheel schematic below. Each impact has been converted to a monetised value, but this in no sense implies that people’s lives are just about profit and loss! Rather, an analysis of this type requires a common unit of measurement of different types of impact, and a convenient unit is U.S. dollars. Note the dramatic health impacts (interesting, because previous analyses of this type have often suggested that WASH interventions have more of an impact on time savings than they do on health). Note also some negative impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (garbage rotting on the streets produces less methane than garbage in a landfill). But as noted at the end of this blog, we ask you to take these results as preliminary; these findings may be a good indication of reality, but PwC, WSUP and others are still assessing to what extent we can consider these results to be accurate.

TIMM-consolidated-results-across-kiosks-RF2s-and-NRW-(2)

Job creation findings

WSUP-supported water kiosks and laundry blocks need builders to construct them and attendants to staff them; both also provide self-employment opportunities for laundry washers (almost exclusively women). The TIMM analysis indicated that kiosks and laundry blocks not only generate direct employment, but also create work opportunities for suppliers; much of this money is then spent in the local community on goods and services, supporting more jobs. The construction sector gets a demand boost, and the new connections between kiosks and the water network also increases profits and wages for those working at the water utility. Water resellers, who buy water in bulk from WSUP’s kiosks and then sell it door-to-door at a mark-up, are estimated to now have an annual income of around 300,000-480,000 Malagasy ariary.

RF2 teams sweep the streets and empty bins, and each team employs around eight people. These are self-sustaining organisations financed by user tariffs and local government support. The RF2 impact on livelihoods is estimated at almost US $1.5 million, and the spending of those wages generates an additional US $0.4 million of indirect economic benefit.

In order to help the water utility to reduce its level of non-revenue water, WSUP provided the initial funds for a team dedicated to NRW reduction and technical training. Not only did this create jobs within the utility, but the wages that they were paid are projected to have had wider economic effects within the city. WSUP’s work with the water utility led to an estimated increase in profits and wages of US $2 million, with wider economic benefits totalling approximately US $157,000.

The TIMM results show that livelihood impacts make up more than 13% of the total net impact of the WSUP projects analysed. This should have long-term positive effects; the total livelihoods impact for women and men across all interventions from 2013 to 2025 is worth approximately US $3.6 million and US $2.3 million, respectively. Laundry workers (who are 95% female) are the highest earners, and are projected to generate US $2.8 million in additional earnings by 2025.

Particular impacts on women’s livelihoods

Madagascar ranks somewhere in the middle of the global Social Institutions & Gender Index, and while women make up nearly half of the work force they are paid less and hold a lower proportion of skilled and managerial jobs compared to men. 

This TIMM analysis indicates that about 70% of the total earnings from WSUP water kiosks and laundry blocks go to women. Each laundry washer earns an estimated 8,000 Malagasy ariary per day (around $490 per year), which is about three times more than before the laundry blocks were built. More earnings for women is socially relevant as women are more likely to invest their earnings in education, nutrition, and health than men.

And finally, a cautionary note

This has been a pilot application of the TIMM approach, based on careful analysis of likely impact pathways, careful collation of relevant data, and reasoned assumptions about likely magnitudes of effect along each of the impact pathways that we examined. But this is complex modelling, the input data is certainly not perfect, and the assumptions about magnitudes of effect are just that, best-estimate assumptions. Modelling of this type can generate very useful information for an organisation like WSUP, but at this stage the jury is still out on whether the current results are sufficiently reliable, and whether the data collection requirements for this type of analysis are manageable. We’ll be releasing more detailed publications soon, so if you’re interested please watch out for them.

Thanks to the PwC team led by Tom Beagent for this excellent work and to WSUP’s Rosie Renouf for help with the analysis underlying this blog, as well as to WSUP’s supporters DFID, TCCAF, and the Stone Family Foundation for their role in this project. 

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