Skip to main content

Published on: 12/07/2016

WASH Agenda for Change partners Uganda

The WASH Agenda for Change (WA4C) is a Ugandan advocacy and learning alliance, which supports the right to safe water and sanitation. It aims to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in at least three Uganda districts. The WA4C was created by IRC, Water for People and WaterAid in Uganda. IRC hosts the hub secretariat.

From the 27th to 28th  June 2016, the WA4C partners convened in Kampala to discuss the roadmap, tools and approaches developed to guide them in achieving universal access to WASH services at district level in Uganda. The workshop brought together both the WA4C core Ugandan and international partners plus the Ministry of Water and Environment, local government partners, and the technical support units, along with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) like UWASNET, WHAVE, GOAL, Engineers without Borders Canada, SNV, World Vision, AMREF and Rotary WASH Plus members.

Understanding the WASH Agenda for Change

Agenda for Change is about delivering services that last, and building local systems to deliver those services. “There is no one solution – we are working together to try and collectively find joint solutions that work well for us in the districts in reaching full access”, says IRC CEO Patrick Moriarty. The WA4C is a systems approach that embodies four sets of collaborative behaviours; the District Wide Approach (WaterAid), Everyone Forever (Water For People), Service Delivery Approach (IRC) and Aid Effectiveness (Sanitation and Water for All (SWA)).

People have embraced  the idea of planning for universal services very quickly particularly with regards to creating the infrastructure, but the most fundamental change we are looking to establish concerns the elements that make up this service, and acknowledging the key challenge to ensuring service sustainability.

The system approach

‘It takes a whole system to provide WASH services’. People, including government, development partners, private suppliers, regulators, researchers, NGOs are working at different levels to deliver the service. At the heart of the system is a capacity building element that aims to build strong government systems capable of delivering services in the district, and strengthening service providers through business models and capacity development. Building and sustaining effective partnerships is a central element of this process "We should not work in our little pockets but come together and see what unique selling points each of us has, and to bring that together in achieving universal access and maintaining the quality of that service. We have to have a shared vision, test our solutions and move the mechanism to scale”, says Francis Muzinguzi of WaterAid Uganda.

Government is key, having one message to the districts is crucial, and getting away from planning short term political driven activities to having a long term focus is important in achieving universal access says Stuart Lucky of WHAVE Uganda. The WA4C hub takes on the role of a spider in the web to facilitate the change agenda, and support the system to drive a change process, support the movement, and enable collective action and impact among others. The WA4C approach is currently being implemented in 3 focus countries: Uganda, Honduras and Rwanda.

The roadmap to change

Nick Burn of Water For People believes that focusing at the district level underpins the whole agenda for change, and building from the district makes more sense as capacities are at this level, and districts are also mandated to deliver the services.

The impetus from the Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve universal access in Uganda, delivery should go hand in hand with the promotion of sustainable service delivery . A number of areas need to be in place in order to create a district/municipal plan to deliver services – there is a cycle to the planning which includes implementation, reflection, re-planning and so on.

How do we assure people’s right to water is met and their voice is heard? We need to understand current service levels, existing infrastructure and available water sources. We need to understand capacities of service authorities and providers and how these capacities can be enhanced. Costs of infrastructure and services need to be determined along with the role of citizens in securing their rights.

A good service is about having the right structures in place, and users who are aware of their duty to paying for  this service.

Steps to achieve universal access, district by district

  1. An enabling policy environment at both national and district level, along with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities between the different WASH sector actors is critical. This includes both service authorities (regulators), and service providers (water boards, private operators, hand pump mechanics and user committees).
  2. Monitoring and asset inventory: a thorough understanding of the context in terms of a good baseline and providing the required data for a monitoring system. Involving district personnel in data collection activities is important to enhance their understanding of the context and to facilitate and enable full utilisation of results. ‘Golden Indicators’ should be incorporated into the monitoring system. These include; value for money, access, functionality, equity, gender, management. Asset inventory provides a list of what one owns; the potential risks, and helps with business planning.
  3. Financial assessment: 100% coverage needs to be properly costed and financed. Financing service provision is complex in Uganda and involves multiple funding sources and expenditure guidelines at national and district levels.

Cost and finance

We need to understand what the costs are for a sustainable service in Uganda and the challenges for securing funding. For providing a sustainable service the sector needs Capital Expenditure (CapEX) which covers building of infrastructure and one-off trainings and assessments, Capital Maintenance Expenditure (CapManEx) which is historically overlooked and underfunded and required to cover unexpected large maintenance and replacement of older infrastructure. But the most forgotten and under budgeted are the direct support costs which means that the amount that districts staff have to follow up and monitor service delivery is very limited. There are also additional costs to be factored in such as the cost of accessing capital such as loans. Currently many non-traditional capital funding mechanisms for the sector such as investments from pension or insurance funds aren’t available for Uganda due to its current financial rating status.

  • In Uganda, the government currently has national level guidelines for expenditure and the amount that can be spent on different components. This is heavily weighted towards Capital.Expenditure (CapEx) at present with an insufficient amount allocated to CapManEx or direct support:70% for new facilities (CapEx)
  • 3% Sanitation hardware (CapEx)
  • 8% for one off community support, monitoring (CapEx)
  • 13% for maintenance (CapManEx)
  • 6% for local office (direct support)

However, local feedback on these guidelines has meant that there has been a review on allocated funding for CapManEx and there is increasingly more flexibility in how funds are spent. Uganda coverage levels are stagnated as more money is spent into building infrastructure, a lot of other infrastructure breakdown. This means that, the balance between the different cost categories needs to start changing towards the direct support costs, if we want universal access to be reached.

Going forward it is important that WA4C works with government to monitor what level of funding is required for each component of service provision and how funds should be spent. Understanding potential inefficiencies in the system that may prevent funds for being assigned correctly is also needed.

To ensure sustainable services, plans need to be made for funding direct support on a yearly basis, and understanding where the money will be drawn either from, aid, taxes (public finance to include loans) or tariffs (from customers using the services).

In the longer term there is a need to engage with the Minister of Finance to develop plans for financial mechanisms that will give a return on investment such as blending public and private finance . In addition, public finance from local and national taxation properly applied and managed along with realistic tariffs for services will provide further revenues. Essential is clarity on who is responsible for what.

The Uganda case – what exists and what is lacking

Cate Nimanya of Water for People provided a picture of what is going well and the challenges Uganda is facing. There is a strong government leadership for WA4C and support to its activities, with about 50 districts already having District Investment Plans (DIP) in place. Government policy reforms favour the WA4C agenda, and include a review of a range of policy instruments (investment plans, monitoring framework, district guidelines, capacity development plans). Although 75% of Ugandans have access to a water tap, there is no focus on monitoring service delivery. Weak coordination outside the WASH sector remains a key challenge to achieving universal access to sustainable WASH services.

Key messages for taking forward the WA4C in Uganda

  1. Alliances and partnerships are crucial to advance the WASH agenda, particularly for service delivery in the districts
  2. Joint initiatives at scale, based on a harmonised set of tools, processes and approaches is an effective model for delivery of WASH services
  3. Government is a willing partner when lobbied effectively at multi-governance levels as embodied by the WA4C approach
  4. It remains a challenge to collect and manage harmonised data that can be disseminated and used to inform policy and planning processes
  5. Financial  infrastructure maintenance and knowledge management is a challenge
  6. Engaging stakeholders  in the health and education sectors remains weak.

Next steps for WA4C

SDGs for water and sanitation are about sustainable management of services and government is best placed to do that as they have the mandate. It is essential therefore for agencies under WA4C to work closely together to support government to deliver. "We cannot deliver universal access on our own", says Vinny Casey of WaterAid International.

WA4C needs to have, as part of its mission, a plan to engage with politicians. The whole concept of a partnership is at the heart of the WA4C and it will try to leverage not only financial resources but also technical expertise making sure that they work in harmony with each other to reach universal access.

For the selection of districts, WA4C will be considering well-mobilised districts where partners operate, to take them forward with good leadership and use the lessons learned to scale up. This way they can influence and scale lessons learned to other districts. The WA4C partners in Uganda realise that both Water for People and WaterAid are not starting from scratch, while IRC in set to roll out in Karabole. Review, analysis and/ or harmonisation of the proposed roadmap, tools and approaches were agreed upon as well as on how these can be used in the districts where the different partners operate.

Thanks to Bryony Stentiford and all others who made a contribution.


At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.

Back to
the top