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Under the microscope: the provision of Ethiopia's water supply

Published on: 12/12/2013

The 9th FLOWS seminar took an in-depth look at two service delivery models in Ethiopia's highly decentralised water supply.

The FLOWS platform makes the link between research and practice, bringing together sector professionals to promote evidence-based policy development and action. The 9th FLOWS seminar, organised by RiPPLE and the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy's (MoWIE) research and development directorate and COWASH, focused on two of the service delivery models in the WASH implementation framework and the One WASH National Programme: Self-supply and Community-Managed Projects (CMP). These have some similarities. Both involve: a high level of decentralisation of functions (to households and small groups of 10-20 households in the case of Self-supply, and rural communities in the case of CMP); modified roles for the public sector with a focus on strategic roles in planning, support and monitoring; and emphasise the development of the local private sector. In total there were 7 presentations with 63 participants including regional and federal government, NGOs, River Basin Authorities, Universities and researchers.

Self-supply: going to scale

Can you reach universal access without Self-supply?

Inge Klaassen (IRC Ethiopia) presented, on behalf of the MoWIE, the current status of efforts to scale up Self-supply acceleration. It is a critical and exciting time for this issue. After a long period – at least 5 years - of stakeholder engagement, policy development, research and some piloting, Self-supply is now being implemented at scale. There are now high expectations, with Self-supply expected to deliver a significant portion of additional coverage. Oromia and SNNPR are embarking on ambitious plans to reach large numbers of beneficiaries through the approach. Other partners and projects are aligning their activities as well. Inge summarised the key points in the 2012 policy guideline and the importance of implementing the approach within the OWNP. To support implementation, a Self-supply package is under development. IRC are also developing technical guidelines for Self-supply and a guideline for planning Self-supply acceleration activities (this focuses on supporting woreda and regional governments in their WASH plan development). A vital point made was that Self-supply acceleration means investing in a full suite of measures to build demand, increase supply, set the enabling environment and improve access to finance. The discussion on the presentation highlighted some further critical issues. One was the need for more coordination and collaboration with agriculture sector programmes on household irrigation. Given that Self-supply ends up serving multiple uses – both domestic and productive uses for irrigation and livestock – this is vital and wokring together we may go faster. Separate sectoral programmes may rather hinder progress and cause confusion. Another key question was how to scale-up capacity building approaches for Self-supply acceleration to reach lower levels.

Can you reach universal access without Self-supply? This was a question that John Butterworth (IRC Ethiopia) asked at the start of his presentation. No was the correct answer, although Singapore was put forward as a case! He then presented a summary of the some of the existing knowledge we have on Self-supply in Ethiopia. This used findings from the National WASH Inventory, but largely drew upon the study 'A hidden resource' published in 2012. From the National WASH Inventory we know only how many families declare Self-supply sources (either their own or a neighbours) as a main drinking water source. For example, a total of 2% or 85000 households in SNNPR. This underestimates the role of Self-supply since it often serves as a secondary drinking water source and a source of water for bulk domestic uses and productive uses. The hidden resource report particularly examined the water quality of existing traditional wells. In short, this was found to be poor but with much scope for improvement. Low-cost protection was effective in reducing contamination and some Self-supply sources e.g. mechanised wells performed even better than communal water supplies. Wells with rope pumps generally performed poorly due to poor installation and inadequate protection. There is great scope for improvement, the intention of Self-supply acceleration. As well as protection and better user education, household water treatment and storage can be promoted.

Some key points from the discussion were than Self-supply should sit alongside other models. In every woreda there will be communal water supplies. Some woredas may also have significant levels of Self-supply to help reach coverage targets, whereas others may have almost none. A critical feature of Self-supply is also that it brings additional resources into the sector. While the (software) costs of Self-supply acceleration are estimated at about 8 USD per beneficiary, each dollar or investment by government and its partners is expected to generate 2 dollars investment from households. By contrast communal water supplies leverage very low additional investment. Self-supply is therefore not competing for the same resources, but (hopefully) helping the sector go further by bringing in additional finance.

Eden Kassaye from International Development Enterprises (IDE) made a presentation on how Self-supply is being implemented in 15 woredas as part of a larger UNICEF-funded project. Their approach stresses several key activities that are strongly in line with the MoWIEs approach for Self-supply acceleration (as set out in the draft guidelines). These include groundwater assessment and mapping, marketing to generate demand, promoting access to low-cost technologies (manual drilling, rope pumps, Household water treatment), and enterprise and supply chain development. The approach also links domestic and productive water needs (value chain development). In some of these woredas, Self-supply is implemented with sanitation marketing too. World vision also commented on their good experiences with manual drilling in hard formations which was challenging with the technique used by iDE, and a further point from the discussion was that a mix of technologies – hand dug wells, manual drilling, even water harvesting – can be used in different areas. That needs someone to plan and coordinate and for us all to move beyond projects: a role that government is taking on in Self-supply acceleration.

'Simple is not easy' is one slogan that is being used within the RoPSS project. Good low-cost design is hard, and cheap copy-cat manufacturers have damaged the reputation of the rope pump in Ethiopia. The country is thought to have the most rope pumps on the continent, but the technology is not being exploited to anything near its proper potential yet. Girma Senbeta presented an outline of this MoWIE and JICA collaboration (2013-16) to improve and promote use of rope pumps to support domestic and productive uses. The project, focused on SNNPR, is specifically aligning to the Self-supply service delivery model. It takes on the challenge of the existing poor quality, installation and performance of many rope pumps. The project includes activities to support development and uptake of policies and capacity building to improve the enabling environment, standardisation and improvement of quality of a range of low cost pump models, promoting behaviour changes to increase demand and safe use of wells with rope pump, and improving access to micro-finance. A survey found that micro-finance institutions had made little investment in such technology to date, but one successful example of MFI support was found where they were strong agricultural markets. Interestingly the project sets out to engage the agriculture ministry/bureau as well as the WASH sector MoU stakeholders. It was also reported that the project is working closely with iDE and the private sector. As noted in other presentations, Self-supply investments are often motivated by productive interests. A specific target of the project, which picks up needs to link Self-supply to sector monitoring and reporting, is that well-protected rope pumps will contribute to sector coverage. The participants have appreciated the work being done by the project and recommended the development of the different models of the rope pump to proceed so that the results can be disseminated to the different users in the country.

Community-Managed Projects (CMP): mainstreaming genuine participation

Beshah Mogesse (Arba Minch University), undertaking research within the CoWASH project, presented findings from Benishengul Gumz Region on the development of communal water supplies under the CMP approach (which goes further in the level of community engagement to include community contracting and decision making) and more conventional approaches to community-managed water supply. Some startling results were presented. It was found that under all approaches only 18% people consumed 15 lpcd (the sector norm) of water or more. There were also some big differences found between CMP and non-CMP modes of implementation. There was community participation in all, but participation was found to range from 'forced participation' to more genuine participation and ownership. Under CMP, 95% respondents were paying properly towards their WASHCOs compared to 60% otherwise. Beshah argued that the local context (the community, traditional and cultural structures) work well for the implementation of the 'high participation' CMP model. Another key feature of the success of its approach is the greater reach of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) as compared to banks. In the discussion, a participant from World Vision reported his experience in a project he worked on earlier that experiments with the CMP approach to financing were challenging with it taking too long to complete projects (and donor budgets couldn't be spent in time). Community participation takes time. On the other hand, the reply from the CoWASH team was that the CMP approach had actually led to faster disbursement of funds, and more rapid development of new schemes as compared to the earlier mode of financing through woredas.

A second presentation from MSc. research on the CMP approach, by Mebit Mitiku, compared implementation of the CMP approach (within the RWSEP project) and CAREs project approach in one woreda of Amhara region. His study looked at 76 water points and over 400 households in the woreda. On indicators of quantity, quality, accessibility and reliability there was very little difference in performance between the two approaches. Two interesting findings to highlight were that only 24-28% people reported using 15lpcd in terms of quantity, and reliability was in the range 56-58% i.e. poor. Some of the reasons for problems could be identified and specific recommendations were made, such as the need to improve supply chains for spare parts, appropriate design consideration during construction.

This blog post is based on extracts of full summary of symposium prepared by IRC Ethiopia for RiPPLE.


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