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How joint sector monitoring aids capacity development

Published on: 04/06/2013

Delft Symposium session takes capacity building as its central theme.

A session held on 31 May 2013 explored the clear need for strengthening the continuous collaborative monitoring process and ensuring that this process contributes to build into the capacities of sector stakeholders for providing sustainable Water and Sanitation services for all.

This session was held at the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development, where practitioners from all over the world came together from the 29 -31 May. Like its forerunners, the Symposium (its first edition already more than 22 years ago) concentrated on Capacity Building this time, with a central topic “Developing capacity from Rio to reality: Who’s taking the lead?

During the session, facilitated by Jaap Pels (IRC), Carmen Da Silva and Erma Uytewaal (both IRC) and Kerstin Danert (SKAT) shared their monitoring experiences from Honduras and Uganda with about 15 participants from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Egypt and Colombia.

Why the link between monitoring, learning and capacity development is relevant

For making action and to help the water sector by using these five simple questions: what to measure, how to measure it, how to collect data, how to analyse and present data, what to do with the data. Donaldson said in 2011 “monitoring is an ongoing process by which stakeholders obtain regular feedback on the progress being made towards achieving their goals and objectives”. At the IRC Symposium of April 2013 lessons learnt from the monitoring processes at several countries were shared:

  • Monitoring is a means to an end:  taking action to ensure that water and sanitation services reach everyone and last forever
  • Is a process, built on existing capacities and considers resources need,
  • Flexibility and realism are needed,
  • Requires multi-stakeholders cooperation and trust building to support critical reflection,
  • Transparency and commitment to change.

Learning is moving from lessons learnt to actively supporting the sector. Lessons learnt at local level feed into policy and stakeholders should systematically capture and share experiences.

A second presentation from Kerstin Danert (Skat Foundation) on Developing capacity for country-led monitoring of rural Water supplies in Uganda, guided the participants from the history of the monitoring process giving insights for reflection and comparison.

Uganda has a sector wide approach with sector resources allocated, good planning, coordination and monitoring systems.The Ugandan story goes back to 2003 and the process emphasized the importance of embedded all actors discussions into the monitoring system. During the creation process Ugandan organizations learnt how to present indicators that made sense to the sector’s different actors and how to link them to actions. For linking to actions the Sector review process and report (SRP) played a determining role. Information flew from communities to national water & environment sector working group of the rural department and from there into the report (Sector performance Report). Each year, a Sector Performance Report captures data on practically all sector investments geographic inequity, per –capita costs and community management for the entire country and is used for decision-making, policy formulation and planning.

During the last and 3rd presentation Erma Uytewaal of IRC shared her experiences on how Honduras made its own monitoring system for better service delivery in WASH. In Honduras an Intensive sector reform process took place resulting in a decentralization process. A well Performing Monitoring System (SIAR) used by National Authority targeted post-construction support, investment planning with the financial support of USAID.

The system had its limitations: Data was well collected but only disseminated among the constructors and not to users. After the funded programme finished the system was discontinued.

Purpose of SIASAR, the new monitoring system

The system was created with multi-actors collaboration and decided what to monitor (system levels of functionality, service providers and support service agencies). In this process all organizations had different standards an aligning them was a real learning process while preparing the monitoring system. The visualization part of the work was covered by an online map. The online database allows everyone in the sector to access maps with a whole range of data about the functionality and sustainability of the systems. The process contributed to learning at the municipal level as well as at the national level, and different donors at the end of the process were very interested in reading the results of the data collection.


During the discussions participants actively shared in their views and experiences. Among the subjects discussed: the need for balance on the user’s site and the importance of having their voice represented and heard. This aspect is in the cases presented as criteria which included in the monitoring system on how to distribute and guaranties were ensured from the beginning and communities were embedded in the process from the beginning.

The way information flew among different stakeholders also interested the participants. “Information is power and can be manipulated and used in difference ways, and sometimes there are forces willing to push sometimes a report one way of another and a particular type of indicators can be dangerous. It is a continuous process and the monitoring system should constantly to adapt”, said Kerstin Danert. “In Honduras the mapping can be seen as an open Source because everybody could access a map in internet but the question is, does it mean that this information is accessible to water committees? A report of a map available on the internet does not mean that the system is available and known to all”, said Erma.

When we started we were all hiding information, but through the process you start taking responsibilities because eventually the true comes out

However a “water point mapping can’t be confused with a continuous monitoring system”, added Erma. The discussion also dealt with how the experience of one country can help another. Liberia can help explain how to build up after the mapping and what the needs are. “The local government needs to know what the needs are”, said Kerstin. “When we started we were all hiding information, but through the process you start taking responsibilities because eventually the true comes out”, said Callist Tindimugaya, Regional Coordinator  of the Nile  IWRM Net.

Another participant, Christine from Nairobi wanted to know more on evidence base learning. Practical experiences are taken when IRC facilitates a conference in a place. The experiences are coming from this process, not only the concept, but by what is also happening on the ground. This can also be fed by data. The formal structure means that there is a process where specific groups in place to ensure that data is verify. Formal structures could be national sector working group, district level coordination committee who could do more analysis on challenges. Indicators not always represent the most important part like sustainability. In Sri Lanka sanitation coverage of 98 % misled the government. When it came to sanitation we measured the toilet type but not how the system works. We did something wrong at the beginning in selecting the indicators and now we will consider sustainability indicators. It is important what comes from global but it is not always right.

In terms of learning from others like from Uganda’s example, it was considered an aspect that needed more thoughts and follow up. Lessons: WASH Service delivery monitoring has potential for strengthening capacity to better target post construction and policy and strategy development based on evidence. But for that you need people who can do that. For that it also requires strengthening capacity for monitoring itself. You need to start simple and gradually build to a more comprehensive system with a broad geographical scope.

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