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Launching Kabarole’s WASH master plan: why ownership matters

Published on: 18/03/2019

In Uganda we follow and support where local government leads.

Harriet Burungu, water user, Kabarole District, Uganda

Written by Jane Nabunnya Mulumba and Patrick Moriarty.

WASH master plans are a milestone in a process of district level collective action. They outline the shared vision, sense of purpose and long-term goals and objectives for all water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities in the local government. Their development is therefore an important step in the overall development of the district.  

On February 28, Kabarole district local government launched its 2030 WASH master plan at a colourful ceremony held at the district headquarters and officiated by Honourable Jennifer Namuyangu, Uganda's State Minister for Local Governments. Several representatives witnessed the launch including; the President’s representative in Kabarole, the District Executive Committee, the District Speaker, District and Sub county councillors and Heads of Departments, Ministry of Water and Environment, the National Planning Authority and Civil Society Organisations (UWASNET, WaterAid, Water for People, Aquaya Institute, JESE, HEWASA).

In his remarks, the Chairperson of Kabarole district, Mr. Richard Rwabuhinga confirmed that the master plan “includes all aspects of effective natural resources management, WASH, a description of the factors and actors that determine the WASH services delivered, what the district needs to determine the right infrastructure, robust institutions, implementable legislation, regulation, effective planning, financing, monitoring and learning from our experiences”.

The Chief Administrative Officer, Ms. Sanyu Phionah explained that the master plan provides “a big picture for the district and is in line with all the seven strategies designed to achieve the district’s vision and mission. It will contribute to fulfilment of the district’s strategies of accelerating revenue as it is itself a proposal for resource mobilisation, improving levels of education and literacy in the district and will increase access to adequate and quality health services through increased WASH services in health care facilities”.

Launching the master plan, Hon. Namuyangu emphasised that the master plan “spells out the direction and actions required to ensure that every citizen in Kabarole district has access to safe WASH services by 2030”. She affirmed that the master plan “was only a plan that must be implemented, a dream must be actualised and one that requires the efforts of actors from different sectors’.

Importance of WASH master plans in IRC’s work

The Kabarole district master plan is the third master plan to have been launched in one of IRC’s partner districts in the last 12 months, following on the heels of Asutifi North in Ghana (March, 2018) and Banfora in Burkina Faso (October 2018). Each launch was a major event, involving national and local government from national and local level together with their development partners.

Each of these master plans is the product of a long and intensive participatory process: of mapping of the current status of access to water and sanitation; of developing a shared vision of universal access; and of identifying the steps required over the coming years to deliver that vision. As such, they mark the end of one part of a process, and the start of another. The end of initial vision development and problem identification to the start of delivery and implementation.

Each of these master plans also represents an important political and social intervention in the district WASH system. That is why the ownership of the process by local, political and technical government is so important, as is the involvement of all the district actors involved in WASH. It is also why such a high profile is given to the launches, which are done in front of traditional leadership, civil society and the press. Political leadership is absolutely critical to achieving the water and sanitation sustainable development goals, without it there is no chance of providing services to everyone let along leaving no one behind. This is because, as the low hanging fruits are picked and service levels increase, getting to the last unserved will become ever more technically and financially demanding. Only with strong political leadership can the resources be mobilised and the compromises brokered to ensure that, in the end, everyone is served.

Stimulating and supporting political leadership lies at the heart of IRC’s strategy. It is why we are committed to partnering with the districts for as long as they need and want us – but only that long. This was a point that we both made during the launch in Kabarole: we follow and support where government leads, and we urge all other development partners to do the same. Ownership of the master plan and leadership of its delivery is with government – in this case the Kabarole district council and its WASH task team. This district task team itself is an innovation emerging from the Kabarole master planning process, drawing members from all of the main groups of actors involved in the delivery of WASH services – including health centres and schools.

Implementing the master plans

Developing a master plan is, as we have already said, not an end in itself. It is a significant milestone on the road to universal access. What follows is what counts. We, the broad group of partners in the district, know we do not have the answers, yet. The back of the envelope calculations, contained in the master plan, of what it will cost to deliver the plan are daunting – more than US$ 60 million between now and 2030. There are major questions as to what are the best models for delivering water and even more so for sanitation services. The focus, therefore, will now shift to working this out in more detail, identifying bankable projects and securing funding for these, all the time learning while doing and maintaining political leadership and the active engagement of all the different district level actors. 

To support these processes IRC, in what we call our hub role, will continue to support the district and all the partners within it: supporting collective action. We will continue with our capacity support to the district water office and the WASH task team, immediately and specifically with financial analysis and project identification and preparation. As importantly, we’ll continue to support all the partners in the district to meet and reflect on the process, and to document lessons learned. An important mechanism for maintaining focus on the master plan will be an annual review meeting convened by the district and attended by all the different actors during which the latest data on coverage rates will be shared, new investment plans discussed and emerging problems and challenges identified.

By supporting this process we believe we can support Chairman Rwabuhinga and his team in keeping the master plan as a living breathing vision – and avoid that it joins all the many other similar plans clogging up the cupboards of governments around the world.

As we have said, the master plan is a milestone, an artefact of a political and social process. Its development was also an intervention, one guided by our belief that such processes and products are essential tools in generating and binding political engagement and supporting collective action. To assess the effectiveness of this intervention we will be documenting the process as it rolls out, with a particular eye to how both process and document can garner political and societal support for delivering on the vision. The work of documenting, assessing and learning is being supported by the USAID Sustainable WASH Systems Partnership.

IRC’s work as a hub is supported, in particular, by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and DGIS, both of whom are gratefully acknowledged.

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