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Mayor of Banfora launches his district's strategic plan to achieve SDG 6.

This blog was co-authored by Patrick Moriarty, CEO of IRC.

Banfora strategic plan launch ceremony.

Friday 5th October 2018, the implementation stage of Banfora’s strategic plan for SDG 6 was launched during a solemn ceremony in the district's function hall. It marks a milestone in Banfora’s work towards achieving SDG 6. This blog examines how political leadership in Banfora makes a difference at country level and generates new pathways for effectively addressing the challenges of SDG 6.

During the launch, Mr Aboubakar Hema, Mayor of Banfora set out his ambitions: “Our vision is clear. By 2030, dynamic communal governance will have made Banfora a reference in terms of access to sustainable drinking water and sanitation services everywhere, for everyone and at any time. We want Banfora to become the reference at national level and beyond.”

The critical role of local authorities in delivering drinking water and sanitation services is well established. They are responsible, in particular, for developing and managing the assets (or facilities) for service delivery, as well as for the regulation of services and the supervision of service providers. To do this, municipalities must set ambitions and identify strategies that are adapted to the challenges of their local context. Banfora has engaged with this challenge by developing a strategic plan for public water and sanitation services over the period 2018 - 2030. The strategic plan is the roadmap that will guide the actions of the town hall and all its partners to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all, everywhere and at all times by 2030. The strategy was developed in 2017 and 2018, supported by IRC and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (Banfora is IRC's principal partner municipality in Burkina, as it is for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Safe Water Strategy). It is both a vision and roadmap and was adopted by the Banfora Municipal Council on March 30, 2018.

Challenges to overcome

Following the introduction of the vision and ambition by the Mayor, Mr Hema, the chief of Banfora’s water and sanitation department, M. Koné Tiécoura presented the strategic plan to the audience. He started with the challenge, explaining that: “nobody in Banfora is currently enjoying safely managed water or sanitation services as defined in SDG 6. 69% are provided with a basic water service, 60% are using unimproved sanitation services and 8% of the population is still defecating in the open. Additionally, population growth between 2017 and 2030 is estimated at 53%.”

Banfora is, therefore, facing a major and complex set of challenges. To address these, the plan is built around five strategic components: 1) improvement in the organisational performance of the municipality; 2) full coverage with drinking water services; 3) full coverage with sanitation services; 4) professional operating and maintenance of services; 5) citizen’s empowerment and participation.

The overall cost of the plan is estimated at 26 million Euros divided into 3 phases. Phase 1: 2018-2020 for 12 million Euros; Phase 2: 2021-2025 for 8 million Euros and Phase 3: 2026-2030 for 6 million Euros.

A different approach to implementation

Despite an original approach and creative content based on IRC’s system strengthening approach, Banfora’s strategic plan is not, in and of itself anything particularly special in Burkina. It is very common for municipalities to adopt strategies and plans, albeit ones in which local authorities have very little control over the content, and which they (and other actors) therefore very rarely use as a decision-making tool. Everyone is aware of those plans that do little more than furnish dusty shelves or sink into oblivion without ever having been opened again.  Even when there is the will to use the plans, the absence or insufficiency of financial resources paralyses local authorities.

So it’s the implementation of the plan in Banfora that is very different. From the start, the mobilisation of partnerships and resources by local authorities has been identified as a priority for action, indeed, this is already underway. Immediately after the adoption by the municipal council, between June and September 2018, the Mayor of Banfora, Mr Hema, organised the mobilisation of the actors of its territory, of national authorities and of external partners. The logic of this approach is simple. The future of Banfora lies above all in the commitment of its citizens (economic operators, social, cultural, religious and traditional leaders, politicians, the media, community organisations, etc.).

Based on the commitment of his fellow citizens, the Mayor was able to visit several government ministers and parliamentarians with the purpose of soliciting their support for the strategic plan. As part of this, he obtained the commitment of the Minister of State, Simon Compaoré, Burkina Faso's second most influential political figure (and a popular former mayor of Ouagadougou), to patronise the plan’s launch ceremony.  After having obtained the promises of support from various national authorities, the Mayor also met a dozen external bilateral or multilateral cooperation partners to submit the strategic plan. From the various consultations, it emerged that a significant amount of funding from external development assistance is available from the Ministry of Water and Sanitation and the National Office of Water and Sanitation (ONEA). The challenge now for Mr Hema is to position his municipality effectively to capture a significant share of these resources to achieve the first phase of his strategic plan.

It was after these preliminary stages of mobilisation that the Banfora City Council organised what they refer to as the launch of the implementation of the strategic plan. The ceremony was patronised by Mr. Simon Compaoré in the presence of a large part of the municipal council, local leaders, the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, the national water utility (ONEA) and several NGOs, associations and private operators. The objective of the formal launch was to publicise the commitments of the key actors to the implementation of the plan and to stimulate strengthened governance through mutual accountability. In the words of Mayor Hema, “the success and relevance of this process, however, remain largely dependent on our ability to ensure its practical implementation. That is why, the municipal council through me, makes a firm commitment for implementation under its mandate through a plan of action for the years 2018-2021. In addition, the municipality, with all its stakeholders, agree that this plan transcends the terms of office of municipal councils. It must remain the parchment that leads to the achievement of our goals for drinking water and sanitation by 2030 and beyond.”

Financial commitments

In this dynamic, the first innovation in this strategic plan when compared to previous practices was in getting the commitment of the influential actors in Banfora. Traditionally, local plans are developed to mobilise external partners, often without much ownership or involvement of local authorities themselves. Yet we are convinced that this approach merely cultivates dependence on external aid for all socio-community investments.

For the implementation of the strategic plan, the economic operators of Banfora, the diaspora and all the actors involved in the economy and wealth creation in Banfora have been challenged, and have made the commitment, to get involved financially. Thus funding solutions based on local resources will be explored, including through local taxes. The municipality is also exploring possibilities to develop transfers (in the form of grants or subsidies) from the productive sectors (of which Banfora has many) to the water and sanitation sector – under the heading of social responsibility and solidarity.  Finally, the municipality will also promote direct solidarity within ethnic or religious communities or within families. This last form of solidarity is seen as an important lever for financing the access of vulnerable households to adequate toilets, but also the payment of the water tariff.

In addition to this commune level resource mobilisation, the Mayor and his colleagues have also been targeting central government and the national resources it controls. Mr Compaoré said during the ceremony to the people of Banfora "You are not the most important city in Burkina Faso but you have done something that positions you, that directs, that sets an example which advances the situation of the inhabitants of the communes of Burkina. I will tell the Minister of Water and Sanitation that Banfora deserves special support ".  As it is, central government is already the largest financing and technical assistance partner of Burkina Faso's municipalities as it controls the most important part of external development aid in addition to the domestic resources of the state.  It is therefore very promising that the highest national authorities are firmly committed to supporting the implementation of Banfora's strategic plan, and Minister Compaoré's statements are unequivocal about this commitment.

The Mayor of Banfora’s choice to ask this minister to represent the government was very strategic, attracting the attention of national decision makers and marking a real departure from usual practice – where the more normal approach is to kick off implementation of a plan with a round table of external donors - or laying the foundation stone for new infrastructure.

Communal leadership

Looking beyond the festive and symbolic nature of the launch ceremony, this is a real life exercise in communal leadership for achieving SDG 6. This leadership has been demonstrated through the capacity of the Mayor of Banfora and his municipal executive to mobilise and engage the actors of their territory and the national authorities to bring a vision.  Minister of State Compaoré's comments eloquently testify to the exceptional nature of this leadership: "You know, you can raise enough money, financial means that come from the partners and the city's own efforts. But if you do not have the common guiding thread, you would have not done a good job. So this document, this communal strategic plan allows any Mayor who will come to the Municipality of Banfora, not to go astray in hazardous investments but to follow a solid technical plan and well oriented roadmap. This kind of tool is necessary and indispensable for the governance of communal policies in our communes whether urban or rural. So, really, if I wanted to be here today, it is that not only Banfora is a city that wins big in Burkina and deserves to be supported but also, it is because of your boldness ".

IRC is proud to have supported Mayor Hema and his team in taking this essential step. After providing expertise for the development of the strategic plan, our role has been to continue to advise the Mayor and the team of the municipality to prepare and execute each stage of mobilisation of local, national and international actors. We will continue to play this role – of steadfast friend, counsellor and facilitator to Banfora Town Hall until 2030 thanks (in part) to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.  We will support the Mayor to involve new partners who will provide complementary expertise and resources for the implementation of the strategic plan. We will equally support Banfora in experimenting with relevant solutions for the professional management of services.  Finally, we will support the Mayor and his team in ensuring that, each year Banfora City Council organises a joint review of Banfora's performance in drinking water and sanitation service provision. This annual review will be an opportunity to check progress, learn, develop synergies and develop a joint annual plan with clear budget and commitments for financing. These regular exercises are at the heart of our strategy to build the capacity and leadership of the city council.

In the meantime, we rejoice that, on the basis of the first results Banfora is already referenced at the highest national level, as a model to follow in terms of water and sanitation by all 351 communes of Burkina Faso.

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