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Published on: 01/04/2021

As the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector seeks to support progress quickly towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), several beneficial tools have been developed to foster progress. One is to develop Master Plans that provide a roadmap for how a set of partners; including government, NGOs, private sector, donors, and other stakeholders; can provide their contributions and move together towards a shared vision. Developing this type of collaborative, detailed, and long-term plan for an entire district is an accomplishment to be celebrated; indeed, the celebration itself often serves as an influencing and partnership development opportunity. To date, at least four countries [Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda] have master plans leading to 2030, but when the launching celebration is over we are left with the question – now what?

A learning event on February 19, 2021, convened by IRC and Millennium Water Alliance with the topic, “The art of master planning and leveraging strategic partnerships” suggested the answer to this question is: Use the master plan – creatively and consistently as there is no perfect linear path.

The initial thinking behind the development of master plans was that if you have a fully costed plan for how to achieve SDG 6 targets across a district, the plan will do two things: 1. Provide a point of entry to utilise methods beyond ‘business as usual’ and push the sector toward systems approaches and 2. Serve as a roadmap to be shared with funders which would result in full funding to achieve the plan. The reality of course is always messier than the initial thinking (see this document to learn more about the messiness of an envisioned planning process versus reality). Once the master plans were finished, next steps were murkier than hoped and new funding did not immediately appear.

But one district provides an example of how to figure out what comes next and make it happen. The learning session featured Juste Nansi, Country Director for IRC Burkina Faso. Juste presented the creative efforts of the Mayor and other stakeholders of Banfora District in Burkina Faso to work creatively to reach out to a multitude of potential stakeholders. The developed master plan identified a finance gap (difference between available funds and funds needed to implement the master plan) of 30.4 million USD. Once the plan was developed the Mayor of Banfora took up the mantle and went to anyone and everyone to find creative sources of funding to get to full coverage.  Funding partners included:

  • Communities via tariffs and household investments
  • Local businesses (e.g. bakeries, hotels, restaurants, trades people, materials suppliers)
  • Diaspora communities living in other areas of Burkina Faso and abroad
  • National water utility
  • Central government
  • International NGOs and donors.

District WASH master plans from Banfora, Kabarole, Asutifi North, and Beregadougou.

The Mayor also used the master plan to advocate to the national water utility and the national government to provide more funding and support to show great progress for water in Banfora. One way the district jump-started these efforts was to host a major launch ceremony for the finalised master plan. This event was chaired by a National State Minister who made a significant public commitment to the plan and funding during the ceremony. These efforts have been successful in leveraging 12.5 million USD in increased funding to support the implementation of the master plan. The Mayor of Banfora has continued to utilise public events to raise awareness of the master plan and to advocate for more funding and partnerships. This has been so successful that national media have been reporting on the progress of the master plan in Banfora. Finally, the Mayor developed a Master Plan Investor’s Platform where information related to planning, reporting, and learning is shared regularly with contributors to the plan.

The efforts in Banfora to obtain the funding to implement the master plan required not just using the plan to ask for money but also intensive efforts to build and strengthen partnerships with multiple sectors, including new actors who were not previously involved in funding WASH.   

Following these insights from Juste three other experts including Jane Nabunnya, IRC Uganda Country Director; Abiy Girma, Head of National One WASH Coordination Office, Ethiopia; James Ata-Era, Asutifi North District Planning Officer, Ghana, provided their reflections on the use of the master plan in Banfora and what they have seen in their own countries and districts.

One of the most interesting aspects of the learning session was the similarities that emerged from all four country situations. All four identified that:

  1. Understanding where resources (money and in-kind support) come from is an important step.
  2. Local government leadership (ownership) of development, use, and implementation of the plan is critically important.
  3. Government has a critical role in coordinating the roles and contributions of each partner.
  4. Partnerships are required if you expect to get far in funding and implementing the master plan.

The audience was very engaged throughout the presentations and discussion. Insightful questions were raised both by the panellists for each other and by the audience. Select questions included:

  • If you raise all the money to implement the master plans – does the district have the adsorption capacity to fully utilise the resources? 
  • How would the options and progress be different if the baseline coverage rates were much lower and the finance required much higher as a starting point for this work? Would as much progress be possible if the starting point was even more challenging?
  • Is it possible to suggest what funding and partnerships were made available due to the master plan versus what might have been obtained regardless?
  • What are ideas and suggestions for how to build on the work done thus far to scale the use of master plan development as a nation-wide practice?
  • Is this a zero-sum process whereby new funds coming into this district means funding to another district has to decrease?

Many of these questions do not currently have simple answers and it remains up to all stakeholders working in water to continue innovating and piloting new systems approaches to push our collective learning forward.

To conclude the session Magdalene Matthews of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation shared that while the master plans are an excellent resource, the process of developing the plans is just as important in the way it brings stakeholders together to coalesce around a shared vision for how to address challenges in a district. The Hilton Foundation wants to continue providing support in ways that are aligned with local and national government priorities and focused on system strengthening approaches that should result in high-performing districts that can serve as demonstration districts to promote scale. The Hilton Foundation views the master plans as having a strategic role in driving increased financing to districts, supporting and ensuring government ownership and leadership, and fostering the development of strategic partnerships for improved sustainability and impact. Magdalene’s final words looking forward served to inspire session attendees to continue advancing on this sometimes messy path, piloting, learning, and engaging together to progress towards the SDGs.

More Learning

For more resources and learning you can view the full session recording here or visit this webpage for extensive resources on the Collective Action work of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Safe Water Strategy grantees.

Blog information

Authors: Laura Brunson of Millennium Water Alliance and Juste Nansi of IRC
Review/Editing by: John Butterworth, Vera van der Grift and Tettje van Daalen

Information about the series

This e-learning series is convened by IRC with topic-specific assistance from other partners. The series is open to all Safe Water Strategy partners and friends and aims to support cross-context learning and strategic exchange within the Safe Water Strategy community. Funding for the e-learning series is generously provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Next topics for the e-learning series

  • April – Improving water quality in different settings 
  • May – Finance



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