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The culture of neglecting maintenance needs to change.

Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in cooperation with IRC and partners organised information exchange and learning forums for water services stakeholders across six regions in Ghana in September 2016 to gather feedback on a baseline study.

The Water Forum was officially opened by CEO CWSA Mr. Clement Bugase, who spoke to 75 participants in Tamale region. He highlighted the shift from just providing water and sanitation facilities to providing sustainable, safe water services. The culture of neglecting maintenance needs to change according to Mr. Clement Bugase.

"Maintenance is a result of the observed potential to fail or failure of a system. If you observe that a system is likely to fail in the future, you must provide maintenance. Maintenance starts with cleaning, even when there is nothing to repair, clean the equipment so that it works better.... as you clean you monitor".

The need to continue to implement a robust system of monitoring and remedial measures to ensure that the facilities continue to provide services to the rural population was re-echoed across the CSWA stakeholder forums.

Facility maintenance decisions are informed by monitoring information disseminated by the District Assembly planning units to the community management committees. The committees then contract community mechanics through an SMS provision to service or replace the facilities based on the communication from the district planning authorities. The monitoring information also provides a reliable source of data and information to support district planning activities such as proposal writing, and data for promotional materials and advocacy campaigns such as the Sanitation Challenge.

The use of the monitoring data

"Monitoring is the soul of the water services provision system", says Regional Director, CWSA Northern region Mr. Ofori Maccarthy. The CWSA baseline study on the functionality and service levels for water facilities reveals that although 63.4% people have access to safe water in the rural northern region, 30% of the water facilities are not working. The study findings confirm the need for continuous monitoring of water services delivered to inform planning activities at the district and national level. CWSA Director Planning and Investment Mr Benedict Kubabom confirmed that CWSA does use information on the status of the facilities and quality of services being provided:

"A planner needs a good understanding of the status and true picture of the services being provided as this informs the work of replacing facilities and ensuring full coverage".

CWSA has used monitoring data to define the extent of coverage needed for the sector, establish the level of coverage and number of people to be served, define the level of investment needed for the planning period, and define what is required to meet full coverage.

Broadening engagement and opportunities

As part of the SMARTerWASH  project, Community Area Mechanics provided technical maintenance services in 119 districts. The Area Mechanics provide maintenance and or replacement services for water facilities based on the information on the state of the facilities across the districts. Demand for the Area Mechanics services was said to be growing in the localities they reside, following the profiling and increased visibility of the mechanics through the SMARTerWASH project.

Akvo and Skyfox are SMARTerWASH project partners providing expertise and technical support to the monitoring system based on tailored data collection and dissemination techniques. SkyFox is equipping Area Mechanics with the tools, technology, and logistics to ensure communities have clean water by repairing broken boreholes in under three days' time. Ghana’s banking sector has helped Water Management Committees to open bank accounts to streamline funds for water facility maintenance works.

Sustainability of the monitoring system

The SMARTerWASH project ends in 2016. Ensuring sustainability of water services through improved planning and management was raised as a concern at the different forums. District Assemblies are the main custodians of monitoring the water services. Integration of the monitoring activities in the district’s medium development plans and leveraging funds from the district common fund were cited as opportunities to sustain the monitoring system, and CWSA pledged to provide minor funds to support the district efforts. Participants from the different districts mentioned the following needs: (refresher) training for water committees, logistical support to reach inaccessible facilities, capacity building for monitoring and supervision, and ownership and management of the facilities.

The stakeholder meetings called for donor coordination in the provision of water services to reduce the high number of non-functional facilities. Inaugurating facilities should mark the start, not the end, of political commitment. Local leaders and politicians are the ones responsible for the sustainable provision of water services and keeping all parties (donors, government, service providers and users) motivated and involved.

Related blog:

Rural water monitoring in Ghana - leveraging partnerships for sustainable services