Published on: 01/12/2009
WASHCost works in countries with learning alliances of influential stakeholders, doing research with those who need to use the results, rather than doing it for them. In Mozambique, WASHCost has not needed to set up a stakeholder forum, as it is fitting into a fully functioning coordination and learning body that includes all those active in the WASH sector.
The Water and Sanitation Group (GAS) is coordinated and chaired by the National Directorate of Water (DNA) and acts as technical support forum to government in addressing WASH targets. Government departments responsible for rural and urban water, sanitation, planning, health and water regulation are involved. GAS also includes donors, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector. Between 15 and 30 people attend on the last Friday morning of every month. The National Water Directorate (DNA) advises new entrants to the WASH sector to attend GAS meetings to find out what is happening.
GAS was established around the turn of the Millennium to coordinate efforts by government, donors and NGOs at a time when donor aid was increasing rapidly. Over the years it has moved from emergency aid, to rehabilitation and is now increasingly involved in longer term planning for sustainable services.
Angelina Xavier, specialist in water and sanitation for UNICEF Mozambique, says that this is a place where stakeholders can learn from each other.“It is a really useful learning platform. We are there not only to give information but to receive feedback from what is going on. We focus on how programmes are operating in the real world.” WASHCost got off to a good start by feeding back the results of its pilot research in Nampula province to the GAS group, says Xavier. “WASHCost was very open. They asked if their preliminary outcomes were right and if they were going in the right direction. Everyone said ‘don’t wait for the final results – we want to be part of this’.”
She predicts that WASHCost will be most beneficial in helping the government to plan budgets for the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation programme “not just the cost of the infrastructure but the life-cycle costs” helping to turn annual budgeting into real budgets on the ground.
Fernando Pililao, water and sanitation programme officer for Swiss Development Agency (SDC), also believes that WASHCost will play a key role in the learning process. When donors wanted to research a lower cost option to the Afridev pump for shallow boreholes, GAS set up a working group to investigate low-cost rope pump technology as used in Nicaragua and Madagascar. Now the rope-pump is in the process of winning government approval as a national option in rural areas.
Pililao believes WASHCost can play a similar role through GAS in advising on the right mix of technologies for peri-urban areas. “It will be easy for WASHCost to gather and share information about costs in rural and peri-urban areas if there is a scenario that most of the key players like government and donors, NGOs and private sector has the space to meet and agree and discuss these issues and options. Donors, private sector, government, NGOs can sit down to look at the picture about costs in Mozambique especially from the perspective of sustainability.”
Those who have worked in the sector for many years had started from the need to deal with an emergency, and then moved on to address rehabilitation. The problem was that communities learned how to repair the pumps themselves, while NGOs brought spare parts and even pumps from Maputo to the provinces. He says it is time to see that selling spare parts and pumps should be a business as well as a social service. “If the private sector is not involved especially in the supply of spare parts and pumps we never will maintain the water scheme in rural areas.”
WASHCost Mozambique is also making extensive use of the media to reach stakeholders, exploiting the strong contacts that Documentation and Communication Officer, Egidio Vaz Raposo has with journalists in Mozambique. The project is also working closely with partners such as the Bureau of Statistics, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), and SINAS, the national information system for water and sanitation.
WASHCost Mozambique is embedded by the very way it is structured in the country, hosted by the private sector Cowater Consultancy, and given strong backing by The National Water Directorate (DNA).
Claudette Lavallee, general manager of Cowater, said: “Here in Mozambique we are all working together. We already have some kind of a history and easy communication between us. I think everything is about communication – if we manage to communicate especially with the research – then it is easy.
“WASHCost could give tools to get better programmes from the government and from the private sector. We will have a better benchmark, of where the costs are. We are now trying to lobby the donors to have longer term projects so we can see the real sustainability and the real impact. With all those costs, it would be easier for the donors to do that evaluation and commit for the longer term.”
Increasing the effectiveness of WASH services is of course the aim. Arjen Naafs, WASHCost country coordinator, says: “We should not forget that in everything we are doing, the real objective is to help the poor to have more and better access to water and sanitation to improve the possibilities for future generations here in Mozambique and internationally.”
Author: Peter McIntyre