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Published on: 25/05/2020

A system is like blood circulation, if not flowing well, the wellbeing of the entity is at stake. One of the biggest problems of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector is the inability to build a resilient system. There are WASH schemes in place, but most are failing prematurely. This is one of the indications of a poor WASH system. 

The USAID Sustainable WASH Systems learning partnership (SWS) is working on WASH system strengthening in South Ari, Baka Dawla and Woba Ari woredas in the South Omo Zone in the Southern, Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) and Mile Woreda in Afar Region. The project focuses on supporting and strengthening government-led monitoring and rural water maintenance at the regional, zonal and woreda levels, and promotes learning and collaboration on area-wide systems approaches at the national level. Learning alliance platforms are the major means of achieving its targets towards coordination and collective actions. 

The learning alliance approach is a process of organising multiple stakeholders (key individuals, groups and organisations) to undertake joint research, learning and sharing, and to implement concerted actions aimed at addressing commonly identified problems towards a desired outcome in which each participant has a stake.

Woreda planning teams

During the July 2019 learning alliance meeting discussion, the concept of developing woreda WASH master plans emerged. The three woredas established planning teams involving different woreda government WASH stakeholders and chaired by Woreda Water, Mines and Energy Office heads. SWS developed and provided an Excel planning tool, trained the planning team on the use of the tool and is facilitating the process and providing technical backstopping. Filling in the information sheets in September 2019, IRC WASH organised a woreda SDG planning/WASH master planning workshop in collaboration with three SWS pilot woredas of South Omo Zone (Baka Dawla, South Ari and Woba Ari).

A second workshop was organised in February 2020 to evaluate and discuss the progress made on the entry of woreda information. All the three woredas presented their data entry, and successes and challenges were discussed. To complete the woreda information sheet of the planning tool, each woreda was expected to provide information on their schemes by kebele, type, beneficiary number, status of the schemes and served and unserved population by kebele. Some of this data was not readily available and woredas were required to collect the information using their own resources. 

Upon completing the woreda information sheet and having a good understanding of the woreda water supply coverage, the planning team will set the 2030 woreda vision for full WASH coverage which needs to be endorsed by the Woreda WASH Team (WWT). The vision shows the service levels the woredas intend to attain by 2030. Visioning is an iterative process and can be revised at a later stage based on implementation capacity and resource requirements.

From the February 2020 SDG planning workshop, a lot of discussion was generated and there was an exchange of experiences. The capacity of the woredas in planning has improved and in the long term this will strengthen their support to water scheme management. 

The team agreed on the timeline for filling in the different sheets of the tool, the narrative report and the need to validate at the end with the woreda council. SWS expressed commitment to support the process and organise learning alliance meetings to support the process.

Status in the various woredas 

Ashebir Wondimu, the Head of Woba Ari Woreda Water, Mines and Energy Office said that the woreda WASH master plan is a new roadmap that will help them in achieving SDG target 6.1. To start the master plan process in Woba Ari Woreda, factual data was collected from the community level, according to Ashebir. After assessing the served/unserved populations by kebele and status of water schemes, they started to look for solutions. The budget needed, the source of the budget, the water schemes that need maintenance and new schemes to be built were separately outlined in the Excel matrix. 

Yohannis Melti, the Head of Debub Ari Woreda Water, Mines and Energy Office, said that the planning tool includes every activity to be performed to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The planning will be helpful to show the gaps and serve as evidence in asking partner organisations for support. 

So far, there was not clear evidence from every woreda of South Omo Zone, according to Alemayehu Angise, Deputy Head of Zonal Water, Mines and Energy Department. He said that South Omo Zone will use the Woreda SDG planning document for budget allocation and to get funding from partner organisations (mobilising resources). 

According to Muhammed Ibrahim, IRC WASH’s local facilitator, some of the challenges within the planning process are competing priorities for the planning team members and hence pushing the work to a few  members of the planning team, lack of readily available data for planning, lack of continuous support to the planning team and lack of follow up from the respective leaderships. 

Generally, the expedition for proper planning has started, the three woredas are engaged in it and the SWS project is working together with them. It looks like a nice step forward to achieving SDG 6.1.

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