Skip to main content

Published on: 04/05/2021


The WASH sector continues to suffer gross under-prioritisation by governments in many countries around the globe, despite the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda in 2015 which assigned SDG6 exclusively to water and sanitation for all.

It is not much different for Uganda. State and non-state actors in the WASH sector are galvanising efforts to push for increased investment and 100% coverage, within the national development frameworks. 

“While we acknowledge the budget constraints that the government is experiencing, it cannot go without mention that to achieve the targets of 2030 and 2040, the current budget allocation to water and sanitation must be increased nine times,” said Mr Jeremiah Nyagah, Chairman Board of UWASNET.

Meeting the aspirations of National Development Plan III

Uganda’s Third National Development Plan (NDPIII) 2020/21 – 2024/25 is the third in a series of six NDPs that define and set targets for the sustainable socio-economic transformation of the nation, towards achieving Uganda’s Vision 2040.  The NDPIII is presented under the theme Sustainable Industrialization for Inclusive Growth, Employment and Wealth Creation.  It is a shift from the sector-wide to the programmatic approach, with 18 programmes linked to 5 key objectives namely: value addition in key growth opportunities; job creation; enhancing the productivity and social wellbeing of the population and strengthening the role of the state in guiding and facilitating development.  As such, a Programme Based Budgeting System (PBBS) has been introduced, with government ministries, departments as well as non-state actors expected to align their frameworks to meet the aspirations of the NDPIII. 

National dialogue in Kampala

On 27 April 2021, civil society under the umbrella of Uganda Water and Sanitation Network (UWASNET) together with the Ministry of Water and Environment held a national dialogue in Kampala. This was run with the support of the WASH Agenda for Change partners in Uganda engaging the National Planning Authority (NPA) to help sector actors understand and incorporate the Third National Development Plan (NDPIII) within their strategic agendas. 

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment Mr Alfred Okot Okidi, in his opening remarks delivered by Director of Water Development at the Ministry of Water and Environment Eng. Joseph Eyatu Oriono, re-emphasised the importance of good working relations between government and civil society.

“In a dialogue, we come with open minds and chart it out together. I invite us to be open to learning and sharing, to feedback and criticism so that we can move forward.” – Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary MWE.

Finding solutions together

The objective of the dialogue was therefore to unpack the NDPIII and share opportunities for WASH civil society to actively participate alongside the Government of Uganda in delivering the targets of the 5-year plan. 

“Sometimes as government, we are lost in short term immediate solutions, whose end or future remains a blur. It is through the Ministry’s collaboration with civil society research and capacity building in maintenance and life cycle costing, that the WASH sector has come to appreciate a sustainable whole systems approach,” Eng. Joseph Eyatu, Director of Water Development, Ministry of Water and Environment.   

This dialogue was born out of the need to realign WASH programmes to the new approach. 

“The language [of national planning] has changed, yet we must continue to contribute to the agenda of supporting service delivery and strengthening WASH systems,” says Jane Nabunnya Mulumba, IRC Uganda Country Director and moderator of the NDPIII dialogue. “As WASH actors, we are bound to find ourselves in unfamiliar spaces. The NPA will help us identify which spaces we can we occupy and how we can contribute.” 

The place of WASH in NDPIII agenda 

Only two out of the 18 programmes of the NDPIII explicitly include plans and prospects for WASH and the environment: 

  • the Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change, Land and Water Management programme (Chapter 9):  aims to reduce environmental degradation and the adverse effects of climate change as well as improve utilisation of natural resources for sustainable economic growth and livelihood security. 
  • the Human Capacity Development Programme (Chapter 16): aims to improve productivity and ensure better quality of life for all. Specifically, it highlights a) access to inclusive safe water, sanitation and hygiene with emphasis on increasing coverage of improved toilet facilities and handwashing practices; b) investing in effective management of the entire sanitation value chain including containment, emptying, transportation, treatment, safe reuse or disposal.  

Core to the NDPIII agenda is to build a modern, people-centred, independent, integrated, resilient and self-sustaining national economy. 

“68.9% Ugandans still live in the subsistence economy, and a poverty reversal from 19.7% in 2012 to 21.4% in 2016/17 specifically in eastern, northern and Karamoja regions" – Mr Ronald Kaggwa, Manager Production Trade & Tourism Planning at National Planning Authority (NPA). 

Leaving no one behind

But the quality of life has everything to do with access to safe and sustainable water resources. Participants pointed out that the regions highlighted in the poverty reversal trends were prone to climate change attacks and needed water resource management reforms urgently. 

“Teso region has experienced floods and drought in extremes over the last three years. People cannot do their farming in both extremes. How will they get out of poverty?” noted Mr. Samuel Otoba, Commissioner Policy and Planning at MWE.  

National Planning Authority underscored the obligation of all stakeholders, both state and non-state to align to the NDPIII agenda in their planning and implementation processes. Specifically civil society were called upon to support the government’s partner in ensuring that no one is left behind. 

“As CSOs you have the contextual evidence and research, the tools and numerous stories of change from the community. We urge you to document and share your knowledge beyond the areas where you work so that others in the country can learn and adopt the good practices,” Kaggwa noted. 

Business un-usual but an opportunity for collective action

The shift in programming has fragmented the sector across industrialisation, human capital development and natural resources. This creates default synergies between the Ministry of Education and Sports as host of the core WASH objectives and the Ministry of Water and Environment with the mandate on natural resources. 

Dr Patrick Moriarty, Chief Executive Officer of IRC and Chair of the Steering Committee of the global partnership Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) encourages the sector in Uganda to use the NDPIII as an opportunity to profile WASH as core to all aspects of development.

“We know that WASH cuts across all targets, but there is a risk of narrowing our ambition to the 5 years and losing sight of SDG6 by 2030,” remarked Dr Moriarty.

Actions adopted by WASH CSOs at the end of the dialogue, include resource mobilisation to fund the relevant sub-groups and committee, participation in monitoring and evaluation, and Programme Implementation Plans (PIAPs), continued partnerships with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as in their areas of operation and involvement as members in sub-groups and committees. 

“UWASNET is committed to supporting our members through coordination and representation on the sub-programmes,” said Yunia Musaazi, Eexcutive Director UWASNET. 

Ms Cate Nimanya, Country Director Water For People made the clarion call to members to endeavour to find inroads within the NDPIII so that they can complement rather than compete with government targets. 

The Ministry of Water and Environment committed to nominate civil society participants to the various actions depending on expertise and proximity.  

The WASH CSOs national NDPIII dialogue attracted about 65 participants from civil society, government agencies, development partners, academic institutions and the media.


Back to
the top