Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Water and Sanitation Challenges: Making it work

A paper presented by Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji at Mrs Genevieve Flight’s 33rd Birthday party / Community water scheme fund raising ceremony; held at the Conservatory Cafe bar, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK on Saturday, 23rd January 2010

The Imo State Water Supply and Sanitation project was a pilot intervention launched in late 1982. The project was designed to improve health and hygiene in poor rural communities through low-cost technology and appropriate educational support. The project had installed boreholes with hand pumps, promoted ventilated improved pit latrines, provided health and hygiene education through village- based workers and encouraged a high level of community involvement in each of the three beneficial villages.

An important component was the evaluation of its impact on health. This evaluation was a collaborative venture undertaken by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Imo State Government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos.

Despite the result of the widely shared and globally disseminated report on that pilot UNICEF project in Nigeria, Imo State, almost three decades after, just like many other states in Nigeria is still unable to provide potable water to even one-tenth of its population. At the moment, not one of its 27 local government council areas can boast of a functional water supply scheme, it initiated. The central water supply scheme in the state capital, Owerri; otherwise known as the Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC), is near comatose as its supplies have remained most intermittent and dry over the past 10 years.

At this occasion, it would be germane to find out where people living in Owerri metropolis and its satellite areas like World Bank estate, Egbeada, Amakohia, Orji, Nekede etc get their regular water supplies?; How about those living in sparsely dispersed rural communities of Uzinomi in Uboma; Obeabor in Izombe and even Ndi Imoko Aro Ndi Izuogu get their water supplies?

Getting water supplies to sustain water, sanitation and hygiene needs many of the poor people in these communities is a daily struggle. While those in urban areas often get their water by queuing for hours, sometimes for over 30 minutes to buy water from private commercial boreholes; those in some of the rural communities get theirs from potentially polluted streams and rivers.

Improving the situation and creating sustainable access to water supplies is no doubt a major development challenge that should be given the utmost priority attention by the Imo State Government. A background analysis reveals either insincerity on the side of government or outright corruption by all those responsible for project implementation and fund release.
In 2006 former Governor Achike Udenwa in an address at the 1st Imo State water summit had claimed that his administration had invested the sum of N800 million on water facilities since 1999. The N800 million according to the governor’s representative at the ceremony, Barrister Chris Okewulonu was used to purchase materials and equipments and for water schemes in the state.
Also, then state Commissioner for Public Utilities and Rural Development, Sir Soronnadi Njoku had said that 50 boreholes were drilled with more than 76 water schemes awaiting rehabilitation, regretted that the urban water supply situation remained more critical. He declared that Owerri regional water scheme was at its lowest ebb capacity, owing to frequent breakdown of equipments/inadequate power supply. He also revealed that the ministry had engaged the services of a new consultancy outfit charged with the responsibilities of effecting accurate billing on water rates in the state, as a strategy to fish out or expose areas of racketeering which is ranging high among officers.
In solving the water supply tragedies we have been inflicted in Imo State, there is need to review how funds were allotted and used in the sector in the past 10 years. According to the "Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Water Sector," by the Transparency International (TI), the water crisis is undeniable and the corruption challenge it faces is urgent. More than one billion people worldwide have no guaranteed access to water and more than two billion are without adequate sanitation, which has devastating consequences for development and poverty reduction.
The report, the first of its kind to explore the impact and scope of corruption in different segments of the water sector, identifies a range of problems, from petty bribery in water delivery to procurement-related looting of irrigation and hydropower funds; and from covering up industrial pollution to manipulation of water management and allocation policies. The report demonstrates corruption's potential to obstruct effective enforcement of water-sharing pacts and resettlement arrangements, both keys to confronting the fallout from climate change.
However, as the Global Corruption Report shows, taking action against corruption in the water sector is believed to be both timely and feasible. According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) 2008 Report; 87 per cent of the world’s current population uses drinking water from improved sources. Out of this number; 54 per cent uses a piped connection in their dwelling, plot or yard, and 33 per cent uses other improved drinking water sources.

Unimproved drinking water sources according to the JMP include; unprotected dug well, unprotected spring, cart with small tank/drum, tanker truck, and surface water (river, dam, lake, pond, stream, canal, irrigation channels),and bottled water etc while other improved drinking water sources include Public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection. The category ‘improved drinking water sources’ includes sources that, by nature of their construction or through active intervention, are protected from outside contamination, particularly faecal matter. These include piped water in a dwelling, plot or yard, and other improved sources.

Results from the UNICEF led project evaluation of late 1982 are still relevant today as its implications for policy and practice particularly rural communities in Imo State, and need to be revisited by the government. Top on this was the finding that water usage is heavily influenced both by the distance from the household to the borehole and by the borehole-to-population ratio. Distance affects travel times and the ratio affects queuing times. A distance of more than 2km leads to a much lower proportion of households using boreholes, and a much shorter distance makes the exclusive use of borehole water more likely hence enormous wastage. Where water is scarce, improved water supply will be welcomed and the villagers can be expected to readily donate labour and financial resources.
This has been corroborated by a UNHABITAT finding that concerns of Accessibility, Affordability and Sufficiency of water supplies are integral. According to the UNHABITAT; Accessibility means obtaining water by the households without taking undue proportion of the household’s time (less than one hour a day) for the minimum sufficient quantity of at least 20 liters per person per day. Affordability means water not taking undue proportion of a household’s income i.e. less than 10 percent. Sufficiency means water being available at a quantity of at least 20 liters per person per day.

Further to the foregoing, UNHABITAT defines a household as having access to improved water sources if it has sufficient amount of water for family use, at an affordable price, available to household members without being subject to excessive physical effort and time. According to the UNHABITAT; access to water decreases when quantity, cost and burden of fetching water is considered.

For the rural communities, the days of taking water supplies for granted are long gone. Particular example was during the DFRRI, PTF and OMPADEC days. Then hand pumps were common sights. Today, why do we hear so few success stories of them? During the early stages of planning, building and initial use, there were claims of success. However, there are few reports on the state of hand pump project after three, five or even ten years of use. Is it because little monitoring and evaluation is carried out? Has interest moved to other projects? Or is it because the hand pump projects have proved only a short term success?
Most of us working to improve water supplies know the sorry sight of lonely, broken down water schemes. One can only guess how long ago the scheme was proudly presented to the community. A local official probably made the first few forceful swings and declared a decisive blow in the war on famine, disease and poverty. But the clear water pouring out is now only a memory for local people and a photograph in the final project report; why?

Today in Nigeria, all the 776 local government councils have at various times developed and installed water schemes to meet the water needs of their people. Individuals, corporate agencies and non-profits have also complemented the roles of government in this regards. This applies to both the urban and rural councils in the country.

Healthy people are better able to absorb nutrients in food than those suffering from water-related diseases, particularly helminthes infections, which rob their hosts of calories. Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation helps reduce household expenditure on health care; and the time lost because of long distance water collection and poor health contributes to poverty and reduced food security.

In aggregate, the total annual economic benefits of meeting the Millennium Development Goals targets on water supply and sanitation accrue to US$84billion; while global estimates for the additional annual investment to meet the MDG water and sanitation targets all arrive at about US$11billion, meeting the targets translates into 322 million working days per year gained at a value of US$750million. In Nigeria, this translates to over $800 million.

As part of its recommendations to end the global water and sanitation crisis; the UN Millennium Project Task Force on water and sanitation had emphasized that Investment in water and sanitation must focus on sustainable service delivery, rather than construction of facilities alone.

Appositely, the Millennium Project Task Force had reported in 2005 that “expanding water and sanitation coverage is not a rocket-science”. Therefore to get rid of this migraine, systematic overhaul in the areas of vital reforms and targeted investments should continue to move in parallel.

Statistics show that agricultural food production has not kept pace with population growth in Africa. As a result, the nutrition position of the region is now worse than it was 30 years ago. One of the reasons contributing to this is the heavy dependence of African economies on rain-fed agriculture with the attendant risks of droughts and floods.

Hence the region is faced with a challenge to expeditiously develop the huge potential of irrigated agriculture as a strategy for eradication of absolute poverty and hunger.

In Africa about 300 million people lack access to adequate water supply and about 313 million people lack access to adequate sanitation. In 2003, the African economy grew by 3.7%. However, 46.4% of the population (313 million people) lived on less than US$1 per day in 2001 and the absolute number of malnourished people in Africa has increased substantially from around 88million to over 200million in 1999 to 2001. In Nigeria over 50% of the population lack access to both improved water supply and sanitation. This therefore translates to over 1.5 million of Imo State population lacking access to both.

However, far beyond the financial requirement for such projects, the involvement of the community in all stages of any proposed water supply and sanitation programme in Nigeria is very crucial and should no longer be overlooked. Fairness and equity should be promoted through multi-stakeholder participation using appropriate participatory tools.

In view of this, it should be brought to the attention of the government at all tiers of governance in Nigeria, the many examples of community water and sanitation projects that were built and ended up being abandoned or broken down soon after commissioning. This was because the needs of most of those communities were taken for granted. ‘Top down Approaches’ was used and this meant that communities were given whatever projects the government thought fit. Those communities were never really consulted and their real ‘’felt’’ needs were never identified. This resulted in unwanted projects which were neglected and became ‘white elephants’.

Current realities demand the involvement of a community at all stages of a project. This is important in order to ensure that the community owns the project and willingly takes responsibility for it. The era of project implementation in which experts and officials made all decisions and the community were directed as to how they should participate is gone. Such projects are often products of poor participatory planning and design processes because the government or donors merely bring it, fixed support packages and work to tight schedules, often only ‘’informing’’ community (male) leaders, and lacking time and resources to engage in true consultation and capacity development.

It is important to highlight that the community is the end user of the proposed project. End user’s needs, especially those of poor women and men are at the basis of integrated needs-based planning processes that are cost-effective, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable. Community involvement is therefore essential to ensure genuinely sustainable projects particularly water and sanitation projects. In order to make sure that projects are sustainable, there is every need to identify clear steps in the project implementation process that will engage the community.

The involvement of the community in the proposed service provision will enable their commitment to it. The sustainability of the project will therefore depend on the quality of cooperation by the community at the various stages of the project implementation and even afterwards. However, it is often a challenge in many places to ensure long term sustainability of community participation and management. The Nigerian government and her development partners have a task to overcome this challenge by listing relevant strategies for community involvement and its approaches during project identification and design.

Effective participation in development projects affords communities greater control over decisions affecting their lives. Nigerian rural communities should no longer be denied such opportunities. By incorporating their ideas and values into the planning process, the prospects for appropriate and valued outcomes, and hence sustainability, are also much improved.

Community involvement in this case could be either through Community participation, Community management, Demand responsive approaches, Social marketing; Right based approach and partnership. If for example, the community participation approach is used then vital participatory tools will include processes that can enable the building of self esteem, sense of responsibility, increased awareness of problems/issues and options for change and capacity to change their own lives etc. The expected outputs therefore are decisions and solutions that are identified and implemented for greater common good in the community.

However, and to effectively achieve this, it is suggested that the community be involved in all stages of the project such as; First, Project identification stage; at this stage, community needs can be identified by assessing their development priorities. What do they really need at the moment? Or is their another immediate pressing need? Such need identification could be made using a variety of approaches like the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).

Second, Feasibility, design and planning; the important principle for community involvement in this phase of the project is to understand and collectively correct problem area and chart a way forward. It is imperative to ensure that the community takes part in site selection, survey, environmental impact assessment and many other investigations or discussions forming part of the feasibility and design. This may mean spending time explaining the design to key members of the community. The design must also consider community preferences and practices. Issues like capacity assessment, cost sharing and other relevant information are extracted or unveiled at this stage.

Third, construction, the roles of who should do what should be clear at this stage. Typical community roles during construction may include labour and/or gifts to labourers. The management committee and possibly other members of the community should be involved in measuring and approving the work carried out. This gives some level of project control to those involved.

Fourth; Operation and maintenance; the community should have a greater role and responsibility in the management and operation of the project; this is so because the community is the principal beneficiary. However, the operation and management of a water supply and sanitation requires awareness, skills and experience that many communities may lack. Community capacity may therefore be strengthened so that they can manage such new projects with ease. This stage has often richly demonstrated to bring immense benefits in terms of increased ownership and sustainable management.

And fifth; monitoring and evaluation; there is need to assist the community to develop suitable system for monitoring the performance of the water and sanitation infrastructure. This is important for management, re-adjustment or introduction of new approaches towards improving the new project when in use.

The adoption of community participation or management does not imply that the users must carry out all repairs and maintenance. No! only that they are responsible for ensuring that it gets done. It is also germane to emphasise that the way forward lies not in assigning all responsibility either to government or the community, but in matching community capacity to the capacity of government to provide an enabling, supportive environment.

As we donate in support of this laudable project we can be well assured that all the necessary background work has been done to achieve sustainability. I thank Genevieve for this forum especially her effort at bringing her very wide social contacts to the benefit of her community.
To God be the Glory!
Thank you!

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