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Water Champions initiate or implement water reforms in their chosen field, and are directly involved in improving the water situation in their respective countries.
Eva Maria Mayerhofer: Creating Synergy from Diversity
By Maria Christina Dueñas Knowledge Management Officer ABOUT THE CHAMPION
Eva Maria Mayerhofer is an Urban Development Specialist in the Social Sectors Division of the South Asia Department. She manages Loan 2008-NEP for the Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Nepal. Project Brief Nepal has less than 0.4% of the world's population, but is home to 2.3% of the world's water resources. Despite the abundant water resources, however, the country's harsh terrain makes access to water supply difficult for many segments of the population. The project aims to expand the coverage of improved water supply and sanitation services to underserved populations, especially to poor and remote areas, and to improve health and hygiene practices related to waterborne and sanitation diseases. It has two main components: Rural water supply and sanitation, which includes community mobilization and capacity building, construction of community water supply and sanitation services, health and hygiene program, and gender, caste and ethnic minority program Institutional strengthening to build up district development committees, and support the decentralization policy and the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage. The project targets approximately 1,200 communities in 21 districts to provide safe water and sanitation for about 850,000 people. The project was approved in September 2003, and has introduced several innovative practices, among them intensive consensus building process, which has resulted in the drafting of Nepal's Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Strategy. The Government approved the strategy in January 2004 and a comprehensive action plan for its implementation is being developed; 1-year social mobilization process prior to the actual construction of the water supply and sanitation schemes to ensure that diverse groups in the community can work together to plan for, construct and operate the schemes; and support for gender, caste and ethnic minority program, e.g. organizing water user and sanitation groups with proportional representation of the poor, castes, and ethnic minority, and with at least 50% of their executive and general members being women. The project is expected to be completed in 2010.
What major issues in rural water supply and sanitation does the project face? One key issue is the need for the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) to switch roles-- from being the service provider to becoming primarily the policy maker. Corollary to this issue is the district government and local communities' readiness to assume the functions of planning, managing, constructing and operating water supply schemes; functions that were traditionally with DWSS. In terms of social issues, we have to deal with great disparities in gender, ethnic groups and castes in the target communities. The Project will seek to ensure that all men, women and children from all castes, ethnic and economic groups have equal access to improved water supply and sanitation facilities and services, participate in decision making about the level of service and location of water points, are fully involved in planning, construction
and O&M of affordable WSS facilities, have access to information on financing and technical options, construction and O&M costs, and can participate in effective training for maintenance and repair, hygiene and sanitation education, and community management. How does the project deal with the gender, ethnic and caste diversity in the target communities? The communities engage in a year- long social mobilization and community awareness building process before they can construct the water supply scheme. During this time, they have various opportunities to work together on different programs, e.g. social inclusion program, and the sanitation and hygiene program. NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) are responsible for monitoring the community's progress. After a year, if a true partnership emerges, then the actual construction can begin. This process is very new and we'll have to see how it evolves.
What milestones will indicate that the community is ready for construction and sustainable operations of the scheme? We have several milestones. For instance, in the water users groups, women should have certain leadership positions, e.g. treasurer, secretary, etc. From the reports of the NGOs and CBOs, we will also know about problems for community members to sit and work together. In terms of hygiene behavioral changes, we'll rely on the statistics, e.g. incidence of child mortality or water borne diseases. Readiness to provide counterpart resources is also a major milestone. During construction, the scheme will require a 20% counterpart contribution from the community, either in terms of funds or labor. Prior to scheme completion , the community will also contribute additional counterpart funds equivalent to the O & M costs for one year. How real is the risk that the community will not sustain the water supply scheme once it becomes operational? The risk is there, of course, but tempered by the fact that the target communities really need the water and the fact they contribute financially to the construction and O&M of the scheme. In one of the communities we visited, they had one communal tap stand for the whole village of maybe 150 households or so. Water runs only for a maximum of 3 hours, from 6:00 - 7:30 AM and 5:00 - 6:30 PM. You will always see a long queue of people with their buckets and plastic bottles. With the project, women and children (primarily girls) who walked long distances to get water will suddenly have 5 or 8 hours of free time in their hands, free time they can use to be with their children, go to school, engage in incomegenerating activities and more. For them, sustaining the operations of the water supply scheme is vital. What new approaches can you highlight about this project? First is the very intensive stakeholder participation. At the start of the project, we brought together all the stakeholders- national and local government agencies and institutions, communities, donors, NGOs and CBOs, etcto discuss the issues, identify the changes needed, and find the synergy in them. DWSS, together with consultants and the stakeholders drafted the rural water supply and sanitation (RWSS) sector strategy for Nepal, the first of its kind in the country, which has just been approved by the Government. Certain sections of Nepal's national water policy will be reviewed and revised in line with the sector strategy, and donors and NGOs have expressed their intent to work in a concerted way using the RWSS strategy as a basis, as opposed to adopting a piecemeal approach to the sector.
Second is the complete disclosure of information among the stakeholders. Aside from the consultative workshops, we also set up a website where we posted project documents. This is now accessible to donors, NGOs and the district governments, who can then pass on the information to the communities. The project is also different in its sanitation component. In contrast with previous RWSS projects in Nepal that focused mainly on water supply, this project has a stronger component on effecting behavioral changes in hygiene and sanitation. We will set up a revolving fund for household sanitation schemes, provide sanitation facilities to schools, and conduct widespread hygiene and sanitation awareness campaigns, e.g. handwashing, boiling water, etc. How has this project marked you personally? Whether in Baitadi or in the District of Kapilvastu where we visited a water user committee, we were made to feel very welcome. Despite the poverty the people were warm and very generous. We were impressed with the courage and the initiatives taken by the women of the water user committee in Kapilvastu proving to the men in the community that they could run a water user committee effectively and efficiently. Working in rural water supply and sanitation is very rewarding. You have the opportunity to actually interact actively with the beneficiaries and also see what impact the project has on the communities. Since we deal mostly with governments, it is easy to lose touch with the reality on the ground. But this project has shown that communities and individuals are not out of our direct reach, and we make our biggest contributions when we reach out to them.
_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in March 2004: http://www.adb.org/Water/Champions/mayerhofer.asp. The Water Champions series was developed to showcase individual leadership and initiative in implementing water sector reforms and good practices in Asia and the Pacific. The champions, representing ADB’s developing member countries, are directly involved in improving the water situation in their respective countries or communities. The series is regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.
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