EWB-UK UK National Research & Education Conference 2011 ‘Our Global Future’ 4th March 2011

Rural ural water supply in Benin and new service delivery approaches approache Anna Le Gouais
Cranfield University

Abstract Community management of rural water supplies has in recent years been heralded as a solution to ensure sustainability of water infrastructure. But in Benin, like many other developing countries, there hav have e been problems with community managed water supplies, resulting in break downs which are not repaired. Poor planning and coordination of projects has also resulted in unfair distribution of water points. Benin is now following an alternative approach with wit decentralized government and using delegated management involving private operators for water point management. This paper considers the new approach as a potential way to improve sustainability of rural water supplies.

Keywords: rural water supply, Benin, in, decentralization, professionalization, community management, service delivery, handpump, piped supply, Millennium Development Goals

Background: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. Whilst this may be on track to be met globally, it is not in rural sub sub-Saharan Saharan Africa. Eight out of ten people who are still without an improved water source live in rural areas and in Sub Sub-Saharan Saharan Africa only 47% of rural populations ns have an improved supply (United Nations, 2010). After years of investment in rural water supply, between 1990 and 2006 rural coverage rates in 19 sub sub-Saharan Saharan African counties increased only 10% whilst absolute numbers have increased by 37 million to 228 million (IRC, 2009). In 2007 the Rural Water Supply Network estimated that 36% of handpumps were not functioning in sub-Saharan Saharan Africa which is equivalent to $1.2 $1.2-$1.5 $1.5 billion of investment wasted in the last 20 years (IRC, 2009). The lack of rural water supply coverage and high incidence of breakdowns suggests that a change in approach is needed to improve the situation and avoid more money being wasted in broken water supplies. This paper focuses on rural water supply in Benin, West Africa. Benin is ran ranked 161st out of 182 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index (UNDP, 2009). . The population of rural Benin is estimated as 7.1 million and 57% are said to be served with a water supply, whilst only 18% have access to latrines ( (IOB/BMZ 2008). . In the two regions focused upon during this study, Mono and Couffo, the rural population are approximately 386,000 with 48.5% water supply coverage and 9.1% of water points not functioning and 574,000 with 4 46.1% 6.1% coverage and 23.9% not functioning, respectively (Sédjamé et al. 2007). . A map of Benin can be seen in figure 1.

Figure 1: Map of Benin (African Development Bank Group, 2009)

Panel Presentation: Water & Sanitation Authors: Anna Le Gouais Institution: Cranfield University


EWB-UK UK National Research & Education Conference 2011 ‘Our Global Future’ 4th March 2011

Water in rural Benin may be supplied either by a community borehole and handpump (see figure 2), artesian borehole, village piped supply (with a powered borehole to a storage tank and multiple tap stands, see figure 3), private borehole and pump, extension of the urban water network, rainwater harvesting, unprotected ‘traditional’ well, improved well or from a surface water source. Water for drinking is commonly bought at handpumps, tapstands and private water points, although the latter is not regulated and the quality may be uncertain

Figure 2: A community managed handpump, padlocked to ensure water is paid for

Figure 3: Components of a multi-village multi water supply system. Clockwise from bottom left: borehole, water tower, tapstand

Handpumps and village piped systems have for years been managed by communities, but at the time of research (October/November 2009) this was changing to delegated management to an operator with decentralized monitoring by local ocal authorities. The local authorities, who are now the owners of the water supply systems, are able to decide the exact form of management and so choose to involve or exclude the community.

Methods: The research was carried out by a combination of the f following: • • literature review structured interviews and discussions with key stakeholders, including local authorities, national and regional semi-structured water services, NGOs, facilitators, Water User Associations (WUAs), water sellers, operators and community members attendance at a 10 day training course for community facilitators on the management of village piped water systems a questionnaire by 36 out of the 38 facilitators from Mono, Couffo, Plateau, Donga, Ouémé and Atacora regions (95% response rate) isits in 10 villages (locations chosen for the range of water management systems) field visits

• • •

Results & discussion: Problems with community management Since the 1980’s Benin has had community managed water supplies and numerous NGOs and donors have worked to construct t water infrastructure. Community management has been supported by the development community since it is believed that it can empower people - they gain ownership and are motivated to ensure their water supplies continue to work. With training they are given en the skills to repair breakdowns. Donors and NGOs may also prefer this system since it bypasses inefficient and corrupt governments who may not be trusted by donors to manage the systems (Schouten and Moriarty, 2003) and it can keep water rates low since people may not be paid for their role on a WUA. However, problems are likely to arise when community managed systems are not adequately supported. This was a major problem in Benin and financial mismanagement in particular was common in some places. Altho Although ugh people paid for water, the funds were misused so that when breakdowns occurred they could not afford to repair them. A lack of training and monitoring was a major problem and the unpaid positions on the management committee provided a lack of incentive for good management. Community management should fairly represent all groups in a community so the needs of vulnerable groups and women in particular are not ignored. This can be a difficult thing to achieve depending on the powerful groups in society and the culture. In Benin there was a significant lack of representation by women on the management committees – often only one woman was present on the committee as the treasurer since she was thought to be more trustworthy than the men. However, she would be e treasurer in title only and male members of the committee would have the key to the cash box.

Panel Presentation: Water & Sanitation Authors: Anna Le Gouais Institution: Cranfield University


EWB-UK UK National Research & Education Conference 2011 ‘Our Global Future’ 4th March 2011

Because of these numerous problems, community management in Benin was commonly described by local authorities, water services and facilitators as a disaster (originally ‘ ‘une catastrophe’ in French).

The new approach of decentralization and delegated management in Benin Following the problems of community management, Benin has a new strategy for rural water supply based on the principals of: water is self financing; delegated management to an operator; and decentralised monitoring to ensure sustainability.

Local authorities have become owners of the rural water supply systems and are able to choose the form of delegated management to be used. They are encouraged by the national and regional water services to use private operators to manage the systems with the hope that they will improve the professionalization of the supply and thereby avoid the problems of mis-management management previously experienced. Whilst WUAs can still exist (albeit differently than under community management), and many WUAs still want to be involved in the management of what they still see as their water r supply system, they are not compulsory. Excluding the community entirely, however, risks conflict from the population who do not want an external private operator. This was seen in one village where a local authority had awarded a contract to a private operator perator yet the community was angry that they were not involved in the management and so blocked the commencement of water. Whilst private operators could bring skills and professionalization to the role of water manager, they still need support and monitoring, oring, especially to ensure that funds are being used appropriately.

Coordination problems in Benin Multiple implementing organisations The project approach has also been a problem in Benin. With numerous NGOs working to provide infrastructure there are coordination oordination difficulties as different NGOs may follow different strategies, have different aims and objectives and have different requirements from different donors. Together with a demand demand-led led approach, which is often promoted since motivated communities are re believed to better manage their water supplies under community management, the result in Benin has been an unfair distribution of water points with some areas having many and in others people have to walk for long distances to collect water (DED/NEGO COM, 2008) 2008). When Benin shifted to the new strategy of decentralization and delegated management, whereby local authorities are required to plan the locations of water points to help ensure fair distribution, there was criticism that NGOs and donors were not respecting the government strategy and continuing to construct their own water points regardless of local authority plans. This is a problem on the part of both the NGOs and local authorities – the local authorities authoritie lack the resources and experience, and therefore ability, to plan long term. Consequential delays and uncertainty then encourage NGOs to ignore the government strategy and provide alternative handpumps. These may end up being unsustainable as local authorities rities are able to close down handpumps in a new piped network area to ensure people buy their water from networked tapstands to make these financially sustainable. Although water may be provided slightly earlier to some communities by these handpumps, funds ds are wasted and better coordination could lead to a better end result for more people.

Private water points Even if coordination goes on between local authorities and NGOs, private water points are often not factored in. Private water points are becoming ng more common in small towns in Benin whereby people pump water from their own well and sell it. Although suppliers have a legal obligation to ensure the quality of water sold and some training is done by the water services, there is limited monitoring an and d it is likely that many wells are contaminated. The private water points may be cheaper than a community tapstand or handpump which risks undermining the financial sustainability of these supplies, therefore these types of water supply should be better re regulated gulated and any water point planning needs to consider them.

Poor sanitation A lack of coordination between water supplies and sanitation is an issue in many developing countries. In Benin separate ministries are responsible for each. Although the commun community ity facilitators have a role to encourage good hygiene at water points, sanitation is quite poor in many villages. Poor sanitation behaviour by the facilitators themselves and by water service staff was even observed. The highest risk of water contaminatio contamination n occurs after collection (Wright et al, 2004) and so there may be little benefit in constructing additional clean water supplies if the water is later contaminated (traditional (traditiona wells are also common, but not recognized as potable water sources). Collectin Collecting g water in open basins is common, as seen in figure 4, which risks dirty hands and leaves contaminating the water. Since water is charged by the basin (this

Panel Presentation: Water & Sanitation Authors: Anna Le Gouais Institution: Cranfield University


EWB-UK UK National Research & Education Conference 2011 ‘Our Global Future’ 4th March 2011

measure is used in the lease contracts to fix the price for water) there is no encouragement for people pe to use alternative, safer containers. There is also limited work to encourage safe household water storage.

Figure 4: Woman collecting water in an open basin

A service delivery approach Whilst increased infrastructure is required to improve coverag coverage e of water supply in developing countries, that alone is not enough. The coordination and sustainability problems of a ‘project’ approach could be improved by focusing on service delivery rather than just infrastructure. Donor approaches to achieving the M MDGs DGs for water coverage have been criticized as they focus too much on infrastructure rather than sustainability with a major issues being that constructing physical infrastructure makes accountability by NGOs easier whilst tangible benefits of training and support are difficult to measure and even more difficult to achieve during a short project funding period, meaning that sustainability may be difficult. But more emphasis is required on monitoring, training, support and supply chains for spare parts. Governments ernments may need external assistance to effectively provide rural water supplies with on on-going support, especially during the early days of decentralisation as government staff may be lacking capacity. Putting in the correct structure for NGOs and donors to work with governments, not bypassing them, can help to ensure that resources will be there for the future and improve the chances of sustainability. Donors need to be more aware of the long term negative affects of not working with governments and undermining mining the national strategies which can reduce effectiveness as well as accountability and democracy.

Improving accountability If local government is responsible for providing sustainable rural water supply then there may be mechanisms for local people to pressurise local government to act. Democratically elected governments should be accountable to the people, otherwise they are unlikely to be re-elected. elected. This issue was seen in some areas in Benin where local authorities allowed the people to decide what type of management system they wanted, for fear of not being re re-elected. elected. Some NGOs in Africa are working with local media as a w way ay to pressurize government to provide services, such as a pilot project in Ghana which uses journalism as a tool for independent reporting on water, sanitation and hygiene. An increase in mobile phone use can also help this type of accountability as peopl people e can more easily report breakdowns via SMS. Mobile phone use can also be part of the formal monitoring process allowing users to not only report breakdowns and gain assistance for repairs, but also report on the financial data for the water point and ther therefore efore help strengthen financial management which should improve sustainability.

Conclusions: Problems of ensuring sustainability of rural water supply are common. Independent projects by multiple donors and NGOs can lead to coordination problems, togethe together r with insufficient support and training to community managed systems. The result is often water system breakdowns with insufficient resources to repair them. An alternative approach is more integration with national and local governments who are in a bett better er position to plan and support rural water systems for fairer distribution and more durable support systems. They can also monitor the management of water supplies in the long run and whilst local government staff themselves may need to be supported initi initially ally to carry out these roles, it may have more potential for sustainability and accountability than through by by-passing passing elected governments.

Panel Presentation: Water & Sanitation Authors: Anna Le Gouais Institution: Cranfield University


EWB-UK UK National Research & Education Conference 2011 ‘Our Global Future’ 4th March 2011

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank everyone who helped me with my MSc thesis on the types of management systems for piped water supplies in rural Benin, especially those from the Benin water services, local authorities, facilitators, NGOs and villages. Special thanks go to Nora Dietrich for her invitation to do the research in Benin and James Webster who supervised su the original research.

References: African Development Bank Group, (2009) Benin, available at: http://www.afdb.org/en/countries/west-africa/benin/ http://www.afdb.org/en/countries/west DED/NEGO COM, (2008) Rapport final: Premier cycle - Projet de Suivi qualitatif de la Stratégie de Croissance pour la Réduction de la Pauvreté par les OSC dans le secteur de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement (SCRP - AEPA). IOB/BMZ, (2008) Impact evaluation of drinking water supply and sanitation programmes in Benin. Terms of Reference. IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, (2009) Providing reliable rural water services that last, The Hague, The Netherlands Schouten, T. and Moriarty, P., (2003) Community water, community m management: anagement: from system to service in rural areas, 1st ed, ITDG Publishing, London. Sédjamé, J., Satognon, S.J., Triboulet, J.P., Jacobsen, J.V. and Jørgensen, K.A., (2007) The 2nd rural water and sanitation program (PADSEA II) of Benin 2005 2005-2009, Danida: Copenhagen. UNDP, (2009) Human Development Report 2009, available at: http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_BEN.html. United Nations, (2010) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, New York Wright, J., Gundry, S., and Conroy, R., (2004) Household drinking water in developing countries: a systematic review of microbiological contamination between source and point point-of-use, Tropical Medicine and International Heal. Heal

Panel Presentation: Water & Sanitation Authors: Anna Le Gouais Institution: Cranfield University