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close this bookUganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)
close this folder6. Moving Forward in the Rural Water Sector
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentRural water supply and sanitation programmes
View the documentArea-based centrally implemented programmes
View the documentDecentralised rural water development
View the documentRural towns water and sanitation programme
View the documentFeatures of the implementation strategy

Decentralised rural water development

Moving from central control to district level implementation is an interesting example of the use of decentralisation as a strategy for sustainability. Over the past few years, Uganda has gained experience with decentralised implementation approaches under a programme named WATSAN. Only recently, these activities have been grouped under a national umbrella programme referred to as the National WES Programme. The individual projects within the programme are characterised as being relatively limited in scope as far as financing and number of water points are concerned.

In a WES project, the overall planning, financing, implementation and management terms and responsibilities are agreed to through a multi-partite arrangement (spelled out in a Letter of Understanding) between an external donor, an implementer (often an NGO), DWD District Authority as well as local community/user group committees.

The following sections highlight various aspects and lessons learnt in one of the WATSAN/WES programme areas, viz. Mpigi District.

Situation before decentralisation

At the beginning of 1994 the DWD started a water and sanitation project covering the entire district. The project was funded and implemented by UNICEF, an NGO, Central Government, District Administration and local communities. During the early period of the project, district headquarters initiated, planned and implemented most of the water and sanitation improvement activities. There was limited mobilisation, involvement and responsibility shared at lower levels (county, sub-county, parishes and communities). As a result, the project experienced the following problems:

- Supervision of facility construction was difficult. A small team of supervisors from district headquarters simply could not cover all construction sites.
- Output lagged behind expected performance. It was noted to be well below potential capacity because there was little community participation and involvement.
- Most of the community lacked knowledge of WES activities, facilities and procedures. This was evidenced by the community's improper use and maintenance of facilities provided by the project.
- Follow-up for proper construction, use and maintenance by the district level staff was inadequate. They were stationed too far from the facilities, resulting in poor maintenance of the facilities provided.
- Capacity building was lacking. As a result, the community depended on limited district level resources for construction and repairs.
- Latrine slabs, blocks, concrete rings etc. procured in support of WES activities were produced at a casting yard located at the district headquarters.

Recognising the problems with the project, the WES management team decided to decentralise some of the operations to sub-county and lower levels. They felt that this would help to make the project more community-based and ultimately more sustainable.

Under the revised project arrangements, initiation, planning and execution are carried out at community level. The central level and district structure provide some off-shore materials, logistics, policy and planning guidelines, support supervision and monitoring and evaluation. The WES project team has developed the following strategies together with project beneficiaries in order to decentralise as much as possible to grassroots level. The project makes extensive use of the existing administrative and political structures — the RC system.

District council advocacy

The WES team has lobbied hard for district council support. The Mpigi District Council, composed of councillors from sub-country levels, took some convincing. However, the council is now mobilised and convinced of the value of the WES project as an essence for development in the district. The project is now one of the capital development projects earmarked within the district budget. This financial support supplements budgets allocated at lower levels of the RC system.

Mobilisation and training

Project activities begin with mobilisation and training of county and sub-county field staff from the Office of Health and Community Development. District level staff train community and opinion leaders to sensitise and give them skills for up-coming project activities. After this, local leaders are judged capable of mobilising the community and giving them advice on health and hygiene, technical issues and procedures of the project.

Water source maintenance fund

An operation and maintenance fund is established for each water source protected. The fund is maintained through user contributions. It supports construction, operation and maintenance of the water source.

Formation and training of committees

The users form water and sanitation committees at sub-county, village and source levels to plan, implement and monitor water and sanitation activities in their respective areas. The water and sanitation committee at source level is responsible for development and maintenance of the source and supervision of sanitation in the user community. Sub-county Health and Community Development staff train these committees so that members are aware of their roles and functions and equipped with the necessary skills to perform effectively. The training follows a standard training curriculum that was developed for the district.

Establishment of construction and maintenance structures at sub-county level

The community, through their leaders, selects local masons and pump mechanics. District project staff train these recruits in construction, maintenance and repair of water and sanitation facilities. The masons and pump mechanics carry out the construction and repairs that may be required in their respective sub-counties. Their remuneration is met from the operation and maintenance fund at source level. Local area Health and Community Development staff supervise construction. District level staff provide support, planning, supervision, monitoring and evaluation services.