|Uganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)|
For many years Uganda's rural water supply sector languished under Governments that cared little for the social well-being of the people they ruled. A combination of incompetence and gross mismanagement wrecked the country's physical and institutional infrastructure. A protracted civil war brought the nation to its knees. Uganda, once described as the "Pearl of Africa", deteriorated from being the envy of nations south of the Sahara to being the laughing stock of the whole world. The "sick man of Africa" could barely support its ruling elite let alone meet the water and sanitation needs of its rural population.
Since the army of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) liberated the country in early 1986, Uganda has been fighting back from the brink of self-destruction; rebuilding the infrastructure of a ruined, but once-thriving country. Against the odds, the Government of Uganda is establishing the framework for an economic resurgence. It is healing the wounds of nearly a generation of political strife. It is once again turning its attention to the delivery of social good. High on its agenda is the fulfilment of basic human needs one of the most basic being the provision of water of adequate quantity and quality.
This case study presents a review of the processes leading up to, and encompassing the establishment of, a revitalised system for management and development of water resources in Uganda. In particular, it looks at the priorities and plans for the provision of safe drinking water in rural areas of the country. It outlines the structures and mechanisms for implementing these plans and the strategies the NRM Government has adopted to bring about positive changes within the sector.
The case study investigates rural water supply sector planning methods and reviews progress over the past ten years in the areas of institutional strengthening and policy making. It highlights the close integration between sector planning and overall strategic planning. It shows how sound economic policies at the national level have provided a basis for sustainable economic development at the grass roots.
The case study outlines the ambitious target set for the rural water supply sector that of bringing water of adequate quantity and quality to 75 per cent of the rural population in Uganda by the year 2000. In a review of the mechanisms used to generate a self-sustaining rural water supply system, the case study explores the role of the private sector in construction, operation and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructures. It also investigates the increasingly decentralised provision of rural water supply services in Uganda and the roles and responsibilities of district administrations.
In a review of current status, the case study investigates some of the rural water supply projects operating in Uganda. It highlights their features, notes their achievements and investigates their difficulties. It identifies issues and trends and draws out 'lessons learned'. In doing so it provides guidance to policy makers, planners and practitioners, not only in Uganda but throughout the developing world.
Finally, the case study provides some views on the longer-term potential for success. It recognises the major strides forward made by the Government since 1986, but also the enormity of the task still left to do. Despite its optimistic tenor, the case study is also realistic about the probability of the global target being met. The year 2000 is not far off and there is considerable work left to do.
This is a story about fighting back. It is a story about overcoming the legacy of years of neglect and wilful destruction. It is a tale about taking up a challenge of sizeable proportion and beginning to win. The case study is both a snap-shot in time and a window on the future. It highlights the benefits that can flow from the adoption of sound governing principles and co-ordinated programmes of change. However, it also recognises the frailty of the present and the challenges of the future. Optimism and realism stand side-by-side. Hope and opportunity co-exist with pragmatism and concern.
We believe the story deserves telling. It provides an insight on the success of one African government in meeting the basic water supply needs of its rural people. Therefore, it provides useful guidance on the pre-conditions for success in managing and developing rural water supply sectors in developing countries. However, we believe that many of the messages transcend the sector and stand independent of space and time. For this reason we trust that all readers, no matter their position or location, will find the case study of benefit.