As highlighted in the post on the 4th ACF Annual Report (Kumasi update), Operation and Maintenance (O&M) is a hugely important aspect of any sustainable project. It is increasingly recognised as vital, though it hasn’t acquired the appeal of ‘digging a new well’.
However, new wells can quickly become useless – according to this RWSN data from 20 African countries, 36% of hand-pumps aren’t working. I did my own calculations with their data, and I reckon those non-working pumps from 20 countries could serve 20,000,000 people – that’s 80% of Ghanaians that could be served by nailing O&M. And those pumps may have cost $750m-1bn (I’m NOT an expert on borehole/pump costing – but used figures here to estimate).
Now, that’s rural, and ACF is urban and works in different ways; we remain in contact with our beneficiaries long after initial installation, but programmes do end (ours will in September) – sometimes, as in the case of our Bamako project, unexpectedly – so it is key to ensure communities involved continue to realise the benefits of our work long after we are gone.
A helpful document on sustainability in the sector is WaterAid’s ‘Sustainability Framework‘. It mentions many factors, including demand, which we addressed here. Several other factors they list are inbuilt in our project in Kumasi, Ghana, including effective community-based management, external technical support, monitoring systems and appropriate tariff structure.
Some of the key things we are doing in line with those aims are:
- A Community Management Committee (CMC) was established in the first year to enable dialogue between the community and the water utility, GWCL. This model enables community participation.
- In the last year, work has been done on the communication between the CMC and GWCL and GWCL has committed to conducting major maintenance works. This technical support is valuable as the water utility is expected to have longevity.
- For more minor O&M, the community have been trained, as less reliance on external parties is the ideal situation, ensuring community-based management is at the forefront.
- From the project’s outset, facility designs have been discussed with the community, to ensure that they are culturally appropriate, as well as meeting the needs of the most vulnerable – unwanted facilities quickly stop working.
- Clean-up campaigns have been key in gaining support from the community, as well as passing on key hygiene messages to continue raising demand.
- The sanitation block built by the project conducts other businesses at the same time, which brings more revenues and brings more people to the toilet. This is another mechanism of raising demand.
- Tariffs were revised based on the need for cost recovery. Full O&M cost recovery was achieved and there is even an excess which was re-invested for a borehole, which has improved the toilet block’s capacity to cope when the utility is not providing water.
- In one way and another, the toilet block seems to have earned the community’s respect; throughout Year 4, the number of users per month increased from 5,333 to 8,650.