Sustainability of rural water supply systems: assessment of gravity water systems implemented by Plan Cameroon in the Northwest Province of Cameroon

Kruijf, Joanne de (2005) Sustainability of rural water supply systems: assessment of gravity water systems implemented by Plan Cameroon in the Northwest Province of Cameroon.

Abstract:Plan Cameroon is part of Plan International, an international, humanitarian, child-focused development organization. Since 1996, Plan International is also active in Cameroon trying to make long lasting improvements in the life of Cameroonian children and their families by the implementation of several programmes. Since many families in Cameroon don’t have access to safe drinking water, the implementation of rural water supply facilities is one of the elements of these programmes. The purpose of this research is to assess whether rural water systems implemented by Plan Cameroon are sustainable. This involves both the current capacity of the system to deliver and continue to deliver safe and adequate water for all beneficiaries as well as the efforts Plan has made and is making to implement a sustainable system. The focus of this report is on the sustainability of gravity water systems; the main used technology in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. This technology taps and channels water from mountainous sources towards communities using pipes and stand pumps. Part of every project is the implementation of infrastructure and building of capacities inside the community to manage and use their system after project completion. A recent development is that Plan is shifting towards community-managed projects, which requires capacity building that enables the community to be in control during all phases of the project. One of the advantages of this shift is that it will ensure sustainability of the projects. For the purpose of this research a rural water supply system is supposed to be sustainable if the facilities are operational and benefiting all users, maintained and managed and have the capacity to continue this in the future. It is assumed that a facilitator can provide a foundation for a sustainable system by using a project approach that enhances sustainability. For a communitymanaged water supply common accepted project requirements for sustainability are the use of an appropriate technology, participation from the community members and training of water management committee (WMC) members and households. Besides these three, more recent aspects have also been studied. This is in the first place the degree to which the project is driven by the demand expressed by households. Secondly the extent to which the facilitator and the community are jointly planning and practicing a strategy that recovers all the costs related to a rural water supply system. The last aspect is the ongoing support towards operation and maintenance (O&M) by providing materials, assistance, coaching etcetera. The assessment of sustainability has been carried out for two case studies in the Northwest Province. The first case study is Mbemi: a small community where Plan has been using their traditional project approach. The second one is the first phase of the Bamali water project where Plan has been using a community managed project (CMP) approach. To assess the sustainability of these projects two sets of indicators have been defined, one for the current performance of facilities and one for the used project approach. Performance indicators are the operation, management and maintenance of the facilities. For the project approach six indicators are defined: technology, participation, training, demand-driven approach, cost-recovery and support O&M. For both frameworks the indicators are divided into sub-indicators, which are again divided in sub-sub-indicators. Scores will be attributed to sub-sub-indicators based on information obtained from interviews inside the two communities with households and committee members, from project files, reports and information obtained from Plan employees. From the scores of the subsub- indicators, averages will be drawn to obtain an overall impression of the indicator concerned. Sustainability of Rural Water Supply Systems - Plan Cameroon 6 Comparing the performance of the systems in Bamali and Mbemi with the indicators of sustainability shows that both systems are not really sustainable. Though most of the facilities are still operational, except from one standpipe in Bamali, both communities are not prepared for the future. This is mainly due to poor financial management. Both communities lack appropriate financial planning and budgeting and an appropriate system for user fee collection. In Bamali there are no clear agreements at all available about the recovery of operation and maintenance costs. In Mbemi agreements have been made, but these are incomplete and people are not really acting upon. Further the efficiency of collection appeared to be very low and the committee members are not really acting upon non-payment. This results in both cases in a lot of problems with the available money for maintenance, which is generally insufficient to buy appropriate tools or sometimes even not to do repairs. Users are generally quite satisfied about the system, maybe because they are all recognizing the improvement of their health. However sanitary inspections show that still a lot can be done to deliver water of better quality. Concerning the used project approach it appeared that Plan is paying a lot of attention towards participation. In theory the score on participation should be especially high in the case of community-managed projects, but this is not the case. Comparison of both case studies shows that the participation in Mbemi has a higher overall score than Bamali. Comparing both case studies with the objectives of the CMP-approach shows that even the objectives of the CMP-approach were not worked out better in Bamali. The case study of Bamali showed that capacity building is mainly focused to empower some community members, which might even lead to inequality and doesn’t ensure sustainability. Further it appears that the used project approaches had a low attention for O&M. Costs of maintenance, minimization of contamination risks and availability of spare parts didn’t really play a role in the design. And though it has been very clear towards the community that they will be responsible for O&M, they are not aware at all about the implications. Training on O&M is also weak both at community and committee level. It is also not part of Plan’s policy to support O&M by providing an approach for monitoring of their facilities, planning of maintenance activities, providence of spare parts, tools or materials to inform community members about hygienic use of water. Monitoring and assistance from Plan after completion is mainly done in an ad hoc way and monitoring of sustainability of water systems is not really part of their policy. Considering the results it is assumed that Plan can still improve the sustainability a lot by changes of their project approach. Paying more attention towards O&M aspects in particular can really strengthen the sustainability of projects. Attention for O&M should already appear from the presence of O&M aspects in design and feasibility studies. Further there should be provided more information about the implications from O&M and the project in the beginning. The Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) methodology might be an appropriate methodology to facilitate this, if conducted before the starting of a water project instead of after. Monitoring should be improved at community and Plan Cameroon level and be based on aspects related to sustainability. Furthermore, committee members should receive more coaching instead of only a short theoretical training on financial and technical planning and monitoring. Plan should ensure that spare parts and tools for O&M are available in the community after project completion.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Unknown organization
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering BSc (56952)
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