CHAPTER 3: The Community-Oriented Stepwise Process: Action and reflection
a) Forwarding and Screening of Applications
After forwarding an application to SRWSP (step 1), either directly or through an intermediate organisation, the community is asked to fill out a Project Information Form (step 2). This requires the villagers to come together and provide basic information regarding their drinking water and sanitation situation. The community is then visited for a Social Feasibility Study (step 3). Depending on the outcome, a decision is made to proceed.
b) Community Assessment and Analysis
The next activity is to help the community assess and analyse the village's drinking water and sanitation problems (step 4). The people draw a map of the village and its surroundings indicating the location of houses, main paths, streams, rest places, temples, water sources, existing drinking water structures, and other important information like latrines, protected forest area and agricultural land. Sometimes these maps are drawn in a mixed male/female group, but frequently men and women prefer to make their own maps and later compare them. This exercise helps the villagers look at their community holistically. Later the information contained in the map is used for participatory monitoring during a second mapping exercise.
The information on the map is physically verified during a village environmental walk. Representatives of the men's and women's groups and key members of the community, accompanied by the facilitator, check the information and at the same time assess the environment in and around the community. Existing water sources, as well as the proposed source for the new drinking water system are visited, as are alternative sources. Special attention is given to the sanitary situation in and around the houses, and defecation and hand washing practices.
At the same time other issues of importance may be assessed as well. These may include the villagers' economic condition, labour division between men and women, accurate population figures, and migration patterns. This information can be used at a later stage when it comes to contributions of cash or planning for labour contributions. The community is assisted with the analysis of the information they have gathered and with drawing up a plan for future activities. The process poster helps to make for realistic planning.
c) Formation and Training of the Water and Sanitation Management Committee
The culture of forming committees is well established in Nepal, but the majority of these committees do not last very long if they function at all. SRWSP sees a WSMC as an institution which, having the responsibility for all the management tasks relating to the preparation, construction, operation and maintenance, delegates these tasks among its members. They include providing motivation and leadership to the community on an ongoing basis. The formation of a committee should, therefore, be thought through carefully and the final selection of its members should be approved by the majority of the villagers. This process is facilitated in step 5. Pictures of various animals are shown, like a monkey, a bee, a tiger, and their respective characteristics are discussed. A linkage with people's personalities helps the community understand what types of people are needed in the committee. The community proposes candidates and final selections are made. Issues such as the number of female members and representatives of minority groups, and who should hold which post are also decided by the community. Here the facilitation process and the understanding of the principle of gender equality and justice are more important than the actual numbers voted in. About a third of WSMC are women, holding posts of a/o general member, treasurer, chairperson.
Some time after the formation of the committee, members receive a Water and Sanitation Management Committee Training (WSMCT) in the village (step 6). Its objective is to develop the management capacity of the WSMC members for the preparatory activities and the construction of their drinking water scheme. Issues covered include participation, resource mobilisation, management skills (regarding transportation, storing of materials, selection of local material, etc.), selection of Village Maintenance Worker and Women Tapstand Caretakers, and operation and maintenance fund collection.
d) Health and Sanitation Education
After completion of step 6, the community is visited regularly, preferably once a month. Health and Sanitation Education (HSE) activities are initiated (step 7) during these visits. These activities can vary from community to community, depending on the local situation, but they usually include:
All HSE activities tend to reinforce the interest in building latrines. Explanations are given to the community about the different technical options and the costs involved. These options depend on the availability of local materials. In answer to people's interest, one latrine is built as a demonstration (step 9). Various aspects such as the most suitable location for the latrine, how to measure the size of the pit and how to make a squatting slab are explained with the use a small booklet and comic card.
Next, people are encouraged to start building their own latrines, at their own pace (step 10). Only after the substructure is finished are various options for the superstructures shown. For this, special drawings have been developed which show the different options varying in cost and durability. SRWSP gives substructure and superstructure equal priority.
Throughout the process of constructing latrines in the community, which can take from a few months to more than 6 months, the HSE and latrine construction motivation activities continue. One of the most important motivational tools during this process is the participatory latrine construction monitoring chart. During this exercise the people themselves monitor the progress made and plan further activities and improvements. Once the latrine is completed, its proper use and maintenance are explained and a maintenance flash-card is provided.
e) Gender Training
In a selected number of communities gender awareness training sessions are conducted. This is a new activity and thus not yet included in the poster. The aim is to encourage gender equality throughout the course of the programme activities, as well as to implant the seeds for longer term change. The two-day training session is conducted in the community itself and an equal number of men and women participate. The concept of gender in general with direct reference to the community environment is analysed, as are gender roles in the drinking water and sanitation field.
f) Operation and Maintenance Fund Collection
The community is encouraged to think about the timing for the completion of the new drinking water and sanitation facilities. Motivation for the collection of an O&M Fund (step 8) is started. It is important for the community to realise that the collection of a fund is for their own future benefit. Therefore, no rigid criteria are set to determine the percentage, relative to total cost, of the O&M fund. The decision on how to collect and the size of the target fund is up to the community. However, the programme motivates the people to collect an amount which corresponds to their ability to pay and takes into account the size of the scheme, and which at the same time is sensitive to the economic situation of individuals. This maintains equity. The fund raising scheme is seen as a continuous process, not a one-time activity. It starts early in the overall process and ideally continues during the operation and maintenance phase. On average the O&M fund is equal to 3% of the total construction cost, which is comparable to other counterpart organisations active in Nepal.
g) Preparatory Technical Works
All technical work is integrated into the process. The programme offers support to the community in all technical aspects related to the implementation of a drinking water scheme. During the environmental walk, a preliminary measurement of the proposed sources is taken. It is explained how to do simple measurements with a container and a watch or by simple counting. Villagers are requested to do this frequently so that the flow of water over a longer period can be calculated. During the Technical Feasibility phase (step 11) official measurements are taken with the help of a technician. This takes place during the driest season. The technical possibilities and limitations are explained to the villagers. This knowledge will help in the final decision on the number of tapstands.
During a second mapping exercise (step 12) the changes observed in the community since the first such exercise (step 4) are monitored. Even more importantly, however, the community decides on the number and location of the tapstands. This participatory decision is the basis for the final survey of the drinking water system (step 13). Potential conflicting interests among the villagers must be resolved and agreement on the use of public or private land is reached. For technical reasons, some changes may have to be made in the proposed tapstand locations. These are discussed at this time. Once all this information is collected, final designs and estimates of material needed and their cost are prepared by SRWSP technical staff or consulting firms appointed by SRWSP. After the design and estimates are ready an agreement is made with the WSMC (step 15). As part of this agreement, a plan for pre-construction activities and for the construction time is formulated by the community. This marks the end of the preparation phase.
h) Village Maintenance Worker Training
A Village Maintenance Worker plays a significant role in maintaining the drinking water system. To be able to take care of the system, he should have technical knowledge about, and skills relating to the operation and maintenance of such a system. Two weeks of 'on the job' training is provided for VMWs who have been selected in the various project communities (step 14). For some communities the training takes place at the end of the preparation phase, for others early during the construction phase. Ideally, the VMW should practice and enhance his newly acquired skills during the construction of the system in his own community. Issues like lay-out of a drinking water system, function and use of different tools and fittings, types of pipes and techniques to join pipes, masonry and plaster work for the structures, routine maintenance of the various structures, and environmental sanitation are covered in this training. Men are selected to become VMWs, but in the spirit of equality women receive a separate technical training on maintenance of tapstands and structures that are within the village vicinity. The VMW undergoes refresher training during the O&M phase.
i) Activities during the Construction Phase
A pre-condition for starting the construction work is that locally available construction material has been collected and the main trenches have been dug (step 16), after which the non-local material is transported to the community (step 17). These operations are managed by the WSMC. Only when all the construction material is in place can the actual construction work begin with the support and guidance of technical professionals (step 18). To monitor the construction standards the work is supervised regularly (step 19). Upon completion, the WSMC informs SRWSP (step 20), after which the final commissioning of the construction takes place (step 21). With this, the construction phase comes to an end and the O&M phase begins. The average construction cost is SFr. 35 (US $ 23) per capita. The community contributes about half in form of labour and local material. The remaining cost, for material and technical service, is paid for by SRWSP.
j) Follow-up during the O&M Phase
It has been found that during the operation and maintenance phase all in the community can use a motivational booster for the management of the new facilities. To provide this needed push, a series of activities and visits to the community have been developed, all containing a strong motivational component.
Soon after completion, additional management training is offered to the WSMC members (step 22). The objective of this training is to strengthen managerial skills to guarantee smooth operation of the system. Issues like fundraising and use of the funds, community meetings & recording of the decisions made, maintenance of the drinking water system, source protection, and waste-water management are covered in this training. Cleanliness of the tapstand and its surroundings, maintenance, use and repair of the toilets are also important aspects. The different roles and responsibilities of the WSMC, VMW and WTC are once more discussed and reinforced.
The first monitoring and follow-up visit occurs six months after completion of the construction work (step 23). A multi-disciplinary team visits the project area and, together with the WSMC, users and the VMW, monitors the functioning of the scheme along with the sanitary conditions in the village in general and toilet and tapstand cleanliness in particular. At the same time the activities of the WSMC and the maintenance work done by the VMW are looked at. Depending on the findings, suggestions for improvements are made and on-the-spot HSE sessions are organised, which are mostly on latrine maintenance and repair and waste-water management.
To ensure proper maintenance of the system, technical skills are transmitted during a four-day training course (step 24) for Women Tapstand Caretakers (WTC) each of whom represents a tapstand. Subjects covered are:
Two years after the start of the O&M phase a final follow-up and participatory monitoring takes place (step 25). WSMC members, the VMW, and the WTC, together with a programme team, monitor the functioning of the drinking water system and the sanitation facilities. At the same time, the functioning of the WSMC, the VMW and the WTCs is monitored. In a mass meeting the impact of the programme is analysed. Finally, feedback is provided to the WSMC on where improvements can still be made, and the community is encouraged to make suggestions on how to improve the programme as a whole. Final motivational activities are combined with the monitoring.
• It is a tool for participatory planning and monitoring.
From the very beginning, the entire process is made transparent. This way the community knows what can be expected and what level of input is required. The accompanying poster and booklet, with further explanation of each step, help the community to keep an overview of the process. Before planning the move to the next step, the progress is monitored by the community as well as by SRWSP. The participatory methods and tools used make involvement in the activities possible for the whole community; men and women, low and high caste, young and old, literate and illiterate are all able to participate actively. This involvement in planning and monitoring encourages ownership with respect to the programme.
• The process looks in a holistic way at technical and social aspects of drinking water and sanitation.
All the preparatory technical work such as measurement of the source yield, technical feasibility and even the detailed survey and design work is entirely integrated into the process and combined with the social activities. The socially-oriented community facilitators have developed technical skills, and the technical personnel are, in large part, functioning as social mobilizers. A technical decision cannot be made without considering its social implication. Technical information is provided to the community to enable them to make the most appropriate decisions. The integration of several technical works in the preparation phase makes it possible to keep the duration of the construction phase to a minimum. The shorter the construction time, the more the community is motivated to do the hard work.
• Involvement of women and marginalised groups is encouraged.
At several points within the process, special attention is paid to the active participation of women and marginalised groups in the community. The special gender training is one example, but the two mapping exercises, at the beginning of the process and just before the start of the construction phase, ensure that all households in a community are included and become involved in the activities.
• Operation and maintenance is an integral part of the whole project.
Already during the preparation phase, the issue of operation, maintenance and sustainability of the drinking water scheme and sanitation facilities is raised. The entire approach is geared towards the establishment of a strong sense of ownership. The collection of an O&M fund starts early in the whole process, and these efforts do not stop with the completion of the construction work. During the first two years of the operation and maintenance phase, several activities are initiated in order to enhance the managerial and technical capacity of the key persons. In the meantime, contacts have been established with governmental agencies to provide technical support for major repair work if and when needed.
• Source conflicts cannot be fully resolved.
Due to increased scarcity of available water sources, conflicts over the use of a particular source have become more common in Nepal. Early in the process the community is required to conclude an agreement on the use of the source either with the owner or the local authorities. This had been thought sufficient to avoid the need to confront this problem at a later stage. Unfortunately, it proved to be wishful thinking. Time and again, progress is delayed due to unexpected conflicts. Political motives are often behind it. The national regulations provide a legal framework but only when the conflict is brought to a higher level. Since the existence of a legal framework alone does not guarantee its proper application, generating goodwill and mediating between conflicting interests is essential for the sustainability of the projects. SRWSP has, on various occasions, successfully mediated in source conflicts.
• Facilitation of the process is important and critical to success.
For the process to succeed, it must be properly facilitated by people who are well trained in the use of participatory methods. At all stages, guidance from the facilitators will help the community to find their own way in the overall process. Sometimes a small push is needed here and there, but it must be applied with sensitivity and good judgment. Community facilitators may be tempted to make decisions for the community in order to speed up the process, but by doing so they would impede the development of a stronger sense of ownership. Intensive supervision and appreciative feedback will encourage the community facilitators to work in accordance with the stated principles and organisational structure.
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