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engagement from Finland

Understanding Africa

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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Water supply schemes for Ethiopian communities

Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children and adults every day,leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more. There are many serious repercussions to the lack of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Children - and, particularly, girls - are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Without WASH, sustainable development is impossible.

How Finland supports community-based water management

Enatthun Gessesie is one of two women sitting on the water committee of Yenech, Ethiopia. She said, “To fetch water, we the women and girls used to walk a long distances through forest which used to expose the girls for rape and abduction. Now, we have the pleasure of drinking clean water at our doorstep and all girls are attending school.”

Yenech village is one of the many villages in Ammauel Zuria woreda in Amhara Regional State, where the Government of Finland - through its bilateral project, Community-led accelerated WASH (COWASH) - supports the Ethiopian government’s efforts towards achieving the Universal Access Plan (UAP) WASH programmes.

"Currently,in Amhara region alone Finland supports a total of 27 woredas covering the investment as well the capacity building of 16 woredas,while providing technical support to the rest of the 11 woredas," said Mesfin Abebaw, regional head of WASH. "The number of the woredas will be increased to 40 in next year."

COWASH supplies water to hundreds of thousands of communities COWASH is providing essential water supply to hundreds of thousands of communities with  different socio-economic and cultural identities which required organising tens of thousands of  communities to operate and sustain these schemes,said,Kebede Gerba, Ethiopia’s State Minister of  Water and Energy (MoWE) at a COWASH workshop held in Addis Ababa in August 2013. The  Minister said, “Finland's continuous unreserved financial and technical support to the WASH sector  enables us to provide WASH services for millions of Ethiopians. In the last year alone some 10  million people in rural and urban have access to clean drinking water. This achievement encourage  and remind us that if we work hard we can achieve the GTP targets."

What is more, Finnish assistance in last year's National WASH Inventory (NWI) included the contribution of a sound and reliable database to track and monitor progress. Ambassador Leo Olasvirta, who is based at the Embassy of Finland in Addis Ababa, praised this initiative - and added that the ongoing development of WASH programmes had delivered sectoral developments to complement the government’s commitment and determination towards sector wide approach which is one of the key ingredients to ensure aid effectiveness agenda.

Managing community-based processes

In line with the GTP intention, Finland committed itself to support the government effort and came up with the COWASH programme, which was jointly designed and prepared making the Community Managed Implementation (CMP) modality at the centre of it.

“Currently, Finland is doubling its support to the programme with an additional 11 million euro, making the total to 22 million euro,” Ambassador Olasvirta observed. “At this juncture, I would like to reiterate government of Finland’s commitment and determination to support Ethiopia's effort to provide clean potable water and improved sanitation and hygiene services for all its citizens.”

Olasvirta noted also the smooth transition of the COWASH into OWNP, including the transfer of the government funding and that of the committed regional investment finance into the Regional One WASH Plan and one WASH account for the CMP Implementation, amending the Bilateral and the respective regional agreements and other preparatory tasks. Ongoing work will be undertaken jointly by the Embassy, MoFED, MoWE (using the CoWASH Team) and the programme regions.

“Simply put, OWNP is the harmonisation process of all donor WASH programmes into one WASH sector according to globally agreed aid efficiency principles. When OWNP is operational, Finland will inject four million euro annually,” said Arto Suominen, chief technical Advisor of the COWASH project. Suominen affirmed that Finland started by supporting 24 woredas in 2001, and now supports 64 woredas in five regions.

“Finland's total contribution to the different WASH programmes alone is around 34mn euro. The support is benefitting half a million people every year,” he added.

One goal for all Communities in Amhara contribute labour as well as materials for the building of water schemes at their village (Photo:

Ethiopia has been implementing UAP since 2006. Water supply access in rural areas is increasing substantially from 19 per cent in 1990 reaching 67 per cent in 2013. While basic sanitation stands at 68.5 per cent, the target is to achieve universal access by 2015 with 98 per cent access to water supply, and reduction of proportion of non-functioning facilities to 10 per cent.

According to Kebede, as of January 2014 Ethiopia will start implementing the one national WASH programme (OWNP) to achieve universal target.

“Finland is for OWNP - but has also interest in maintaining the CMP modality as part and parcel of OWNP,” he said. At the workshop, regional WASH and financial bureau heads stressed the effectiveness of CMP modality and have strongly support and favour it to be the best financial modality for the upcoming OWNP framework. Finland is the originator of the Community Management Project (CMP) approach, which has been tested in Amhara and Benshangul Gumuz regional states for over a decade and has now become the benchmark for a country wide implementation of COWASH. Currently,CMP is being implemented in Tigray, Oromia, in addition to the two regions. The approach attempts to get local communities involved in addressing their own water issues through transferring funds and project management responsibilities and physical construction directly to them, so they are responsible for the water supply development process through planning, implementation and maintenance.

“WASH funds for the community are transferred via micro-finance institutions, so they can develop springs or dig wells,” Eyob explained.

The main requirement of the financial management is that communities utilise the COWASH committee to exercise full responsibility for the funds transferred to them through the MFIs during the construction phase, which encourages decentralisation of financial management and so the efficient use of funds. COWASH is charged with carrying out financial management, procurement and construction. The MFI channels investment funds to CMP projects. This is because, as compared to other financial institutions (such as the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia), MFI is found to be the only institution which maintains large networks of branches at local level.

Financial performance and responsibilities

Although the programme has worked with 100 per cent grants to date, the MFIs get a commission (three per cent) for services rendered. The regional level Bureau of Finance signs the fund management agreement with the MFI in each region, which stipulates the responsibilities and authority of each party in relation to the CMP. Accordingly, communities maintain two accounts: One for the investment grant and one for operation and maintenance where the initial community contribution (15 per cent) is placed. Both accounts are well-maintained and substantial savings have been made by the communities for future operation and maintenance.

The CMP projects have been found to be more efficient in the utilisation of funds than projects financed by funding through woredas, because procurement is much faster by the WASH committees at each site. This simplified procurement system has been put in place through training and continuous supervision. As a result, the efficiency of the Woreda-level Water Office (WWO) has also increased considerably because the actual project implementation will not entirely depend its capacity as well as changing the role from implementer to facilitator. This in turn has improved the communities’ capacity to implement their projects as well as their ability to work on influencing the supply of material and equipment by the private sector. As a results,an increased number of water points constructed in one budget year in a reduced time for a project completion (1.5 to 2 months per water point).

For instance, during the first phase of the Amhara Programme (1995-1998) about 500 water points were completed. In the second phase (1999-2003) the number of completed water points was 1,000. In both phases a conventional District Managed approach was used. But after CMP approach was introduced in 2003 the implementation speed increased significantly. During the third phase (2003-2006) the communities completed nearly 2,000 new water points. In the fourth phase (2007-2011) the fund management was shifted from the consultant to the Bureau of Finance and Economic Development (BoFED) and the number of completed water schemes raised to 3,240. The costs per empowered community were 3,490 euro and the per capita cost was 14.7 euro. The total number of water points constructed during all four phases is 6,524 benefitting over 1.5mn people. The number of annually-constructed water points scaled up from 20 to 75 water points (which compares well to the national average, which is below 30 points) with a functionality rate of over 94 per cent.

The innovation in fund flows coupled with the training and capacity building components on WASH and health aspects to the woredas to plan and support communities (rather than building schemes themselves) using local private sector and locally adapted procurement procedures is a triangular partnership resulting in a win-win situation. When the communities are able to keep their WASH services reliable, they may consider investing the additional resources for income-generating activities that will speed up rural development. In sum, CMP has a proven record of success within the COWASH projects in improved implementation and sustainability. Hence, donors and governments in developing countries aiming to reach MDG 7 should consider testing and applying the CMP approach in their programmes.

To this end, Finland’s engagement in the water sector has delivered real progress - not only in making aid effective and making a difference at the local level, but also in influencing the government’s sectoral implementation strategy. 

Meskerem Lemma