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Water & Sanitation
The objective of the project is to facilitate the development of community ownership of water facilities to ensure a sustainable resource for Nias villages.
SurfAid International has been engaged in implementing a water and sanitation (Watsan) program in Nias since 2007. This was initially focused on Sirombu and Teluk Dalam districts via a CBHP that was funded by NZAID, with a Watsan component funded by UNICEF. This project delivered a total of 103 facilities in these two districts, ranging from the construction of community tanks with standpipes, through rain-water harvesting facilities to individual latrines.
The Watsan program was implemented as a component of the wider CBHP, which allowed a closer and more lasting interaction with the partner communities, and allowed time for the development of community support and the implementation of water committees. In addition, the Community Based Health Program stressed the links between water quality, sanitation practices and community health. Such was the success of this initial Watsan program that SurfAid sourced additional private donations to continue the work in the other two regions of Nias (Afulu and Alasa). This US$240,000 project is supported by the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund, the Eureka Benevolent Fund, Sean Nevett and others.
The objectives are similar to the initial project funded by NZAID and UNICEF, namely the facilitation of improved access to water and sanitation, the improvement of sanitation practices within communities, and assisting communities to develop their own internal capacity to maintain and manage water and sanitation systems.
This subsequent project has a greater focus on sanitation and on encouraging community members to build their own latrines, using local material, without any cash subsidy from SurfAid. This has been extremely successful and to date 337 latrines have been committed in 13 communities (of which 288, or 85%, have already been completed). This construction of latrines provides an excellent multiplier for the funds spent on larger facilities and on supporting community self-development. A total of 43 water supply facilities, such as rainwater harvesting and ferro-cement tanks, will be supplied in this project.
In addition to the work in Nias, SurfAid is actively involved in a smaller project in the Mentawai Islands which is delivering clean water facilities to six communities that were badly affected by the earthquakes of September 2007. As in Nias, this work is being supported by SurfAid with the logistical and technical support supplied by SurfAid. Labour and local materials are supplied by the communities themselves. As of March 2010, one well had been completed, two more were close to completion, and the balance of the six facilities will be completed by the end of 2010.
Throughout Nias there is a range of NGOs (Non Government Organisations), both local and international, that have been working on a range of water projects and installing water facilities in remote locations. In a recent review of our own activities, field staff identified that a significant proportion of the water facilities that had been installed by SurfAid, and others, were not being used adequately. There were many reasons for this but the general theme was lack of ability, confidence and technical knowledge among the communities themselves. There are some specific examples of the problems that have been encountered by Nias communities since their water facilities have been completed and turned over to their own care, such as rainwater tanks of an inadequate size to cater for populations during dry season; facilities reliant upon electricity in locations where the supply is unreliable or fluctuations in supply quality cause damage to pumps; the lack of ongoing repair and maintenance of the tap system and dug wells and the inability of community members to purchase or install spare parts.
The examples above serve to demonstrate the importance of providing communities with an appropriate level of initial and ongoing support to ensure they have the expertise, the structures, the commitment and the unity of purpose to manage their facilities properly. These examples are not isolated incidents and similar problems exist throughout Nias.
The ultimate objective of every installation is to provide facilities that are able to be used sustainably for the benefit of the communities and their members. This initiative proposes to address this issue specifically, by assessing a wide range of communities in Nias; identifying those communities in greatest need; assisting in developing a sense of community responsibility through re-vitalisation and support for community water committees; ensuring technical inputs are appropriate to the skills of the communities; and supporting this change in focus from one-off construction to long-term use.
SurfAid considers the local community to be the significant partner in all our programs which are designed to strengthen and empower.
The rehabilitation project proposes an initial consultation process aimed at developing a sense of community ownership of, and responsibility for, the operation and maintenance of facilities. This will include strengthening the capacity of water committees through training and education and the provision of ongoing, hands-on support at the community level.
We propose to establish closer formal links between the water committees, the community leaders and key community members and other SurfAid programs which have health, and the role played by water and sanitation, as central themes. As part of the project SurfAid will also collaborate with other international and local groups who have supplied water facilities in Nias to try to understand their approaches to long-term community participation and support. This group will include organisations such as Oxfam, UNICEF, BRR (Badan Reconstruksi and Rehabilitasi/Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency) and others.
This rehabilitation project will be SurfAid’s third Watsan project in Nias, and the fourth overall. It is significant that this project proposes to consider the long-term utility of new facilities, rather than build more facilities in more communities. This sits well with SurfAid’s strategy of supporting communities to support themselves, and of ensuring that inputs have a positive, and measurable, effect. It has become clear that water and sanitation initiatives will only be sustainable when there is genuine community ownership of facilities and participation in water and sanitation related activities.
This project will deliver clean water to communities. However it will not achieve that objective by building more wells; it will achieve this outcome by providing communities with support for their own water committees to manage and maintain their own facilities. Consequently the outcome will be long-term and sustainable.
The specifics of the link between hygiene and health are often poorly understood in isolated Nias communities. Consequently SurfAid has adopted the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, which provides a graphic introduction to the relationship between open defecation and community health. Within CLTS, the process of triggering focuses on raising community awareness of the health risks associated with open defecation, and by the end of the triggering process it is expected that many individual community members will be sufficiently motivated to undertake to build their own latrines.
Like all other watsan interventions, CLTS is only effective where there is ongoing community support. Therefore SurfAid has focused considerable resources into ensuring that communities receive hands-on assistance in the form of training, education, and technical and logistical support.
Where it is appropriate and cost-effective to do so, SurfAid will consider engaging some of the partner communities in CLTS.
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