A major component of BTC’s Water project in Dar es Salaam is involving the community it’s supposed to be helping. This means setting up and training community-owned organisations to manage the newly-built water supply, sanitation and solid waste/drainage systems long after our project team have left the site.
In some ways this “software” aspect – identifying and training the right people, ensuring local support, etc. – is more difficult than the “hardware”– the prospecting, design and construction of systems. Especially when previous water projects have been tried, and failed, in the same districts. And delays in BTC’s project – launched in 2008, construction is only beginning this year – don’t help either.
Desperate in Dar es Salaam
But though frustrated by the delays, communities remain motivated, says Emmanuel Mwampashi, a water engineer from Kinondoni Municipality. Quite simply, “they need this project, that’s why they participate”. In Dar es Salaam, outdated infrastructure systems cannot keep up with rapid population growth and spreading of unplanned settlements. Over 40% of residents have no access to clean water.
And there is a general acceptance that the Tanzanian Government is not in a position to change this.“Realistically, it will be another 10 years before we can supply the majority of residents with water”, says Zephania Mihayo, Principle Engineer from the Ministry of Water.
Their project, or ours?
Ultimately, the aim is that the water authority in Dar es Salaam will take over the systems built by BTC and others. Until then, the project expects communities to take responsibility. Such “ownership” – the project has been named “Maji Yetu” (Our Water) – means local people, not an anonymous government body, are accountable for finances and maintenance.
But involving the community in a representative way isn’t always automatic. Originally, the project hired a consultant to help set up water companies in each of three project municipalities. Financial contributions were gathered from beneficiaries (a minimal amount to ensure commitment), companies registered, board members trained.
Soon, however, it emerged that these companies, set up hurriedly, were not representative of the community they were supposed to serve: some people didn’t even know “their” company existed.
Involving authorities too
So BTC changed tack. Now, each of the 11 water schemes is to have its own company (instead of the four larger companies originally envisaged). The project team is training government staff at municipal level (instead of a consultant) from departments of water, health, education, and community development to help set up and operate community-owned companies.
The advantage of this is a much more localised, and therefore relevant, service to the emerging companies and the communities they represent. It also has the added benefit of building the capacity of municipal staff. They are also expected to “own” the project, Manjolo Kambili, BTC’s National Technical Advisor explains. He underlines to them that they are not working for BTC, but for their own Directors. “This also reduces expectations of getting money from a big project”, he says. “The message is: ‘This is your project’ – and there is an element of volunteerism in that”.
There is at least one precedence for motivated local authorities. In Temeke municipality, a team is already working on community education and mobilisation, thanks to a Water Aid project some years ago. They’re keen to show off their experience to their counterparts in Kinondoni and Ilala.
With construction starting now, management of water/sanitation systems will soon become urgent. Municipal staff also face the unenviable task of informing some communities that new water supply schemes won’t be built in their neighbourhood after all: budget restrictions mean the total number of schemes had to be reduced from 15 to 11, even if the ultimate number of people reached should not be affected.
What is more, Dar es Salaam is changing rapidly. Since the project was formulated, the areas designated as “peri-urban” and poor have become heavily populated, including by more wealthy citizens. The project aims for 60% of the water sourced from the new systems to be available (at a low price) at public water points. But if better-off people use the systems to get running water to their homes, how much will be available for their neighbours? Questions of community (which community?) remain central to the project objectives.