Whave is a model rural service utility registered in Uganda, working globally on solutions for the poverty cycle. Our work in Uganda is designed to act as a model for other countries. We offer training and consulting services internationally, based on practical achievements and experience.
We work with communities, civil organisations and authorities to build institutional environments which underpin permanent and self-sustaining solutions for reliable clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). We take the new SDG goals seriously, principally SDG 6, 8, 17 and are committed to their implementation through careful tracking of indicators. We are members of several international networks, and are committed to knowledge sharing and co-operation.
Water-borne disease is considered the heaviest health burden in developing countries alongside malaria. Two billion people worldwide suffer lifelong disability and impoverished livelihoods due to lack of clean water and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. The problem is worsening and contributes to the pressures of rising populations, gender inequality, failure of girls to receive education, and vulnerability to climate change.
Whave’s practical experience shows that a solution to water-borne disease and to the WASH crisis with its ancillary problems, is practical and feasible, with concerted action and some innovation. What is required is a conventional public-private service delivery, the challenge being implementation in the special circumstances of the rural environment.
Our approach is to focus on the key ingredients of effective service. For successful WASH services, recipients are active participants who are fairly and respectfully treated, proud to pay the same price as their neighbours for a consistent service. Service delivery is a private sector role, and regulation by authorities and by civil society is essential to ensure quality and universal access.
Whave focuses on building the institutional structure. Many aid “think-tanks” identify the root reason behind the persistence of the global WASH crisis as the absence of appropriate institutional frameworks or enabling environment. Projects which are scattered geographically and under pressure to spend limited budgets within a short time-frame are not effective.
Whave adopts a systems building approach, focusing on universal access to safe water (ensured by good community governance), combined with pride in payment for a valued service, and combined with good regulation and public-private partnership.
Our experience is that this approach is practical and feasible. The process of building an enabling environment requires clear communication and consensus. Politicians and civil organizations who currently transact gifts and promises, are open to dialogue and pride in supporting transition to a stable infrastructure that provides services every day for everyone.
The norm for clean water access and sanitation in cities in Africa (and throughout most developed countries including in rural areas) is the Private-Public Partnership. The usual concept is for utilities to deliver services the quality and value of which are tested continually against performance indicators and transparency of accounts. Central and local governments act as regulators , although the role of monitoring indicators, screening accounts, evaluating performance, ensuring universal access, and fostering improvements in value-for-money for the recipients, is sometimes taken by independent monitors and regulators. A utility failing to provide consistent good service at the right price, loses its role to a rival organization. Under these conditions, service utilities develop efficient internal systems, making sure that their staff are working efficiently—this often requires payment on commission and performance-payment. Practice is not always perfect, especially in respect of informal settlements, but the concept is well understood and therefore measures can be taken to assure improved implementation.
Whave’s approach is to show that these essential ingredients of effective WASH services can be introduced in rural areas. We have made good progress through proof-of-concept, consensus building, new performance indicators, practical demonstration, partnerships with communities, authorities, NGOs ; our program is described below in the section Sustainable WASH Systems.
Our experience in rural development spans thirty years and many countries of Asia and Africa, and includes work on livelihoods, environment, health and energy. In the rural electrification sector we developed Private-Public Partnerships introducing performance incentives for efficient delivery of service by local companies providing solar and village-scale hydro solutions. We also developed methodologies for results-based financing of large-scale market dissemination of fuel-efficient cook-stoves in both rural and urban environments. In recent years we have brought this experience to bear in the WASH sector.
Whave is planning a regional office in Mozambique, with a focus in urban areas on reducing wood-charcoal consumption through efficient cook-stove manufacture and dissemination. Whave Mozambique is also planning pilot projects to increase the reliability of rural safe water supply.
Whave is working with the government to develop a national Safe Water Security programme. The focus is on ensuring daily operational reliability of clean water sources combined with transformation of hygiene and sanitation committees. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been structured to include local private sector "micro-utilities" as key performance-paid players, and to include local government offices and NGOs. A laddered strategy for local community financing of sustainable WASH services has been established.
Whave experts have been leading contributors to development of rural electricity network in Sri Lanka through design, construction, and rehabilitation of numerous micro-hydro sites. These have included stand-alone as well as grid connected sites, and several village-scale power stations. Whave has also designed and introduced high efficiency tea processing equipment, to reduce fuel-wood and fossil-fuel consumption.
Whave experts assisted the Government to revise electricity laws and regulations in order to facilitate a range of rural electrification initiatives led by provincial energy service companies. We established a credit and hire-purchase system which enabled local entrepreneurs to install and operate reliably solar PV in 5 provinces, and also to provide reliable operation and management for village-scale pico-hydro systems. The work involved effective participative planning and incentives for regular preventive maintenance.
Whave experts undertook an analysis of the potential for small-scale biogas production by farmers, as a method of replacing diminishing firewood resources used for cooking. The study included an institutional analysis, and an analysis of social trends and changes in animal husbandry methods.
Whave experts trained local engineers in Vietnam in the manufacture of electronic control systems for village-scale and micro-scale hydel systems. Whave experts also engaged in the site identification, design, construction, and management planning for a series of village-scale and micro-scale hydro schemes in areas of northern Vietnam out of reach of the national grid. The work included training courses for local engineers and preparation in Vietnamese of instruction manuals.
Whave experts contributed to the current Clean Development Mechanism methodology principally in analysis of non-renewable biomass. This was applied to a CDM Programme of Activities in Bangladesh, where we designed and undertook the baseline study and a field performance test of improved stoves using firewood, and developed the CDM PoA and CPA Design Documents. The PoA was registered in 2011 as the first CDM PoA for improved cook-stoves.
In Guinea-Conakry, we joined with experts from Geres in France, conducted a training course in micro-hydel management, economics, design and construction for French speaking planning engineers from the private and the public sector. The training course included preparation of a micro-hydro design manual in French language, a locally-adapted version of the book "Micro-Hydro Design Manual".
An important solution to the fuel-wood crisis in Africa is the replacement of non-renewing with renewing fuel-wood. Our experts are lead consultants to an innovative CDM Programme of Activities, with the aim of producing supplying Zambian cities with a locally produced green fuel to replace conventional wood-charcoal; the project also has the goal of reducing domestic expenditure on cooking fuel.
Our experts are lead consultants to an innovative CDM Programme of Activities operational in Malawi, with the aim of supplying the market with a locally grown green fuel to replace conventional wood-charcoal; the project also has the goal of reducing domestic expenditure on cooking fuel.
Whave experts are lead consultants to a CDM Programme of Activities which aims to supply families and institutions in Kaduna and Kano States with efficient cook-stoves, in order to address the problems of fuel-wood scarcity and deforestation, rising prices , and health impairment caused by smokey kitchens.
We assisted the government of Cameroon to introduce off-grid electricity into their rural planning and regulation structures, specifically by identifying and demonstrating the potential of micro-hydro electricity sources in the country. Local officials and engineers were trained by Whave in participative planning an d in ownership, management and tariff structures. Whave engineers also trained local entrepreneurs in construction of turbines, and in micro-hydel site design and construction. Pilot sites were constructed and villagers engaged in establishment of management and ownership structures.
Our work in eight districts of Uganda demonstrates the service utility approach. We are building district-level and national-level Public-Private Partnerships. We introduce new performance indicators, affordable monitoring procedures, and performance-payment contracts, in order to take accountability and professionalism to a new level in the rural WASH sector.
First, we looked at the functionality of clean water sources. Almost everyone agrees that rural water sources in sub-Saharan Africa (and in many countries of other regions) commonly do not work for extended downtime periods each year, due to breakdowns and prolonged repair delays, and often are prematurely abandoned. Leading academics have commented that an unreliable clean water source causes families to revert to unsafe water and ill-health. Reliability is reported to be between 50 and 70% on average in rural areas of developing countries, which means the health benefits promised by current investments in clean water supply are not achieved. Poor reliability has three causes: lack of preventive maintenance, use of poor quality materials and parts, and poor construction design. These factors have their own root causes which Whave has identified and addressed.
In contrast to the 60% baseline, Whave’s activity as a model WASH service utility has resulted in a more-than-98% reliability track-record over three years in the many communities which have signed service agreements. This improvement has been due to our innovative introduction of reliability as a new indicator, its consistent monitoring, and design of preventive maintenance incentives for the same local technicians originally hired by the communities for repairs. The reliability improvement has cost communities less rather than more; considerably less than is typically paid to a water-source private owner or operator charging per container. The technicians’ earnings have stabilized and improved. Even with the cost of reliability monitoring included as a permanent intuitional feature, costs are within normal and comfortable levels for farming communities. We have however not yet removed costs due to downtime and repair associated with poor materials and construction design – this is work currently on-going in in collaboration with government and civil partners.
Many health extension workers from local government and from many voluntary organization offices conduct hygiene campaigns. However it’s difficult to find any practitioner on the ground who does not confess that reversion to baseline conditions within one year of a campaign, is common if not universal. The problem of relapse was identified by Whave as a priority issue. If interventions do not have a sustained affect, then hygiene transformation will never take place.
Whave addressed this issue by designing a community hygiene indicator, and conducting randomised sampling surveys in each community w signed into a WASH service contract. We are finding that monitoring is not just information collection; it is also a driver of behaviour change. The communities welcome the surveys (which are quarterly or monthly) because they help them gain new habits through continuous reminders. The result has been that relapse does not occur, instead the new hygiene levels achieved by a campaign have been sustained or some communities have risen slowly over time. This provides a sound basis for hygiene transformation.
Whave is a member of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) and a partner of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)
The broadest meaning or the term “institutional” includes behavioural habit – for example the culture of “wait-till-it-breaks” described above could be described as institutionalised. Some professional habits have become ingrained, such as sanitation interventions normalised amongst extension workers with impacts that are not monitored for long enough and are applied without consideration for indigenous knowledge or effectiveness. Institutional conditions in most developing countries’ rural areas are generally not favourable for effective WASH services. Affordable financial services are not available or very scarce, and local government is under-resourced. Village government has become weak in recent decades in some countries with rising individualism, and private sector scams abound (including unethical behaviour by local water technicians). However the commitment of local government officials is generally high and their ethics usually strong; villagers do have a cash economy and will pay for good services; tremendous potential exists for effective regulation of a vibrant private sector.
In recent years Whave has been (alongside others) loudly advocating change in institutionalised professional habits. In Uganda, our advocacy message has been shaped by continuous stakeholder input, principally from local government officers. An example message is the emphasis we are placing on prevention of breakdowns through preventive maintenance, and the need for innovations in contractual structures and financial incentives. The instruments of performance-payment and of permanent institutionalised monitoring of reliability are included in the dialogue. Positive response from local governments has been rapid (due to closeness to the issues on the ground), and the Ugandan government is now committed to prioritising preventive maintenance systems on a national scale. The practical demonstration Whave has made of improved reliability has influenced this significant result.
A key innovation has been the concept of the WASH service utility as a permanent feature of the rural institutional landscape, and its practical demonstration. By piloting the utility function on the ground, it has become clear that rural communities welcome reliability assurance contracts and are willing to pay for consistent service. They emerge as active participants in a cash economy who are fairly and respectfully treated, proud to pay the same price as their neighbours for a consistent service, as in their relationship with mobile phone service providers (and as with their relatives in town, who respect payments for electricity and water services). The rural service utility concept has now been accepted by local and central government in Uganda, and moves are under way to implement at scale, a significant outcome of the advocacy.
A major barrier to services in rural areas has been lack of affordable financial services. This is changing rapidly with phone banking and initiatives in community-managed saving and lending groups, so that families increasingly can contribute cash for services with confidence of proper accountability. The prospect now is of stronger village government, since phone-networked bank balances can be supervised by a local independent monitor and government office; there is prospect also of integration of community saving and lending associations, with efficient collection of water maintenance dues. Payments to private sector technicians and service utilities can be cashless, allowing for tracking and supervision, so building consumer confidence in accountability and increasing willingness-to-pay. These institutional changes are being promoted by Whave in the context of training local entities to become WASH service utilities, regulated by local government or regionally by central government – Whave is actively working with local and central government to build district-scale or regional-scale demonstrations of self-financing service utilities.
Whave is working with mainstream banks and phone networks to establish mobile phone cashless transfers. This allow finances to be transparent and supervised by regulators and monitors, and steps such as control of quality and price of spare parts can take place. This builds confidence in efficient service delivery and willingness-to-pay.
Another key innovation is the emphasis Whave has placed on continuous monitoring as a driver of effective assistance and behaviour change. To achieve SDG goal 6, there is a consensus emerging internationally that smart indicators must be designed and applied effectively. Whave started to do this is 2013 by measuring quality of drinking water in homes in all engaged communities. The results have been startling, showing almost universal contamination amongst rural families using traditional storage pots. It seems interventions such as tip-taps and extension handbooks recommending use of clean mugs for scooping, are not delivering results. SDG 6 will only be achieved with visibility on results. In 2013 Whave developed an indicator for community hygiene, and has applied it at low cost since then in communities signing WASH service agreements, with a positive effect on hygiene as described above (prevention of relapse). It may take some years before hygiene conditions are fully transformed and interventions are no longer needed (although it seems many western hospitals now need indicators and interventions), but at least with institutionalized monitoring we can now track progress and make effective interventions, removing ineffective ones.
We work closley with District Health Inspectors and District water officers. Here the District Health Inspector, Luuka District, Hidaya Nangobi, said: “We have campaigns to improve hygiene and these are successful for a while, but soon people go back to their old ways and hygiene collapses and is bad again. Where Whave is working, hygiene improvements have not gone down, but even after two years are still going up, and the levels are better than in other areas”
A scaled-proof of concept approach would integrate hygiene transformation strategies with clean water supply reliability, together aiming at SDG 6. The institutionalisation of community hygiene and home water quality monitoring is a foundation on which other strategies rest. Whave is working on village health businesses selling locally manufactured affordable hand-washing devices to replace tip-taps, storage pots with taps and narrow necks, and on strategies for self-finance of hygiene competitions between rural communities.
Transformation of WASH conditions and achievement of SDG goal 6 at scale requires several years work. Whave is building local government regulation capacity on the basis of effective indicators, and training regional and district-level service utilities; it is also acting as a benchmark or model utility. While most of the concept work and proof-of-concept work is done and accepted, further consensus amongst politicians and further scaled implementation is essential. The target is to achieve financial viability and sustainability: in forthcoming years community payments for reliability service will match costs of delivering reliability service, with due attention given to equal access by all to clean water.
Office: Office: Second Floor above Starmax Interiors, Lukuli Road, Makindye, Kampala, Uganda
Postal Address: POBox 72305, Kampala, Uganda