Support to Decentralisation of Water Supply and Sanitation Services in the RAAN – PRODESAS (2008-2011)
Background A project to promote access to quality water supply and sanitation services was implemented in 16 rural communities and 17 schools during the period 2008-2012 with funds from SDC and matching contributions from Mayor´s offices, SC, and the communities. It benefitted 8,279 people (3,845 children and 4,434 adults) and was also aimed at strengthening the capacity of municipal authorities to manage water supply and sanitation services. It also sought to help improve the living conditions of the population. An external evaluation was conducted after project completion, in order to determine the level of compliance with the objectives set forth and expected results. The evaluation was conducted by external consultants without objection from SDC (the donor).Purpose/objective (including evaluation questions) 1. Evaluate project performance against objectives, indicators and expected results.2. Assess the relevance of the implementation model, SC-mayor ‘offices-community; roles and work strategies.3. Evaluate the level of community participation and empowerment vis-à-vis sustainable actions undertaken by the project, with particular emphasis on child and adolescent participation.4. Evaluate the method of Healthy Families, Schools and Communities (FECSA) used to change behaviour.5. Identify the effects of the project, in particular on the lives of children and adolescents.6. Identify the main lessons learned in terms of the process as well as technical issues, and from the project´s operations and administration.7. Identify the main challenges for the water and sanitation sector, especially in the RAAN.8. Highlight challenges, facilitate and propose strategic changes and actions based on the main evaluation findings and a sector analysis.Methodology A review and analysis of information from project document were conducted, with emphasis on project design (progress reports, baseline assessments, methods, aide-memoires, financial and training reports, other documents to be produced); field research was conducted through visits to 12 of the 16 communities where water and sanitation projects were implemented with the local people. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with children, adults, teachers, members of health brigades, and local leaders to determine project satisfaction and ownership in search for sustainability. These were also aimed at verifying such variables as effectiveness, efficiency, impact, participation, cost-effectiveness, gender, and contribution to improve the standard of living of the population. Visits to infrastructure projects were made and field observation was used as a tool. Interviews with municipal authorities were also included. Key findings PRODESAS objectives and indicators set forth were successfully achieved: Improve health conditions; laying the groundwork to develop integral hygiene habits in the family and the community, as well as strengthening municipal and community capacity. Initial delays in complying with the scheduled time frame were acknowledged. A relevant implementation model included SC-mayor´s offices and community participation. SC´s profile was an asset given the priority it placed on improving children´s lives – who make up the largest segment of beneficiary families. Specifically, the quality of life improved for children with access to domestic water supply and sanitation services, as well as new hygiene habits. Furthermore, access to these services at school improved the educational environment. Specific training from teachers and brigade members gave children the chance to engage in the projects. They were able to participate in decision-making related to sanitation and become informed of the scope of the programme. Household chores have decreased with access to domestic water supply, as has the risk posed by hauling water over long distances.A challenge to building water and sanitation projects in this remote region was identified. Increased flexibility and longer amounts of time were required, as well as shared knowledge with the donor of actual costs of intervention and context conditions (geographic dispersion, scarcity of qualified staff with relevant experience, and low service supply).Another evaluation finding was the need for mayor´s offices and leading institutions to commit to the environment and discuss the challenge of deforestation in wooded areas, particularly in groundwater recharge areas. Some of these areas are located in the buffer zone of the Bosawas reserve. Community leaders have not fallen on receptive ears in MARENA as well as local authorities regarding potential damage to water resources.Recommendations Programmes implemented in the RAAN, such as PRODESAS, must incorporate and understand the difficulties in identifying and contracting qualify technical staff and local engineers. The human resources required to implement projects with higher levels of effectiveness and efficiency are scarce. They are needed to invigorate development in indigenous communities, even if this increases the cost involved.Follow up (with reference to Action Plan) Community water and sanitation projects are to be officially handed over to the community and local authorities by the end of December, with the aim of ensuring sustainability.