In April, the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium took place in Addis Ababa, with participation of Fontes Foundation staff.
Monitoring of development initiatives is a controversial issue. Some say organizations are spending too much on useless, one-off exercises that are not updated, relevant or even used by anyone. Others say organizations do not have sufficient knowledge of the programmes they are carrying out in order to make good decisions, such as information on functionality, cost, impact and demand. How to strike a balance between using a minimum of resources and having access to sufficient information, at all levels, at all times, to make informed decisions which contribute towards improved service delivery and sustainability? From the 9th to the 11th April 2013, Lucrezia Biteete, Regional Coordinator of Fontes Foundation, participated at the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium, organised by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Fontes Foundation has been at the forefront on monitoring for many years. In 2008, a paper was presented at the WEDC conference in Accra, Ghana, outlining the different flows of information from community water projects such as daily water quantity information, monthly incomes and expenditures and annual numbers of beneficiaries. Already in this paper it is highlighted how important it is to ask the following questions: Who is the monitoring for? What information are those agents primarily interested in? The purpose of the monitoring should always be prioritized when developing a monitoring and evaluation framework; will the information be used to make management decisions? To report to donors? To improve a certain programme or approach? Most approaches presented at the conference showed a one-time survey and its results, but did not mention how the effort is going to be continued, who is going to pay for it and how the information will actually be used in a practical way.
Fontes Foundation has continued its work on monitoring by developing a new indicator, Water-Person-Years, in 2009. Since then, Fontes Foundation has also participated in an informal working group, together with practitioners from WaterAid, Improve International and WASH Advocates, in order to develop a better indicator for sustainability in water projects than the most commonly used “coverage” indicator. In addition, Fontes Foundation has an established monitoring and evaluation framework in all projects. In the water projects, monthly reports are collected by the organization from the water committees, with information on quality, use and finances. The GSM monitoring system is operating in two villages, sending real-time information by SMS on water quantity, incomes and expenditures. The youth project has an elaborated monitoring and evaluation framework with a number of tools in order to improve the courses, evaluate facilitators, follow up the progress on students and provide motivation for time-keeping.
During the conference in Addis Ababa, the use of ICT in monitoring was thoroughly discussed. A number of new technologies such as smart phones and internet platforms are used to share information quicker, to a broader audience. Fontes Foundation built such a system already in 2007. Many ICT solutions encounter challenges in the implementation phase because the human aspect has not been sufficiently taken into account; people will only use something if they are motivated and have the capacity to do so.
Lucrezia Biteete also presented a paper which is based on a study which collected information on all expenditures related to rural water supply delivery in an entire district in Uganda (Kabarole) for the last 3 years. This is part of a drive to make stakeholders aware of the Life-Cycle Cost Approach in Uganda, in order to improve planning and budgeting in the sector. All publications mentioned in this article can be found on our website.