AMCOW is an intergovernmental, Pan-African, non-budgetary institution working under the Specialized Technical Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment of the African Union (AU), and provides political oversight on water resources and sanitation in Africa. AMCOW’s mission is to promote cooperation, security, social and economic development, and poverty alleviation among member states through the effective management of the continent’s water resources and the provision of water supply and sanitation services, and is mandated to provide political leadership in the implementation of the African Water Vision 2025 and water components of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
The Groundwater Desk Officer will be responsible for setting up and operationalizing the groundwater function at AMCOW Secretariat. He/she will coordinate all groundwater activities with the view to shaping knowledge and action on groundwater development and management on the continent. Specifically, the position holder will:
Systematically map and maintain an updated database of stakeholders engaged in groundwater activities on the continent. This includes having a clear understanding of the types and sizes of such institutions/organizations, and their thematic and geographical foci.
Work with such identified institutions/organizations with the view to establishing coordinating and collaboration mechanisms and platforms for groundwater activities in Africa.
Lead in Collating, Analyzing and Managing Knowledge on Groundwater with the intention of shaping opinion and influencing action on sustainable groundwater development and management in Africa, at appropriate levels.
We are delighted to report that UN-Water, the coordinating body for water issues across the United Nations, in a meeting this week agreed to make the theme of the 2022 World Water Development Report and World Water Day: “Groundwater: making the invisible visible”http://enb.iisd.org/water/un/30/html/enbplus82num34e.html
Meanwhile three new UPGro papers have recently been published:
“Groundwater hydrodynamics of an Eastern Africa coastal aquifer,
including La Niña 2016–17 drought”
Núria Ferrera; Albert Folch; Mike Lane; Daniel Olago; JuliusOdida;
Emilio Custodio (Gro for GooD)
An East African costal aquifer was characterized before and during
La Niña 2016/17.
The recharge was reduced 69% compared to average annual rainfall.
Lower recharge during first and nil recharge during the second wet
No important groundwater quality changes observed inland
Increase of seawater intrusion even during the wet season
Despite efforts of local governments and NGOs to put public
service delivery systems in place, there is a gap between goals and actual
impacts on citizens’ quality of life
Decentralisation has faced challenges from the emergence of
national partisan political struggles in local areas.
Pre-paid standpipes were installed with magnetic charge cards
handed out for free. Initially a UGX25 card top-up bought 4 jerry cans (20l),
overtime this reduced to 3 jerry cans. If a card was lost or stolen then a
replacement cost users UGX15,000-25,000, which was unaffordable to many slum
dwellers who then bought water from the standpipe caretakers for UGX
100-250/jerry can. Intermittent water supply from pre-paid meters is another
factor making residents seek alternative water sources – generally unsafe springs,
or from vendors and resellers at UGX 200-1,000 per jerry can.
Water is just one problem for residents – access roads, waste
disposal, expensive school fees and high youth unemployment also mentioned in
Local elections have not happened as mandated because the
government fears they will lead to social unrest. This has contribute to
resident distrust of local government.
Land ownership is a major barrier to water access and
sustainability: there are no clear land records and there are many layers of
complexity involving landlords, tenants, the city and traditional
authorities. Changing the land title from private to communal for WASH
facilities is essential.
Political parties do sometimes co-opt community leaders and
demobilise communities, but they can also create political spaces for debate on
governance, rules and policies.
Strong social capital/networks and trust can help mobilise
community power and resources, but can exclude some residents from
NGOs, universities and social movements can play a crucial role in
magnifying the ability of communities to act together and achieve liveability
Transition Management for Improving the Sustainability of WASH
Services in Informal Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa—An Exploration.
“Transition Management” is a participatory planning technique
developed for addressing sustainability issues in Europe. The UPGro T-GroUP
project is one of the few examples of trying to apply the method in another
context: Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania), Dodowa (Ghana).
The authors identify five contextual factors that account for
unsustainable WASH services:
Access to water and sanitation in informal settlements comprises a
mosaic of formal and informal practices, water sources, sanitation facilities,
behaviours and actors.
Fragmented and low governance capacity. Low levels of trust
Landownership: unequal and skewed. In Kampala, water and
sanitation projects failed due to land conflict; landowners ‘donated’ land for
the facilities but after some years later they would take back possession of
the land and deny access to the facilities without paying.
Public participation in general and WASH services in
particular: more vulnerable community members are excluded
Unequal access to WASH services, for example water price varying
on social status, with women being disproportionately disadvantaged. Low access
to education plays a crucial role.
Transition Management was developed based on liberal
representative democracies, but this experience in Sub-Saharan Africa suggests
that here it needs to be about enlarging and strengthening democratic
space – as a method it is not neutral or universal but shaped by cultural
norms and expectations.
At the end of October 2018 the local transition team in Kampala has been very active organizing three ‘agenda setting’ transition arena meetings with participants from multiple communities (such as Makerere, Mukubira, Bwaise and Kawaala) in informal settlements in Kampala. The meetings aimed at supporting participants to develop short, medium and long term actions that would address the already identified local problems.
The local transition teams started the arena meetings by sharing some of the most important insights from previous meetings such as the vision narratives previously developed by the participants. The back-casting methodology was then used to support the participants to identify short, medium and long term actions.
The majority of the short-term actions developed by the participants were associated to educational and awareness raising activities related to water, sanitation and waste management. Some groups of participants discussed how to teach community members correct hygiene practices, proper construction of toilet facilities and practices of maintenance and protection of water sources. In one of the groups in Makerere and Mukubira zones, participants discussed to run a water harvesting plan at household level and to start lobbying with institutions like KCCA and NWSC to increase sensitization activities at community level related to water and sanitation best practices.
During the meeting with participants from Makerere and Mukubira zones, one of the developed long term actions consisted of creating a rewarding system for individuals who would carry on good practices in protecting and preserving water sources.
Other major actions developed in all organized meetings were related to ensure the enforcement of laws related to water, waste and sanitation management. In Bwaise, for example, the implementation of fines related to poor toilet usage and construction were discussed.
Additionally, participants in all areas spoke about the importance of mobilizing community members and setting up active groups aiming to carry on sensitization activities and to ensure the maintenance of services over time. For example, in Makerere and Mukubira zones, one group of participants would like to form a water committee, while in Bwaise zone the group of participants focusing on the problem of sanitation had the idea to form community led groups to prevent unplanned toilet construction.
Other important actions included the creation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) for supporting the local circular economy by producing products from waste materials.
The results of the ‘agenda setting’ arena meetings show that the implementation of facilities and services alone do not contribute to solve local water, sanitation and waste management problems. Rather, a combination of actions is needed for addressing the rooted and interlinked problems. New organizational and governance capacities at both community and institutional level need to be developed in order to ensure the maintenance of facilities over time. The change of practices and behaviors related to water, sanitation and waste management need to be constantly supported by organizing awareness raising and education activities, by mobilizing and empowering community members, such as through active groups as well as by ensuring the reinforcement of laws. The collaboration and dialogue between local community members, institutional organisations, NGOs and private companies play a key role in the implementation of these actions and will be further explored in the next meetings taking place in January.
This book is especially unique in that it not only explains a wide range of issues associated with groundwater governance, but it also provides water industry professionals, decision-makers and local stakeholders with a suite of solutions for a heuristic approach to managing this extremely important resource.
Competing narratives surround the role of ‘area mechanics’ in Malawi
In November 2017 I started my ‘politics of water’ blog as an outlet to share experiences and findings from my research in rural Malawi on water governance and service sustainability.
The first instalment describes my initial impressions of Balaka District while the second explores the relationship between extension workers and rural communities.
This might have left you wondering – what about everyone else?
Water services in Malawi are decentralised, at least in theory. This means two things. Firstly, district councils, together with district water offices, are mandated to develop and monitor water infrastructure in rural areas.
Secondly, communities are expected to maintain and repair their water points with minimal external assistance. For more serious problems, local ‘area mechanics’ are their first port of call, followed by the district water office.
In reality, district water offices are severely under resourced, there are currently few area mechanics, and the effectiveness of community-based management varies considerably. However, where they are present, area mechanics are thought to play an important role in keeping water points functioning.
Area Mechanics: volunteers or entrepreneurs?
So what is an area mechanic? This sounds like a simple question, but the answers are complex and contradictory.
The area mechanics Thoko interviewed in Balaka for her MSc research tended to consider themselves, foremost, as volunteers working for the greater good of the community. After all, they were selected from the local community and have strong social ties with the people they serve. An area mechanic may be a relative, a neighbour or a fellow churchgoer, even the village headman himself. Trustworthiness was emphasised by communities as an important criteria.
The depiction of area mechanics as volunteers has been echoed in my own conversations with extension staff and NGO workers, but in combination with another term – entrepreneur. According to national policy, area mechanics are meant to operate as independent businesspersons. They are given training and a few basic tools, after which they are expected to make a small profit to sustain their operations. They are also encouraged to sign written contracts with communities to clarify payment for services.
This model is clearly aimed at economic viability and is meant to incentivise area mechanics by providing them with an income. Arguably, the model has failed to gain traction locally because it ignores the social context in which area mechanics operate.
A third view is that area mechanics are integral to formal water governance arrangements – in other words part of, or plugging a gap in, the government’s extension system. This may not be stated explicitly, but is implicit in the use of government issued ID cards.
To give another example, area mechanics are sometimes (but not always) introduced to communities by a government representative in order to establish their legitimacy. Several of the area mechanics Thoko spoke to wanted their role to be formalised to enable them to negotiate fees with communities, or conversely in the hope of receiving material and financial support from government.
The ambiguity of water mechanics
Despite appearances, none of these narratives is mutually exclusive, and they may be employed at different times depending on the context. As one extension worker explained to me:
“Area mechanics are entrepreneurs by design and should make communities aware of that. They are supposed to have a signed agreement. The area mechanic needs to be paid, a little.”
He then went on to clarify:
“It is not payment as such but a token of appreciation. It is up to them if they want to work for free. However they shouldn’t deny assistance to a Water Point Committee just because they don’t have money.”
The ambiguity surrounding area mechanics can be confusing and could be viewed as a failure of policy (or its implementation). But, in my view, that conclusion would be overly simplistic and misses the point.
The co-existence of these different narratives, or interpretations of policy, leaves room for negotiation and pragmatism. These are arguably important ingredients for success, especially when adapting policies to local realities. In short, the role of area mechanics in Malawi’s water governance system is not yet set in stone.
In addition to my PhD fieldwork this blog draws on previous work by the authors under the UPGro Hidden Crisis project. Check out our report on the political economy of rural water supplies in Malawi.
by Isaiah Esipisu at the 7th Africa Water Week, Gabon
Water experts, policy makers, government representatives, UN agencies, donors and nongovernmental organisations kicked off the celebration of the seventh edition of the Africa Water Week in Libreville city of Gabon on 29th October 2018, calling on African governments to reflect on achievements made so far towards availing clean water and sanitation services to all.
On 28th and 29th of March and on 23rd and 24th of May 2018, the Dodowa Transition team supported the inhabitants of a number of Dodowa communities taking part in the Transition Management process to develop short, medium and long term actions supporting the improvement of water and sanitation services in their communities. In order to do so, the transition team organized eight different arena meetings with participants of the Apperkon, Wedokum, Zongo and Obom communities. In addition, representatives of local institutions, NGOs (e.g. People’s Dialogue) and grassroots initiatives such as the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor and People’s Dialogue were invited to join the meetings.
During the March meetings the participants worked in different groups and defined and described the actions for getting closer to their visions of cleaner, healthier and safer communities. In addition, discussions were held on which practices and behaviors need to change in order to achieve their visions.
During the meetings in May, the participants were asked to give priority to some of the actions already developed in the previous meetings, to discuss them in more detail in different groups and to develop a plan for each priority action. The presence of community mobilisers and representatives of NGOs and local institutions was key in this phase of the process. They shared lessons learnt in their work, gave examples of activities and projects developed by active groups of inhabitants in other communities, and collaborations existing between community members and local institutions.
They also shared methods that effectively resulted in engaging and raising awareness related to multiple issues including water and sanitation practices and behaviors. It was important for the participants to hear how community members started to collaborate with local authorities and other institutions and managed to get support for implementing water and sanitation services.
These insights were particularly important for inspiring the participants and for motivating them to act in their communities. The developed action plans for the priority actions included multiple issues such as the resources needed, the list of institutions and stakeholders to collaborate with, and the skills and knowledge needed to implement them.
At the end of the meetings the participants developed multiple action plans, related for example to the organization of community festivals for raising awareness on water and sanitation practices, the participatory mapping of existing water and sanitation services in the communities, and to start a dialogue with the local authority (i.e. district assembly).
Photo: Participants from Wedokum community listening to a representative of a local grassroots movement (credit: T-GroUP)
by Thokozani Mtewa, Evans Mwathunga, Wapumuluka, Mulwafu
“In the rural areas of Malawi, water is accessed mostly through boreholes. The borehole and hand pump functionality concept is currently getting a central place in development agenda for the provision of affordable and safe water supply under the Sustainable Development Goals.
A study on area mechanics and borehole functionality was conducted in Balaka district in Malawi in 2017. The study used qualitative research methods of data collection using
political economy analysis to understand the role of Area Mechanics (AMs), their relationships with water point committees and other stakeholders, their perceptions,
motivations and challenges. Questionnaires and an audio recorder were employed to
collect data from individual interviews and focus groups.
The study findings revealed that even though the system of AMs is well defined in
policy, in practice things are done differently. The AMs defined their jobs differently; from entrepreneurs (10%) to community volunteers (90%) and the sizes of catchment areas of AMs are mostly divided informally and unequally which affects service delivery.
The study also found AMs are motivated by both monetary and non-monetary benefits
from the communities under their jurisdictions.
Consequently, overall the level of incentives and disincentives seem to have affected
their maintenance service provision as well as their relationships with other water point
stakeholders. For proper functioning of an AM system as part of groundwater infrastructure, this paper therefore proposes the need to revise the policy and procedures in training, selection and allocation of AMs as well regular short term trainings to area mechanics at district level.”
Crystalline Bedrock aquifers underlie about 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa and can generally sustain low-intensity abstraction. However, pumping rates and dependency is increasing in many areas, particularly for cities like Addis Ababa, Dakar, Nairobi and Dodoma. Projected growth in population and water demand for agriculture, plus the effects of climate change, mean that it is essential to develop a better understanding of the sustainable yields from these types of aquifers.
The study focuses on five groundwater abstraction boreholes, 3 in Uganda, 2 in Tanzania.
Long term groundwater records are only available for one of the boreholes and it shows that recharge happens more when the rainfall is more intense, which is often associated with periodic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events.
Chemical analysis of the water was used to determine the residence times of the groundwater (how long the water has been in the aquifer since it fell as rain). Overall, that most pumped water comes from modern recharge (within the last 10-60 years), so while abstractions are not mining pre-modern groundwater, there may be a component of older water that is coming out.
Groundwater abstraction appears to be supported by recharge from across multiple years, rather than just the most recent wet season.
The investigation of the five sites shows that long term, high intensity groundwater abstraction is possible from East African weathered crystalline basement aquifers, but the sustainability is constrained, in part, by the high inter-annual variability in recharge. Therefore operation of such pumping stations needs to include sustained monitoring of groundwater levels, pumping rates and rainfall as a minimum.