Larbi Eugene. Managing Director of TREND group and team leader of the Tripartite partnership Project (TPP). Talked to Abu Wumbei about Sector learning in the Ghana water sector:
It has been about a year ago since we started the effort to convene a national learning platform. Looking back the whole sector should proud of what we have achieved since then, a year ago we basically did not have any facilitate for sharing knowledge. Today we a have a platform that is really owned by the whole sector:
Typically every month we pick a theme, agencies, organizations, projects interested in this theme come together we meet as a forum to discuss the goals and objectives of the sector, we look at the challenges, what innovations are being developed.
The learning platform provides an excellent platform for dialogue on sector issues. This is what sector learning is all about. A sector that can capture: its experiences, analyze them, reflect on them, draw conclusions and apply then to improve policies and practice.
Mr labri notes that this is an achievement, the platform is an excellent means of really effectively promoting sector learning. Since as a sector, we are interested in how to do things effectively, how to make sure investments reach the poor in a more effective way, how to get the best value for every dollar invested. To do that we have to learn from our mistakes and best practices to groom innovation. And for Ghana we have a learning platform which is facilitating is these processes.
At another level we can look at how this platform is influencing attitudes in the sector. There is a lot more awareness of how to manage our knowledge, there is a lot of research, projects and organizations that are carefully documenting their experiences and repackaging these in knowledge products that can be shared. That is a real change compared to what we had before. We need this for effective learning.
I think most importantly we have a clearly new attitude where most sector people now recognize that having quality information and sharing it with the sector is enriches that information then to keeping it to your chest.
In that regard the objective of the learning alliance is really been achieved, as a spin off we really have positive effect in the way we influence our attitudes in terms of the way we changing the whole concept of knowledge and sharing in WASH sector.
What in your view constitutes sustainability?
Sustainability is a broad term that is difficult to completely define; Mr. labri would like to think of it as how to maintain whatever we have put in place in both terms of the physical sanctity and also the benefits. If we are talking about the sector where 20-30% boreholes are not working well and most of to sanitation service are not work well, we are looking at wasted investments. And at same time when coverage level is considered poor a lot of poor are not getting improved services.
Sustainability is a concept that starts at designing and planning the projects for implementation, we should also look at the maintenance of the benefits once the project has ended and the donor has moved away. That would mean you look at a broad issues like financing, how to finance operation and maintenance is crucial, institutionally it important to think who will have what responsibility to make sure that the facilities are being taken care of. Often this would involve a partnership, which involves the public, the private and the civil society. You have to think of how to build that into the project.
Mr Larbi also emphaisized that it also includes looking at how to protect the environment. You might have good benefits over a sanitation facility, but you may pollute ground water or may not have thought of how to treat the wastes that are accumulated. There are lot of the technical issues to consider, for example choice of technology and other social issues.
As a major stakeholder what are you doing about sustainability?
I strongly believe that given that we live in a decentralized era the key challenge of sustainability should really start with how we deal with the MMDAs, the whole concept will depend on how the districts take up the role especially after construction, if we allow them to know that the public facilities are their responsibilities and allow them to understand and allocate funds to take care of these facilities, it will ensure some kind of social mobilization and developing of partnerships lead by the districts at the level where these services are used will ensure that the systems are sustainable.
The TTP focuses on sustainability, by developing the capacities of the districts in terms of planning, implementation and management of various facilities, ranging sanitation facilities in slum areas to improved drainage. One key issue is to encourage the districts , right from the beginning how to make sure they recognize the ownership aspect: that they really are responsible for making sure the facilities run effectively and its good investment for them to put money to sure that these facilities are adequately maintained.
In summary Mr Larbi, shares the issues that the sector has to improve to attain sustainable service delivery: He mentions:
- Institutional arrangements,
- The roles of districts and the necessary capacity,
- and improve d monitoring structures.