A lively debate was promised about the Community Managed Project (CMP) approach from Ethiopia at the Finnish Pavilion. This was one of a series of lunchtime events that had to compete for an audience with the rather good French lunches in another hall of the conference centre. But CMP proved a crowd puller with a full audience, and a lively debate was what we got. As a flagship project of the Finnish development programme with support provided over more than 10 years, the question was whether CMP is really as good as we are told. Is it really a much improved solution to rural water supply?
IRC recently produced a summary of the key steps involved in the CMP approach. We also used our insider knowledge of the project in the debate to argue against the motion together with Elis Karsten from consultants Ramboll. Ramboll managed the initial phases of the project in Bahar Dar (consultants NIRAS support the sister project in Beni Shangul-Gumuz region) and now support a national scaling-up effort (COWASH).
The audience decided that we lost, and were convinced by the positive arguments about the success of CMP made by the COWASH team leader Arto Suominen and his colleague Ato Yohannes who received support from many of the Ethiopian colleagues present. It seems that they really are convinced about the merits of CMP and its faster implementation rates made possible by drawing on the capacities of communities, micro-finance institutions, and the private sector to support regional and district governments. Better sustainability is also based upon the greater community ownership developed by the approach which requires communities to procure and construct their own water systems using funds routed directly to them.
The critical arguments that our side put forward – to show how sanitation and hygiene are properly addressed, to bring communities to speak for themselves, and to monitor the impacts better – were well taken, but still it was almost unanimous that CMP is a real solution for rural WASH.
IRC are part of the consortium with Ramboll supporting scaling-up of the CMP approach.
Posted by John Butterworth 15 March 2012