Year of publication: 2013
WASHCost - a US$ 14.5m, five-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and implemented by the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) - has been a bold, global attempt to gain accurate knowledge on disaggregated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) costs in rural and peri-urban areas.
The WASH sector has been historically weak in presenting a clear understanding of the costs of achieving goals such as the water and sanitation MDGs. WASHCost, with generous support from the Gates Foundation, was, in the words of a leading development bank staff member “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to do the fundamental investigation of costs to improve the efficiency of investment decisions and sustainability of services.
In January 2013, the IRC commissioned an independent End-of-Project assessment of the achievements of WASHCost to reflect on the lessons learnt from the project. The assessment, undertaken by a team of international consultants (Piers Cross, José Frade, A.J. James and Sophie Tremolet), included five separate analyses: assessments in each of the four focus countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, India [Andhra Pradesh] and Mozambique) and a global assessment.
The assessment findings show that whilst not everything was achieved in the original expectation, this highly productive project made excellent progress in a difficult terrain. It provided a framework for sector costing and it articulates a life-cycle costs and service delivery approach to costing WASH services. WASHCost can count amongst its achievements:
- helping to shape the post-MDG debate;
- influencing the approaches of several major donors and some planned investments;
- making significant contributions to the cost dialogue in the four focus countries, in particular in Ghana;
- developing a methodology for assessing costs now being applied in at least eight other countries;
- developing a training facility which has already trained more than 1000 people from 91 countries; establishing a strong WASHCost network; and
- producing an extraordinary array of 176 quality publications.
Much needs to be done by way of follow-up, especially in generating financing approaches to meet life-cycle costs for different service levels, and embedding an approach to sustainable financing into local government settings. The WASHCost End-of-Project Evaluation looks back at what can be learnt from this significant sector initiative, and forward as to how to translate these lessons into more sustainable services.