Twaweza has a new policy brief out*, on a subject that’s close to my heart: water supply in Tanzania. Money flows, water trickles is the title, and it’s hard to argue with that. A lot of money has been spent, with worryingly very little to show for it.
Over the 10 year period of 1995-2005, Tanzania received USD $57 per beneficiary in aid flows earmarked for rural water supply, but coverage fell by 1%. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda all received considerably less aid per beneficiary, but managed to improve their coverage significantly. Continue reading →
I caught this news broadcast from (Tanzanian) Radio One yesterday, reporting the Ministry of Water making some big promises:
Here’s a translation:
“The Ministry of Water has said that in the next three years, 74% of Tanzanians will get access to clean and safe water, compared to 65% in the Millennium Development Goals. Responding to a question in parliament, the Deputy Minister of Water, Binilith Mahenge, said that in the first year of the Big Results Now initiative, 7.1 million people will get water. He told parliament that in the second year, 7 million would get water, and the number of people who would get water in the third year of the plan was 1.3 million. As such, the number of people who will get water in the next three years is 15.2 million, which will bring the total to over 50 million Tanzanians after three years. ” Continue reading →
Unsuccessful development initiatives offer vital lessons — but only if we are open about failure, says Ben Taylor.
I was recently involved in a public declaration of failure. An innovative development programme I ran didn’t come close to meeting its targets, so we shut it down. And we went further, publicly declaring that the programme had failed and striving to share lessons from the failure as widely as possible.
Embracing failure can be uncomfortable, but it plays a hugely valuable role in the learning and improvement process. We need to be more honest — and more encouraging of honesty. Continue reading →
The Washington Post has just published a fascinating analysis as of new UN population projections up to the year 2100. It’s worth reading the whole thing, not least because it comes with some beautifully simple visualisations of the data, using my new favourite online tool: DataWrapper.
As usual, however, my main interest is in Tanzania, which the Post’s article touched on briefly, along with the chart above: Continue reading →
ODI have published a new political economy analysis of WASH, based on case studies of Sierra Leone and Vietnam. Great, I thought, the sector has long been dominated by engineers and administrators whose ideas of how planning should work tend to be limited to top-down blueprint planning, an injection of political economy thinking could be very useful.
But I’m very disappointed with the paper. For one thing, it comes across as having been put together by folks with little or no prior understanding of the water sector. For example:
The research project results suggest that there are two key distinctions that are relevant when carrying out PEA in the water supply and sanitation sector. First, the distinction between water supply and sanitation: Continue reading →
Globally, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water supply has been met. A new report from UN Water, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, launched this week, reported that 89% of the world’s population now has access to water from an improved source. This has quite rightly been a cause for celebration and media coverage (see here and here from the (UK) Guardian, and from the BBC), a rare good news story.
It is no secret that Daraja’s Maji Matone programme has not lived up to expectations. In particular, despite considerable resources spent on promotional work – printing and distributing posters and leaflets, as well as extensive broadcasts on local radio – we haven’t had the response from the community that we had hoped for. A six month pilot in three districts resulted in only 53 SMS messages received and forwarded to district water departments (compared to an initial target of 3,000). So we’ve made a decision – to embrace failure, learn and share lessons from the experience, and to fundamentally redesign the programme.
Admitting failure in this way is easy to support in theory, but much harder to do in practice. It may be accepted practice in the for-profit world, but it’s uncomfortable for a donor-dependent NGO. Would it be easier to continue half-heartedly with a programme that isn’t working or close it down quietly and hope that nobody notices? Of course it would. But those approaches would not benefit anyone, wasting money and missing out on valuable opportunities to learn. So we’re taking a different tack, embracing and publicising our failures, and trying to make sure we (and others) learn as much as possible from the experience. Continue reading →