I spent two days last week at the annual Joint Water Sector Review meeting – the so-called “highlight” of the annual calendar of “dialogue”. This was the sixth such meeting to be held – and I have the “distinction” of having attended all of them. But as you can probably guess from the profusion of “inverted commas” in this paragraph, I’m having serious doubts about the whole exercise. Before I come to that, though, let me give you some background.
Around 250 people from the Ministry of Water, other related government ministries and agencies, the “development partners” and civil society all attended, in the workshop factory that is Ubungo Plaza. All the main stakeholders were there. Apart from water consumers that is, who are only represented in the sense that everyone consumes water. And those consumers (or perhaps I should call them citizens) weren’t represented by their official representatives either – no MPs or local councillors attend, with the exception of the Ministers officiating at the formal opening and closing sessions. We civil society folks had to take on that role. Continue reading →
The UN General Assembly recently adopted a resolution recognising the “right to water”. On the face of it, this is hardly a controversial resolution, since who would oppose something as obviously vital as water. But dig a little deeper, and there are some tricky issues here.
For many advocates of this right, the UN resolution has been used as an opportunity to re-open the privatisation debate that burned strongly and divided many over the past two decades. A recent special issue (No. 533) of Pambazuka, a magazine promoting freedom and social justice in Africa, focuses on “Water and Privatisation”, aiming to do just that. The argument is that if water is a basic human right, surely it should be available for free. Or at least, multinational corporations should not be allowed to profit from its provision. Continue reading →
A lot of people have been pushing recently at the link between mapping and accountability. Whether it’s detailed local maps of reported crime in the UK or East Africa’s own Ushahidi platform, the internet and mobile phones are enabling new map-based ways of collecting, visualising and sharing information that can potentially be used to hold decision makers to account.
The most recent example comes from the World Bank. They recently published their Mapping for Results site, which presents (on a map, of course) details of 1250 current World Bank-financed projects in over 16,000 locations in 79 countries. Each location has a marker that can be clicked to reveal more details of the project and its location. Continue reading →
The Ministry of Water had an important visitor last week – President Jakaya Kikwete himself. Like any good visitor, he came bearing gifts, pretty impressive ones at that. Reports differ on the precise amount promised, but whether it’s “between 500 and 700 billion shillings” (The Citizen) or a straight “700 billion” (The Guardian), this is serious money. The Ministry’s budget for the current financial year is “only” 300 billion, itself a major increase compared to just a few years earlier.
Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day. In Tanzania, a week-long event has been held in Mwanza to “observe” Maji Week, which ends today. Daraja has been represented there of course, along with civil society more generally through Tanzania’s growing water sector network Tawasanet.
This year’s theme is rather unwieldy:
Water for Cities: Responding to Urban Challenges with activities aiming to communicate messages on growing urban water and sanitation demand, increased pollution from municipal and industrial discharges, climate change and its foreseen risks and challengers, overexploitation of available water resources and better targeting of urban poor. Continue reading →
It’s Maji Week, so a good time for some more analysis of key water supply issues. Several times this blog has presented arguments that the main challenges in rural water supply are political rather than technical or even administrative. We’ve argued, for example, that two of the biggest problems (inequitable distribution of access to clean and safe water in rural areas and keeping rural waterpoints functioning) are both political issues, and reported on how this perspective is far from the conventional wisdom in the water sector, dominated as it is by engineers and technocrats. And we’ve shown how political attention has failed to match the political nature of the sector by documenting how little focus there was on water supply in last year’s general election campaigns – as reflected both in campaign manifesto commitments or in the media (and again here). But we’ve not yet looked at one of the most politicised aspects of rural water supply – data. Continue reading →
“Magoda Wafanya Mapinduzi” (Revolution in Magoda) was the front page headline on the very first issue of Daraja’s Kwanza Jamii Njombe newspaper when it was launched last year. (See below for the full article as it was published). Residents of Magoda village, 20km from Njombe town, grew tired of waiting for a government-funded water project and decided to go it alone, paying for the project and doing all the work themselves. At the time it felt a little bit like we were over-hyping the story with that headline, but some more recent developments suggests that it might have been just right. We’ll come to that in a moment, but first some background.
Magoda villagers told us how they had been repeatedly requesting a water project for years from the district council, without success. And then, four years ago, they were told Magoda had been selected as one of ten villages to benefit from a “World Bank” project – it’s actually part of the multi-donor Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) – and that a piped water scheme would be constructed to serve the village. But that was four years ago. They waited, then waited some more. And then they gave up waiting and decided to do it themselves. D-I-Y (do it yourself) development. Continue reading →