Femke Markus in Africa

Femke Markus attended the 7th edition of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa on behalf of Max Foundation. We were eager to learn more about the RWSN network activities, interested to meet the community and learn about the latest developments in the field. In addition, we wanted to understand what was going on in Africa in the area of rural WASH as we are currently active in Asia and are investigating whether we can leverage our programme-elements and competences developed for Bangladesh to Africa.

The RWSN forum explored the practicalities of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the human right to water in rural areas and small towns. Also, the forum is a very technical conference with a lot of engineers and great solutions. Our representative, Femke Markus, is also an engineer and she said the following:

“The products and services are a core element of the solution but at the end of the day the community needs to be taken along with the change. They need to understand the importance of clean water; they need to understand it means LIFE and the pathway to change needs to be clearly set up.” Max Foundation’s roadmap to sustainability focuses on the community graduation process and it would be interesting to explore whether we can help with our experience in that area."

Our most important lesson from the first day was that there are already a lot of activities in Africa regarding the subject sustainable water supply; many presentations and discussions focuses on the shift from community managed programmes to private partner models and sustainable finance models. The World Bank Group released a very interesting report that will be published in 2017: ‘Global study on sustainable service delivery models for rural water’, prepared by a group of experts from the field. One of the conclusions of this report is that Bangladesh ranks very low in the field of rural piped access. This encourages us to continue our piped water scheme projects in Bangladesh.

The Acceleration Self-Supply (ACCESS) session was also very interesting. Self-Supply stands for the investment the community makes in WASH themselves. This is of the utmost importance if we want to reach the SDGs. It made us realize that Max Foundation is already performing well in Bangladesh where we have been focusing on the contribution of local communities from the beginning. Several people from the session would be interested in learning more from our experience in Bangladesh and how we can leverage that to Africa, it would be a true south to south exchange!

On the third day, we attended two more sessions; the first one was on Mapping & Monitoring. Our most important insight was the working life of the pumps: 15% of the water pumps fail after one year and 25% are dysfunctional after four years. This shows how important it is to establish water maintenance committees in the villages starting from the beginning of the programme. The other session was about financing and recurrent costs of distributed water schemes. As we are starting the first pilots in Bangladesh based on these schemes, it was very interesting to hear the lessons learned from organisations in other countries. About the finance gap at the beginning of the project, needing grant support and at the end, meaning the government is needed for cross subsidization when moving out of the area.

In short, these were interesting days for Max Foundation, we learned a lot about the opportunities and challenges in Africa on rural water supply and we made new valuable contacts for our possible extension to Africa. For more information on the 7th edition of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa and all the papers, posters, presentations and films, please visit: https://rwsn7.net/programme/

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