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FEATURE STORY

Knowledge Exchange in Lending Programs Can Play a Vital Role in Improving Development Outcomes

June 17, 2014

“The quality of water in our village was extremely poor. We had been suffering from stomach-related ailments for very long. But now that we are receiving water three times a day at our homes, ailments like diarrhea have reduced dramatically. Women no longer have to spend hours collecting water. The water is also very tasty,” said Premvati, a former Pradhan (village head) of Bukkanpur village in Haridwar district, part of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Premvati was speaking to a group of visiting engineers from the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh participating in a three-day knowledge and experience exchange workshop on Decentralized Approaches to Deliver Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Services” in Dehradun.

Knowledge, learning and sharing seemed to be the buzzwords at this event specifically designed for officials from the four low -income states of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam that has just begun implementing the recently launched World Bank project for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) in Low Income States.

The two-day workshop was followed by visits to villages in Uttarakhand to see water supply and sanitation schemes being implemented by the state and supported by the World Bank. Officials from the Uttarakhand RWSS program shared a Knowledge Kit with participants that contained templates for policy documents, social and environment management plans, monitoring and evaluation formats, and training manuals. This could serve as a ready reference for states to help design and implement their respective state reform programs.

“It was a useful and engaging platform for sharing learnings from water and sanitation projects being executed in Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Kerala. Such exchange of ideas and learning will benefit states like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh which have just begun implementing the rural water and sanitation program,” said Smita Misra, Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist, World Bank. 

Visiting project officials from the states interacted with senior government officials from Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Kerala as well as civil society organizations on the nitty-gritties of planning and implementing rural water and sanitation projects in their respective states.

The interactions focused on “how-to” enhance the accountability, transparency and sustainability of various schemes and programs. Strong leadership, good collaboration across various levels of government officials and regular communication with stakeholders were recognized as key ingredients for successful implementation of policy reforms in projects. 

 “Project presentations highlighting different aspects of decentralized approaches to water and sanitation service delivery were well worth the time spent, especially for beginners like us who are now implementing similar approaches in our states,"  said VK Shrivastava, Executive Engineer, Public Health Department, Bihar

The knowledge exchange was part of the India Department for International Development-Trust Fund (DFID-TF) supported initiative "India – Knowledge and Experiences Exchange Support" that supports the exchange of development knowledge and experience across states in India. “The main objective of these knowledge exchanges is to improve implementation and delivery of government programs and projects, through sharing good practices, implementation “know how” and learning in a systematic and efficient manner,” said Bhavna Bhatia, Regional Coordinator, World Bank institute.

Peer-to-peer or practitioner-to-practitioner knowledge exchange is potentially a very powerful tool. More such “how-to” knowledge exchange forums are expected for these states during the entire 6-year period of the project.