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FEATURE STORYJune 14, 2022

The Road to Better Services Is Paved with Strong Delivery Institutions: A Rural Water Story

At 65, Mama Teresia Saveri never thought that she would see the day when she would have a tap with water flowing from it right at her house. So when the Mtisi village water scheme was completed in February 2021, Teresia and her husband Helman Mwendowasa immediately signed up, and theirs became the very first house connection on the scheme. 

“I never thought our water challenge would ever be resolved in my lifetime,” said Teresia. “Sometimes people with pressing needs spent nights at the seasonal spring waiting for water which would come in a trickle. Personally, I would aim to be there by 4:00 a.m., yet by 9:00 a.m. you would be lucky to gather a full 20-liter bucket, and this would be reserved only for cooking and drinking. If you needed to shower or wash clothes, there was a separate stream for this, and many people opted to do these chores right by that stream.” 

Mtisi is one of 2,354 villages that recently gained access to a clean water supply since the implementation of the World Bank-financed Tanzania Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (SRWSSP) began in 2019. The program, whose development objective is to increase access to rural water supply and sanitation services in participating districts and strengthen the capacity of select sector institutions to sustain service delivery, is financed through the International Development Association (IDA)* in the amount of $350 million.  

Utilizing a results-based financing instrument—known as “Program for Results” (PforR)—the SRWSSP has three result areas. Results Area 1 focuses on sustainable access to improved water services in rural areas, while Result Area 2 focuses on improved sanitation services. Result Area 3 aims to strengthen the capacity of sector institutions to sustain service delivery. 

A Theory of Change

As almost 65 percent of the population resides in rural areas, the Tanzanian government has underscored its mission to provide them with better services in its ambitious Water Sector Development Program (WSDP 2006–2025) as well as National Five-Year Plans. The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) is responsible for implementing the SRWSSP which targets 17 administrative regions considered to have the highest poverty and stunting rates and the lowest rates of access to water supply and sanitation services. 

To address the dual challenge of increasing and sustaining access to improved rural water services, the SRWSSP promotes a sector-integrated approach with incentives provided at village, district, and national levels. The program supports both the rehabilitation of existing nonfunctional water points, as well as the construction of new water schemes through a strengthened project cycle focusing on improving the technical quality of investments, as well as enhancing community engagement and ownership. The disbursement of funds is directly linked to the number of sustainably functioning water points that meet service criteria. Disbursement-Led Indicators (DLIs) are used to reward districts or villages for keeping water points operational throughout the year. 

A man in rural Tanzania pours water into a bucketk for a child.

In addition, the SRWSSP is addressing rural sanitation challenges in an integrated way through the achievement of Community-Wide Sanitation (CWS) villages for improved overall health outcomes. In the targeted villages, the program is supporting initiatives to address the challenge of open defecation through the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. The program is not only providing toilets for schools and dispensaries, but it is also providing financial incentivization for villages and communities to achieve and maintain open-defecation free (ODF) status through activities focused on sanitation demand creation (via behavior change campaigns), progress monitoring, and regular follow-ups. 

The SWRSSP design recognizes that the challenge of providing sustainable water and sanitation services in rural Tanzania requires an institutional structure to enable proper policies, funding, implementation, management, and monitoring of services. Thus, SWRSSP has supported the operationalization of RUWASA as the centerpiece of rural-focused service delivery to support the overall goal of sustainability of water supply. 

Throughout the implementation of the program, more than 3.3 million people were provided with access to better water supply (against a target of three million by end of project implementation in July 2024); with over half of them women. Beneficiaries receive their water supply service from “water points” (individual public taps or outlets) or “domestic points” (a stand with multiple taps) constructed, expanded, or rehabilitated under the program. These domestic points (DPs) are supply outlets located strategically along each street, with adequate pressure and safe water quality.  

“Given the critical need for accurate and complete data to keep track of rural water supply needs and coverage, RUWASA’s Central Data Management Team has been strengthened through the program, to enable it deliver on this in a timely manner,” said Toyoko Kodama, World Bank Water and Sanitation Specialist, who is co-Task Team Leader for the SWRSSP. “It’s now three years into its establishment and RUWASA is managing data and generating reports in compliance with the requirements of the Disbursement-Linked Indicators.” 

In the past, you were lucky if you got five buckets of water, and these were strictly for cooking and drinking. Now we don’t have to wake up so early to wait endlessly for water, but we also get all the water to cover all our needs.
Janet Robert
Resident of Mtisi Village

Reflecting on Past Lessons

Despite impressive results from the implementation of the first phase of WSDP (2006–2015), which was also supported by development partners including the World Bank, with over 10 million people gaining access to improved water supply and 5.1 million benefiting from improved sanitation, subsequent evaluations of the program found that achieving sustainable water service delivery, especially for rural areas, continued to be a major challenge.  

In 2017, the World Bank conducted a comprehensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic in Tanzania and based on the vast sector data and research available, findings revealed rural areas were still lagging in accessing improved water supply, with coverage at 48 percent in 2015, below the Sub-Saharan African average of 56 percent. In 2016, 40 percent of water points that had been built as part of WSDP-1 were reportedly nonfunctional and 19 percent had failed during the first year of operation. 

Reflecting on lessons learned from the WSDP-1 assessment, especially on the need for stronger local institutions and capacity, SRWSSP support for the implementation of WSDP-3 (2020 to 2025) is focusing efforts on ensuring strong institutional arrangements to ensure sustainable rural water services. It is promoting the creation and strengthening of the capacity of community-owned mechanisms (Community-Based Water Supply Organizations, CBWSOs) to effectively manage water schemes; supporting local institutions to establish and operationalize backstopping mechanisms for water supply; and strengthening the capacity and institutional arrangements for water supply at all levels of Government to provide strong technical and management support to the districts. 

Safety as a Priority

Construction of the water supply scheme for Mtisi village in the southwestern region of Katavi, started in April 2020 and upon completion in February 2021, it was handed over to the local CBWSO which oversees supply to the 3,500 residents through a network, so far, consisting of 19 house connections (including Mama Teresia’s), one school, and five domestic points, each supplying 250 residents. Even though the demand for the scheme’s water fluctuates seasonally—with low demand during the rainy season due to access to rainwater harvesting and seasonal springs, versus high demand during the dry season—the management reports a growing interest in the community in the convenient and safe water supply.  

“We do regular community sensitization meetings and visits in partnership with the local leadership to explain to residents the benefits of using safe water,” said John Mwashtete, the CBWSO chair. Unlike with previous initiatives, the SRWSSP also prioritizes the quality of new water supply. Districts are incentivized to ensure safety of new schemes by not only doing initial testing on identified sources, but also ensuring the new schemes have functioning chlorination systems when they come online.  

“With the domestic points effectively bringing water supply to within 400m of the furthest household within its radius, many residents don’t feel the need for home connections,” Mwashtete added. 

Janet Robert, a wife, and mother of three—two attending university and one in secondary school—has not only connected her house, but also her new premises for her food business along the main street in Mtisi village, which borders Katavi National Park. “We used to walk up to nine kilometers to the shallow springs, and it was dark and scary; there are some people who never returned from these trips,” she narrated. “Hippos tend to stray far out of the park in the night and they are a common threat here, together with hyenas.”  

Janet narrated that before the scheme, she would be lucky to take home Sh75,000 ($32) a week, but this has more than doubled now, with a peak of Sh200,000 ($86), as she is able to cook and meet the local demand without being restricted by a lack of water.  

Woman in rural Tanzania with a steel bowl for water.

“In the past, you were lucky if you got five buckets of water, and these were strictly for cooking and drinking,” Janet said. “Now we don’t have to wake up so early to wait endlessly for water, but we also get all the water to cover all our needs.” 

She used to move door-to-door to sell food but now she hosts her customers in the three-room shop which she started building over the past year after the scheme became operational. She also has a six-acre farm on which she grows maize, groundnuts, and beans. “I can afford to meet my children’s needs comfortably, and I can also afford extra help with two workers here at the restaurant, and five farmworkers.” 

Added CBWSO chair Mwashtete: “In the past, when women tried to start food businesses, many of them gave up because of the difficulties with accessing water. But many are now thriving and even engaging in multiple business ventures.” 

Service Provider’s Proximity

Each CBWSO is a legally registered entity and enters a formal contract with RUWASA to manage the water supply infrastructure and operations. A CBWSO consists of a governing board headed by a chairperson and members elected by the residents of the village. Among those elected officials are representatives of the village’s male and female constituents. Other key members include the resident doctor (as each village typically has a healthcare facility), a school representative, as well as the village chairperson.  

The Board, with subcommittees concerned with environmental affairs, financials, technical and complaints sectors, oversees the CBWSO management team of at least three people—typically, an accountant, a secretary, and a technician. These positions are advertised and require a minimum vocational training certificate. They also have a team of commission-based supervisors who oversee the domestic points. Guidelines require CBWSOs to have women in these key positions considering women’s traditional role of providing water for their families in rural areas.   

While construction of a scheme is underway, the CBWSO board and management are provided with technical training on the specific needs of their scheme, in addition to training in bookkeeping and governance. These trainings are provided by RUWASA directly or, in a few cases, by a local partner civil society organization. In addition, the CBWSO together with RUWASA conduct citizen engagement to promote understanding and support for the project. Once the project is completed, RUWASA formally hands it over to the respective village’s CBWSO to operate the service.  

“The cooperation of village residents is critical because they have to understand the scheme is not an external profit-making enterprise but rather their own asset, and they therefore have to discuss and agree on the appropriate water price in accordance with RUWASA’s guidelines for tariff-setting, as well as other decisions that ensure the scheme’s sustainability,” said Eng. Aziz Mutabuzi, the SRWSSP Coordinator at RUWASA. “As a community, they are also responsible for protecting the infrastructure.”

CBWSOs maintain cash books, and participate in bi-annual district-level community of practice meetings for better coordination and knowledge exchange with other CBWSOs in the same district. They install chlorination systems and ensure technical backstopping mechanisms for maintenance and repairs. CBWSOs submit monthly and quarterly financial reports to RUWASA and hold regular meetings with village stakeholders.  

“All these elements are aimed to strengthen the technical and financial capabilities of CBWSOs so they can provide effective services to their residents,” said Eng. Mutabuzi.

In FY21 and FY22 through the SRWSSP, more than 2,550 CBWSOs were registered and provided with technical and financial training against an end-of-implementation target of 3,667 villages. 

“The proximity of CBWSOs as service providers means they are not only expected to respond to customer complaints in real time but that they are also in touch with the continuing needs of that community,” added Eng. Mutabuzi.  

When the Izazi village CBWSO in Iringa took over the rehabilitated village water scheme in May 2020, they inherited 18 domestic points and their immediate priorities were to add more of these across the village, in addition to completing a cattle trough that would alleviate the hardships experienced by herders in the community. Using proceeds from the scheme’s service, they completed the trough by November 2020. However, as they realized higher demand than the 1,000 cattle they initially budgeted for, the CBWSO now plans to add another cattle trough within the calendar year. 

“Having a stable watering place for the herds has relieved us greatly as we had to move around for long distances, sometimes in the heat and you were not always certain to find enough water where you found it the previous day,” said Okeshu Lesimba, a resident. 

Community leaders are also realizing more effects on the community because of achieving access to water. “The water supply in the village has sparked a more stable, year-round brick-casting business, encouraging people to build better houses than before when bricks would be available only for a short period during the dry season and at a higher price,” explained Daniel Gwandu, the CBWSO secretary. “All these roofs have gone up recently because of water.” 

A woman in rural Tanzania pours water from a community spout.

Relief at Last

The residents of Igamba village in the recently established Songwe administrative region know what it is like to have new water supply and queue endlessly for it, and then to not have it at all—thanks to two unsuccessful experiences dating back to 1985 and 2005. Reflecting on these, the launch of the new village water supply in December 2020 couldn’t have been more timely for Mama Matilda Kashilila, 65, who was still struggling at the time with constant chest pains even after completing her long course of tuberculosis treatment. 

“I used to sell food, and some said I must have got it from the smoke from the firewood, so I had to stop that business and open up a shop,” said Mama Kashilila. “I live with three young grandchildren and despite my health condition, I wake up each day at 5:00 a.m. to get water and have them ready for school by 7:00 a.m.” 

Mama Kashilila recalled once being forced to flee for her life when she encountered a creature she could not identify in the dark. “I had mistakenly read the time when I woke up and I thought it was 5:00 a.m. while it was actually 3:00 a.m.,” she said.  

The village water scheme arrived just as her local savings society was disbursing the proceeds among the members, and she used her share to connect her house to the scheme immediately. In this village of 4,500 people, the Igamba Group CBWSO currently has a clientele of 58 household connections, two schools and a dispensary and 14 domestic points with each serving 250 people.  

“It has been a year since I connected,” said Mama Kashilila. “And I am happy to be able to go through my days without chest pains or worrying about water. I am also able to water my vegetable garden over here.”

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