– Abu Wumbei, RCN Ghana
WASH sector stakeholders on the WASH Technologies (WASHTech) Ghana project learning alliance (LA) recently met to review and select 5 of 15 shortlisted most significant change (MSC) stories. At the end of the meeting, one MSC story per each of the project’s five domains of change was selected on the basis of suitability to the defined domains.
Facilitating the review process, Abu Wumbei of Resource Centre Network (RCN) Ghana recalled that the project team, at the start of the project defined and agreed on five domains of change that was expected and also envisaged by the project picture of change.
He outlined the five agreed domains of change as follows:
i) Recognition of the need for something similar to the TAF: Do stakeholders share the project assessment of the situation that led to the idea of developing the TAF?)
ii) Awareness of the existence of the TAF: Do stakeholders know about the existence of the tool we are promoting? If not, why?
iii) Awareness of the existence of WASHTech Ghana: Do stakeholders know what the WASHTech Ghana project is trying to achieve and perhaps the role they might play in it?
iv) Understanding of the TAF, especially EHSD, MMDAs, CWSA, CSOs: Do stakeholders realise the components of the TAF, the way it is supposed to be used, and the current level of development of the TAF? The potential applications of the TAF in their work or in the WASH sector in Ghana?
v) Use of the TAF – embedding TAF in EHSD, CWSA and MMDA processes: Do stakeholders have evidence about seeing the TAF in use, either by themselves/their organisations or others? Do they have interesting feedback from experience that could inform the way the TAF is put in practice, pointing to limitations and opportunities?
Mr. Wumbei then proceeded to explain the assignment at hand to the project LA. He indicated that the stories were collected after the following carefully designed question was put to each of the story tellers:
“Imagine that you bump into a former colleague in town who asks “How are your rural water technologies going these days? Is it still the case of simply no guidance and everyone promoting any type of technology?” Share your experience of WASH Technology introduction up to date; your observation of any changes (attitudes, way of thinking, etc.) in the WASH sector with regards to WASH technologies”.
The stories were collected through video interviews and transcribed to facilitate the review process. The LA members reviewed the 15 shortlisted stories from the 24 overall stories collected over the period, 2012 to select the one most significant change story per domain of change. It is significant to note that the project LA had earlier in the year shortlisted 15 from the 24 stories collected.
At the end of the review process, the stories by Patrick Apoya (private provider); Theodora Adomako-Adjei (government – CWSA); Martin Derry (local NGO); Kweku Quansah (government – EHSD-MLGRD); and Charlotte Engmann (government – CWSA) were the most significant change stories selected for domain’s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively.
The LA members opted for the above stories after a brainstorming session that got heated at some points. Some of the comments for each of the stories selected per domain of change included the following:
Domain 1 – Comments on Patrick Apoya’s story
The story traces the history of technology introduction in Ghana to the point of need for something similar to the TAF; in a way, the story shares the project assessment of the situation that led to the idea of developing the TAF; it indicates recognition of the need for TAF; and that the coming into being of the project, has triggered a certain level of consciousness of technology issues in him and others; looks forward to seeing that the identified technology gap of assessment bridged; finally, he believes this development can lead to innovations in the sector
Domain 2 – Comments on Theodora Adomako-Adjei’s story
Most significant change story for domain 2; the story gives clear indication of awareness of the existence of the TAF; precise and logical narrative, describing the aspects of change expected and opportunities offered by the introduction of the tool; feels really convinced TAF process is seriously the direction we (sector) should all go.
Domain 3 – Comments on Martin Derry’s story
The most significant change story for Domain 3; indicates awareness of the existence of WASHTech and what the project is trying to achieve; mentions the need for set guidelines taking local context into consideration; feels impressed about the coming into force of the project and feels that is even long overdue.
Domain 4 – Comments on Kweku Quansah
The most significant change story for Domain 4; story indicates understanding of the TAF, especially by him coming from the EHSD-MLGRD; indicates awareness of the components of the TAF, the way it is supposed to be used, and the current level of development of the TAF; states the potential applications of the TAF in his work; that the project has been an eye opener on technology issues
Domain 5 – Comments on Charlotte Engmann
Touches on the use of TAF and embedding TAF in sector processes; points to evidence of usefulness of TAF and some aspects already been applied though it is yet to be accepted; talks about past practices which she described as semi-formal, and has expressed hope for a reawakening of CWSA with the advent of the TAF; she highlights the gaps of the past that seem to have answers in TAF; indicates that the project has concentrated their minds in aspects that were until now ignored; mentions the broader nature of the TAF, which focuses on users, distributers, producers, etc.; she indicated that the TAF has come to stay! – members felt this statement was significant considering where she was coming from, “… because if we tell all these beautiful stories and cannot find the TAF in the end, then what is the use?” stated a member of the LA; she also mentioned that, with WASHTech, even though the TAF is yet to be approved, they (CWSA) now know what to lookout for in the introduction of new technologies.
After the review exercise, members were so impressed with the MSC tool and the review process, stating that the tool was useful in triggering reflection of the impact of the project and the review process really deepens understanding. Some members openly expressed interest in the tool and declared that they will consider recommending it to their organizations for monitoring. Others were of the opinion that the tool could be useful for monitoring community activities; and that it was a very good monitoring and learning method.
These stories of change were collected by Abu Wumbei and Seyram Asimah of TREND from sector stakeholders, mainly at the Mole Conference 2012 in Tamale, the project scoring workshop in Accra, the project pilot regions of Upper East and Volta regions of Ghana, and at the national level learning alliance platform (NLLAP) meetings in Accra.
The WASHTech project uses the MSC stories to monitor the process of change in the adoption of the TAF and other WASHTech instruments in conjunction with other monitoring and impact assessment activities. This is to better understand the project progress and the barriers behind uptake, and to reformulate ways of addressing the issues of concern.
Find the five selected MSC stories (unedited) below:
The selected five MSC stories:
-Transcribed by Seyram Asimah
Domain 1 – Story by Patrick Apoya
My name is Patrick Apoya, chairman of Skyfox Limited, a technology company in the WASH sector in Ghana. The WASH sector in Ghana has experienced some checkered history or developments since 1990 as far as technology is concerned. Of course there was that era where technology was not regulated. NGOs, government, whoever had any technology that could provide water or sanitation, you were free to implement; little regulation. There was no common framework that people fit into and the operational issues were handled by the different suppliers. That contributed a lot to the sustainability challenge and to the maintenance challenge because first it affected skill. So, if I’m a dealer of spare parts, there was no way I could stock spare parts of 70 different technologies that are in operation because there was no economies of scale, there was no efficiency in getting involved. So you had the providers themselves being forced to find ways of stocking the spare parts and to be responsible for the maintenance directly because you could not access it from the open market. Now with the coming into being of the Community Water and Sanitation Division then, it was one of the first challenges they identified. They attempted to standardize and to limit the different types of technologies that were within the sector – water side as well as the sanitation side. For water after examining over 10 different technologies that were in existence then, they actually tried to select those that fit a certain criteria. The criteria that was consistent with the national community water and sanitation programme then, that wanted to move away from central rehabilitation units, or moving rehabilitation units from a central source to decentralized management of facilities such that communities will be able to handle them, manage them and maintain them on their own. Which means that they had allowed the private sector to purchase spare parts and to secure services and this forced them to be able to select those 4, to standardize them so that at least there will be sanity and there will be a way for regulating. It has worked well to some extent because the penetration of the private sector and getting involved to deliver certain services has also improved. But after 10-15 years of that policy, now there are also questions about “is it not too limited to have just 4 or 5 technologies approved then in sanitation, also just about 4-5 technologies approved?” Now we have Mozambique toilet, this toilet, that toilet… but the question is about a framework to see whether something which was not available then to have been tested at the time that that decision or that policy was being implemented and is now available – whether there is a framework that can be used to test that technology to see whether it qualifies to be added or not added. And when it is to be added it means it also has to be consistent with the principle of COM, that is, Community Ownership and Management; and that has been a gap because the process attracted heavy donor funding especially with the World Bank, and that is no longer available, and in the absence of that, to get experts to come and do that, go to India, go to where to do those kinds of standardizations, we now need a certain cost effective framework that we can apply at a very low cost by local experts that will not require maybe an MSc, a PhD, or a very high level person to be able to test the framework. It is two years ago that with the support of our European donors we were able to introduce a project called the WASHTech. It is actually a platform that looks at developing a framework, testing a framework, and seeing whether it is possible for the sector to adopt it as a very rapid appraisal tool of any technology that is going to be introduced newly outside what we have considered as standard technologies. First it will answer the question of are we not now too limited with the choices that we are using as well as the issue of we don’t also want proliferation in a manner that is not guarded. So, that actually has been the major breakthrough when it comes to technology adoption and deployment in the country. For some time, the pilot initiatives have been ongoing, they have been sharing with the sector, a lot of people have appreciated. Personally, I was a bit not too conscious about technology issues, but with the introduction of the project, it has opened a certain consciousness in me about, first that those options that we are dealing with are rather too limited. Even though it has been there, I didn’t see the gravity of it. But I’ve also seen that even with the limited introduction, because it is too limited, NGOs are still finding ways to push their things because they still feel that there should be room for innovations, and the fact that the state has no room to explore innovations does not mean that NGOs do not have that room because if you use state funds, it means you are obliged to go with the four options, but with NGOs who are always looking for new things and better ways of doing things, definitely, want a lot and limited just to those options; and so having come from NGO side, I’ve found that difficulty but I just felt that, well, the only way to do it is to just go and do our own thing and let the state do their own thing. But now with the introduction of WASHTech, we now see there is a way to still fit within the national framework and still also test the innovations and that has also been something that the state has also accepted. It’s like a negotiation – if we cannot get it this way, then the midway for both of us is to agree that any innovations that is coming should be taken through the same standard test and if it meets certain conditions – environmental conditions, technological conditions, political conditions, social conditions, from the user point of view, from the provider point of view, from government’s point of view, all the factors that needs to be taken into consideration when you introduce something so it doesn’t turn out to be a burden. Because some NGOs also just want to achieve their project objectives and move. It should not be a case that when you are moving, you are actually leaving a burden for the state or for the assembly, and that consciousness now has grown. Not just about me, but a lot of players in the sector who were in the same difficult situation now feel this is the comfortable situation that we can all buy into and I believe that with that level of consciousness, if we all rally behind the WASHTech project, I believe once we all have the framework, nobody is going to be disgruntled about why my technology was passed and this person’s technology was not passed because there is something objective.
Domain 2 – Story by Theodora Adomako-Adjei, CWSA
I’m Theodora Adomako Adjei. I work with Community Water and Sanitation Agency as the extension services coordinator. I‘ll like to say that in CWSA, when it comes to water, specifically water technologies, you can’t just come in with any technology option. It has to be taken through some processes to ensure that it will be sustainable. That idea is there. But I think with the introduction of WASHTech, it is sort of bringing the assessment of technologies before they are introduced into the sector to the fore. It is putting it in focus and for me, even though I wouldn’t support any technology that has just been introduced into the system without going through the right procedures or through the right approach, with the introduction of the WASHTech framework from which I have been involved, it has really convinced me seriously that that is the direction we should all go because it gives us the opportunity, 1) to introduce the right technologies; 2) to ensure that the implementation aspect of it has been done properly; and the last but not the least, is to be able to address the sustainability issues before its introduction.
Domain 3 – Story by Martin Derry, PRONET North
My name is Martin Derry, I’m the director of a local NGO in the Upper West Region called PRONET North that specializes in general development with water and sanitation as an entry point. My experience with WASH technologies since 1995 has been that there has been relatively little regulation in terms of the introduction of new technologies. And I say little regulation because there appears not to be any set criteria by which new technologies are tested that also provides a basis for introducing new technologies. So we find ourselves more in a situation where everything can come in depending on who is supporting or sponsoring whatever programme, and so I’ll say it is a relatively unregulated field. There might be benefits to that but there is obviously a down side in the sense that in some fora, we have had occasion where people have complained about the usability of some of the facilities and technologies and also there have even been instances where the maintenance has not been up to scratch because whoever introduced the technology was even no longer available to give advice and did not necessarily train users about the use. So in my view, the issue of WASHTech is long overdue. There is definitely a need to have a set of guidelines and specifications that practitioners will all ascribe to, and will be at least be educated on so that the criteria for introduction of new technologies is then clear for everybody and whoever wants to come on board at least has this criteria that they need to measure up to. As someone working on the ground however, my suggestion will be that in all these things, in setting criteria, we do not lose sight of the local context. Especially, the indigenous knowledge systems and the existing technologies that predated modern day programming. I believe in this way, it will increase acceptability and also ensure that any users especially at community level really embrace such technologies, but I believe that WASHTech is definitely a good idea.
Domain 4 – Kweku Quansah, EHSD-MLGRD
My name is Kweku Quansah. I work for EHSD of the MLGRD, Accra, Ghana. WASHTech introduction in Ghana opened our eyes, especially our sector players to the various technological options that have worked, and those that have not worked those that are very promising in the country. It gave us a clear indication as to which of the technologies should we really put a lot of emphasis on and those that are not promising at all that we don’t need to waste resources and energy on. One of the things that came out clearly was the fact that at least we should be able to have a laid down protocol, guidelines that will sort of inform us when new technologies are being introduced into the country. For the sanitation sector, at least we have the national technical working group on sanitation and as part of our TOR, we evaluate every sanitation technology that comes into the country and by introducing WASHTech into Ghana, it gave us some level of strengthening our criteria and our evaluation processes. For example, whenever a technology is introduced into the country, we meet as a group, we ask the one introducing it to do a quick presentation to us of the benefits advantages and disadvantages of the project, and also, we look at its importance in the local conditions of this country and for the past few years we have evaluated a number of them. Some, ranging from low technologies to very high technologies like waste to energy. What happened is that these people will take on board some of the suggestions that the group gives them and more or less try to improve. Most of the things that we see around sanitation have enriched some of the guidelines. For example, an entrepreneur wanted to introduce a new technology and by looking at it and advising him, I think he thought he could bring a better technology and these are some of the advantages of WASHTech, especially for those of us in the sanitation sector. It has helped our coordination, it has given us the opportunity to critically look at the options available, options being introduced, vis a vis our local conditions and to advise appropriately. For us, we now know some of the technologies we should promote and those that we should not really waste a lot of time on.
Domain 5: Story by Charlotte’s Story
My name is Charlotte Engmann. I work in the Community Water and Sanitation Agency. I would like to say in the past, the past 25 years up to now, the introduction of wash technologies has followed a limited though semi-formal path. You invite the person to come and give a presentation, you ask questions, you form a committee, you look at the literature and the presentation, you agree to pilot it in two or three areas and then after six months to a year or more than a year, maximum 18 months you decide. You visit the areas, write a report and decide whether to adopt the technology or not. It may be even sometimes just in one area. Since the introduction of WASHTech, we have gone through a lot of processes in the sector. We had to decide which technologies to test, we had to decide how the scoring should look like and what sort of field work should be done, who should go into the field and one of the things it has done is to concentrate our minds in the sector especially those of us in CWSA and EHSD as to the importance of having a systematic method for introducing technologies and asking the right questions. So now when somebody approaches us with a new technology, though we don’t have the TAF in place yet, we are far more serious about what we do because we realize that when we make a mistake, then we are going to multiply that mistake for years. So I’ll say finally that it has concentrated our minds, it has shown us what we should do and it has also shown us that in the field work we shouldn’t forget the users. We shouldn’t forget the users. Ours is a community managed process and the users are our most important clientele but we also have seen through the scoring and through the use of the TAF the importance of distributors which we hitherto overlooked as opposed to only producers. So I’ll say that WASHtech is a very useful project and process and it has come to stay and be embedded in the sector.