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Building A Model For Stakeholder Participation In Water Projects In Rural Communities Of Southeast Nigeria

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Oliver Odikamnoro (Abakaliki, Nigeria), Anita Meldrum
Glasgow Caledonia University1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 16: Public and private sector management,
AbstractIntroduction; Water is among the social service projects which have been on top of political agenda in Nigeria and receives huge financial support from government and international donor agencies. Nigeria has demonstrated a clear commitment to ensuring water security over the years through the establishment of relevant institutions and investments in water-related infrastructure. Substantial investments have been made in dams for irrigation and to supply bulk water for drinking water supply. However, most interventions had been centrally driven and local participation and ownership of the processes that ensure sustainability (in conformity with the principles of integrated water resources management) were missing. Poor management of upstream infrastructure (such as dams and bulk water pipelines) invariably affects operations within utilities. In addition, poor maintenance left much of the bulk infrastructure operating well below capacity. The National Water Resources Strategy document noted that "there has been no water resource management in Nigeria to this point, only a top down, supply-driven, development of water resources. This has led to investments which have not been effectively utilized, representing a major waste of government funding which continues until today". The result has been a vicious cycle of unreliable projects that provide services that do not meet consumer needs and for which the consumers are unwilling to pay. Many rural water supply and sanitation services argue that community participation could replace some of the lost implementation capacity of governments brought about by the economic downturn experienced by developing countries and the enormous pressure on water demands. Methods/Materials: The study linked participatory approach and sustainability of water services which was focused in rural areas of Ebonyi State, southeast Nigeria. Projects were followed from inception to commissioning. The major steps were as follows: - Participating communities expressed interest by applying to the Community Social and Development Agency (CSDA), the government agency in charge of community development. Project financing was on a 70%:30% government: community counterpart funding agreement. - The CSDA officials would pay an initial familiarization visit to the applicant community for project appraisal and meeting with stakeholders. -A Community Project Implementation Committee (CPIC) would be constituted with membership drawn from various segments of community leadership/governance. -The CSDA would organize training for the members of the CPIC on financial management and project implementation techniques. The CPIC would nominate a contractor with whom the community and CSDA sign an agreement on job execution and fund disbursement. -The project implementation process would be monitored by the CSDA from inception to completion. The extent to which people participated in the initial project planning, capacity building, and strategies to achieve sustainability were examined. The research methodology was mainly qualitative. It evaluated findings arising from primary and secondary data. Interviews were employed to obtain primary data. CPIC members, project and local authorities' officials were interviewed by using interview guide questions. Beneficiaries of water services from the community projects responded to questions. Results and discussion: Total of 240 participants responded to the questionnaires of which 190 were beneficiaries from two community water projects and the remaining, local government and project leaders. Likewise, some beneficiaries were also interviewed after filling in questionnaires, particularly when it was felt that some respondents might have further useful information. A total of 39 water projects were evaluated. The study found that participatory approach leads to water project sustainability only when elements of project sustainability were considered at the early stages. Such elements included operational and maintenance costs, willingness of people to contribute and demands driven. Also capacity building was found to be significant, which included training of community water attendants, and formation of local community based committees or water user groups to carry over the project activities. Immediate areas in which to intervene were recommended, and these included concerted efforts to be initiated during the project planning stage, training and re-training of CPIC members, sensitization seminars on completed projects to enable the communities to carry out the operation and maintenance of water systems, and to make use of trained water attendants, CPMC members, and observe the need to involve communities in all stages of project development. Conclusion: There is no doubt that efficient and sustainable water resources management in Nigeria requires the participation of local communities. There is the need to strengthen community participation in rural water development as well as a working policy to reflect a priority on community ownership and management. Every effort should be sustained towards improving rural water supply and sanitation services. Among other recommendations, legal measures should be taken against project and grassroots local leaders who swindle project funds; this will serve as precedence to other future corrupt and dishonest leaders. 1. Lakew Desta, Carucci V., Asrat Wendem-Agenehu and Yitayew Abebe (eds) (2005). Community Based Participatory Watershed Development: A Guideline. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
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